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Many of us compare our things to other’s things. But as a life coach, I steer people away from comparing their lives to other people’s lives. Well, this past week I had quite an experience with a different kind of comparison. I realized that what I was dealing with did not compare with what others were experiencing.
I am writing this from a great old beach cottage on the east end of Long Island, still intact after the fury of hurricane Sandy. This great old classic sits on a beautiful wooded beachfront property right next to another beauty, a beachfront home that has been in my family for more than 70 years. I arrived four days after the storm Sandy and even though I had gotten some reports on the damage, what I saw was mind-blowing.
These properties are not on the ocean, they are on a bay, a usually calm and friendly bay called Peconic Bay. Last week, Sandy turned this bay into a raging sea battering anything in its way, with tides surging over 10 feet. The family house sits behind a bulkhead, about a hundred feet long, built to keep out the bay and is about six to eight feet above sea level. This bulkhead was less than a year old. It is now a twisted, shattered mess.
The damage started when the neighbor on the other side started to lose the battle with an old, tired bulkhead. Within a few hours, this bulkhead was breached, blasted away with waves crashing just feet from his house. Now, the new bulkhead got pounded from both sides.
The backwash eroded away the ground behind, taking away the strength of this impressive new bulkhead. It eventually lost the battle. The force of the water from both sides rose up and toppled over pilings, the bay came roaring through, eroding a front yard of soil and sand to about a foot away from the house. The house survived. The neighbor with the old bulkhead lost a corner of his foundation, the house teetering on the edge of death.
I have lived by the coast my entire life and the power of the sea still amazes me.
This brings me back to comparison. The week before the hurricane, I was in Florida dealing with my rental property that had been battered by another kind of storm; horrible tenants. I had a real mess on my hands. I was feeling angry and disgusted until I went to Long Island.
What I found there put my situation into perspective. This was damage and destruction on an entirely different other level.
I felt humbled and just wanted to help in some way. And the devastation level goes up from here. I have been describing what happened in my little world, but there are folks who have suffered much worse.
You have probably seen some of the news footage. There are many homes destroyed beyond repair. There is an entire neighborhood burnt to the ground in Rockaway Beach. There are people still without heat and electricity.
By the way, I am writing this in the middle of a nor’ easter, just what this area did not need right now. This is really tough stuff for thousands of people.
So in comparing, you can see how things could be worse. I see how my friends and family took a hit here. They will come back, but for some there is no rebuilding, there is no coming back.
So this is a time for compassionate comparison. This is a time for empathy and for people to help and look out for one another. I have seen some fine examples of this while I have been here. Pickup trucks and chainsaws and strong hands show up and get to work.
There is no whining, no complaining, just resolve and moving forward. Folks in the northeast are pretty tough, but I feel they’re even more generous. I have been a Florida resident for a few years now and before that, a decade in the Virgin Islands, but I still consider this area home. I will head back to Florida and I will leave proud of these folks that I know. And hope and pray that all of them I don’t know will have a warm bed and a hot meal.
So, try to remember, comparing out of envy, a feeling of lack or a feeling of superiority are negative energy and will leave you feeling discontented and disconnected. Comparing from a place of empathy and caring puts you in a place of gratitude. Which is always a nice place to be.
Rob Gannon is a 25-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach (www.yachtcrewcoach.com). Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.