This I Believe

Gina - Jupiter, Florida
Entered on October 8, 2006

This I believe that material things in life are not want provides life with meaning and value. Material items may disappear overnight and although we feel we cannot live without them, we are mistaken. What matters in life is what we choose to do for others and how we react to the world around us to make it a better place. I learned this invaluable lesson the hard way approximately two years ago in September of 2004. As a typical teenager my “things” meant the world to me and overnight my world was turned upside down and I learned that life could go on without what I thought were my most prized possessions.

In September of 2004 my family and I packed a few possessions in a bag and headed out the door for the hospital where my mom and dad worked. They were reporting for duty to work the A team during the hurricane Francis disaster. This was a very scary time, yet our family would all be together in a time of crisis. We stayed at the hospital for four long days and it was hot and sticky with no power except for emergency generator power reserved for the patients. We all slept in my mom’s office in sleeping bags on the floor and listened to the loud winds, pelting rain and loud booms of the thunder overhead. It was a very long and trying time for all of us and we were very excited about returning home and getting life back to normal.

When we arrived home normal was the farthest thing our family would experience for the next two years. What we found as we rounded the corner of our tree laden street covered in debris was part of our roof in the neighbor’s yard across the street. We walked into our unnatural air-conditioned house and found all of our things soaked and destroyed. The cardboard boxes we had stored things in were so wet that they were disintegrating. As I walked into my room I felt a knot in my stomach and I started to cry. All my “things” that represented me and who I am were destroyed, so I thought. My sister and I tried to dry things off and realized that the mold, green and fuzzy had already settled in. The smell was like rotten milk and we all gagged as we tried to salvage what we could. Water continued to pour in as my mom tried to clean up the mess. As it turned out we had to admit defeat and moved out into a tiny apartment. My sister and I were devastated but my mom and dad tried to point out that the important thing was we were all together and safe.

What lesson I took from this experience was that I could live without the material items I thought were so important but realized in the long run that they were not of value. I tried to understand why this might happen to our family when we were doing good by volunteering our time to help others and instead of being rewarded we were trashed. My mom says everything happens for a reason and although I was not sure she was right at the time, I have come to realize that life teaches us lessons sometimes in a way that is painful yet we survive and come out of the experience better people in the long run. In addition when I watched the victims of hurricane Katrina I could relate to their losses.