Even at five years old, I knew what was valuable, what I wanted to hold on to. From a window of our third-floor apartment, as I watched cars floating down the flooded streets and people being lowered by ropes onto waiting rowboats, I wondered if we would have to leave too. I felt safe with my younger brother, two male cousins and our two sets of parents . . . until my 17-year-old cousin started to pray and then to cry. Shortly after, we were told that we too would be evacuated. I grabbed my fluffy, white pet rabbit and hurried down the stairs where a boat waited to row us down the street and the sidewalk that I had tricycled upon the week before.
We never know when disaster can strike and our lives can change forever. At 12, living on the top floor of a two-family house, right next to my dad’s variety store, we were planning a birthday celebration for the newest addition to our family. My baby brother was turning one-year old. My mom had gone next door to help my dad so that he could get something to eat prior to the company arriving.
The doorbell rang. “They’re early,” I thought, wondering what guests would be the first to arrive. But it was our downstairs neighbors frantically telling us to get out of the house.
“There’s a fire!” they shouted. I quickly grabbed my baby brother and, with my other brother, ran down the stairs to my worried mom, who had told customers, “Watch the store!” as she ran to her children. Thankfully, we were all safe, yet due to the extensive damage, we never moved back. But what seemed like a negative situation turned into a positive . . . my parents bought our first house, which they still live in.
Now decades later, I found myself looking around my condo at all of the wonderful things that I had collected and cherished over many years. This time there was an advanced warning. Hurricane Irma, destined to be the biggest storm to ever hit Florida, was a little over a day’s time away.
What to take?
While I value some jewelry given to me by loved ones, the letters and pictures that reflect years of friendship and memories, the original, one-of-a-kind art pieces . . . when I ask myself “What’s important and irreplaceable?” the answer was obvious: Nothing is as important as the man and the family and friends whom I love, who give significance to my life.
I quickly put some things, including my laptop, in a windowless bathroom, gathered a change of clothes in a backpack, water and food for a few days, a flashlight, yoga mats and blankets to sleep on and walked out of my apartment with my partner to settle in at a local shelter, not knowing what we would come back to after Hurricane Irma unleashed her fury.
In sharing a shelter with 1,300-plus people of various walks of life, political beliefs, colors and creeds, it was clear that many shared similar concerns and it wasn’t for the things left behind.
What was most important was that loved ones and those in the path of danger were safe.
Linda Commito, author, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant and teacher, is passionate about her vision to leave this world a kinder, more loving, and interconnected place. Her award-winning book of inspirational stories, Love is the New Currency, demonstrates how we can each make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others through simple acts of love and kindness. Linda believes that in order to inspire a kinder world the place to start is with children. She recently volunteered at a Title One elementary school, working with over 500 students, to create and facilitate “Kindness Starts With Me,” the results of which include a website (www.kindnessstartswithme.com) and a book for children. Also visit www.loveisthenewcurrency.com for more information and/or to sign up for an uplifting monthly newsletter.