Don’t be selfish; please help

Published 10:43 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2018

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

I am guilty. While I was standing in the aisle of my neighborhood Food Lion, I realized that I was only thinking of my own life and family in relation to the pending arrival of Hurricane Florence.

My cart held several nonperishable items that would meet our household’s potential needs for sustenance in the event of loss of power or water. Looking down on these items, I saw how selfish I am.

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On Monday and Tuesday, my husband and I must have spent hundreds of dollars preparing for the storm. As I looked around at what could have easily been three dozen or more neighbors doing the same thing that I was doing, I wondered with sorrowful conviction, is this what survival looks like? Is a pantry full of nonperishable goods, a full propane tank and flashlights with batteries, a clear indication that my family and I will be fine as long as we have these things we have purchased? Perhaps if we could purchase survival, maybe, but no.

In 1994, when Tropical Storm Alberta hit my hometown of Americus, Ga., several people died due to drowning in flood waters. I will never forget the story of my childhood friend whose aunt drowned. Her car stalled on a flooded road. She climbed out and made it to the roof of the car and cried for help. Residents of the homes on the road could see her but were unable to assist her. My friend’s aunt died trying to get to family because she lacked support in her neighborhood.

For months after that storm, I kept wishing that someone could have saved her life. As I reflect on that wish today, I am convicted of my selfishness. At a time when disaster is imminent, why do we fend for ourselves? We always come together after disaster strikes. What would happen if we came together before the storm?

Before we rush to buy all these things that the news reporters and the experts say we need for survival, we might have found a source of supply within our neighborhood.

We should be OK with telling a friend, “I have need of something.” If my neighbor and I agree to share the expenses for disaster preparedness, we could potentially cut costs and share our resources. If I purchase the water supply for both of our households and she purchased the coal, we could split it. If she bought the ice for the both of us and I gave her one of my large coolers to borrow for the electricity outage, that would be a fair trade. She would not have to purchase a cooler.

When we put such a plan into action ahead of the storm, we prevent households from feeling like they are alone. We can also have confidence during difficult times that we are interconnected.

I was reading our family’s copy of the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide presented by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management with regards to their instructions on communication planning. Let me encourage you to take this same information and apply it to your neighboring friends and neighbors.

Does your neighbor have your phone number? Do they know your location in the event of evacuation? Do you know if they have pets in the home and what type of pets? We cannot afford to be self-centered in the event of a storm. We have to be communal thinkers and encourage our neighbors to communicate their needs. Perhaps you can add a link to the copy of the evacuation guide to the Facebook page of your homeowner’s association. In addition, you might share a list of what resources you have available to you with your immediate neighbors, whether you have a deep freezer, generator, patio grill or battery-operated camping lanterns. I am guilty of being too selfish when it comes to survival. I need your help.

The beauty of community and its invaluable impact on your personal and communal successes is often most noted during times of crisis and unwelcome surprises. We need each other to survive. May we use this grace that God has shown to us through Hurricane Florence to demonstrate how important it is that that we let a neighbor know that we have need of them. I pray peace and safety for you during the storm.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Leadership and Management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.