Every year at Christmas, as we are packing up the decorations, I pack two boxes and label them HURRICANE. I fill the boxes with ornaments we have collected in our travels, hand carved Santas, and nativities given to us by friends. The naked angel ornament from Bali goes in - along with the giraffe from Africa and the moose from Canada. I include those ornaments made by my daughters when they were young, like the popsicle stick reindeer with the missing eye and the construction paper snowflake with a school photo pasted in the center. All those treasures just can’t be replaced. So I pack them up, hoping each year that the boxes will remain tucked in storage until the next Christmas. But not this year.
With Hurricane Matthew bearing down, we made the decision to evacuate. In truth, we had already planned to leave town for a wedding in upstate SC. But with a Category 4 hurricane barreling up the coast toward Charleston, it seemed especially prudent to leave. So we packed the hurricane boxes into the car - along with old photo albums, artwork given to us by our children and friends, handmade quilts and my daughter’s wedding dress (special request). All irreplaceable. We loaded it all up, checked on our neighbors and elderly friends, and drove away to safety. I'm all too aware that this was a privilege. We had the means and resources to get ourselves to safety. The people of Haiti never had that chance (but that’s another blog post!)
It was a still a lesson in values - like an old church youth group game. A hurricane is coming, your home could be destroyed, and all you can save is what will fit in your car. (This is assuming that all your people and pets will be safe!) What would you take? I recognize that these are just things - inanimate objects that we are sentimentally attached to. But the things we fill our homes with become part of our story. They reflect our values and the things we hold dear. I couldn’t take my grandmother’s piano - but I could save our wedding photos and the quilts my great grandmother made.
When I look at the items I chose to take - I can identify some of the values I choose to live out in my life everyday. Family. Friends, Relationships. Connectedness. Creativity. Spirituality. Travel. It’s an interesting exercise to try. What would you take? What would you leave behind? What do those choices tell you about yourself?
Postnote: For those who are wondering, we’re now back home in recovery mode. Our house escaped damage - other than the loss of some screening on the back porch and a downed tree in the backyard. We were so very lucky. Others in our region are still underwater, with breaches in dams and rising rivers creating on-going flooding. Houses and businesses are ruined. Some in the US didn’t survive and Haiti was devastated. All of that leaves me with a feeling of commitment to help those who have lost so much… and deep gratitude for all that I have.