In the Wake of Hurricane Sandy, We Need Compassion, Not Comparison

The tree that missed the house

Tough times, I do believe, have a tendency to bring out the best in people. Sadly, they can also bring out the worst. Mix in social media and you have the recipe for the perfect storm, no pun intended.

For the 6th day since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, my family is in the dark (I am on the road for business so I’ve been spared the hellish conditions they are experiencing). For the 6th day, they will wake up trying to figure out what food can be salvaged (none), how to make the toilets work, where to find a hot meal and which neighbors they can lean on for a shower while my husband tries to entertain two teens going stir-crazy without Wi-Fi.

But those are very, VERY minor inconveniences and we are well aware of how lucky we are. We’re resilient; we’ll get the tree (that thankfully missed the house) cut up and moved, the hole in the driveway repaired, the lights back on and life back to the way it once was. The same cannot be said for those poring over insurance policies or making funeral arrangements.

The full impact of Sandy has yet to be felt; the death toll could rise and the financial numbers aren’t even close to being tabulated. It is against that backdrop, that one of the less-than-stellar examples of human behavior can be seen in the form of  misery one-upsmanship.

At the height of the storm, a friend posted on her Facebook page that now the east coast realized a fraction of Hurricane Katrina. Perhaps she knew how it would sound which is why she prefaced it by acknowledging she was probably going to say the wrong thing. It did not soften the blow.

Now this is where I should have just shaken my head and kept on moving, but being weary, raw, worried and missing my family, it struck me as oddly tone-deaf. Responding to her (dang it! Why didn’t I just keep it moving?), I mentioned that perhaps this was not the time for comparison but compassion, pointing out that the final numbers for Sandy aren’t even beginning to be tallied. That invited an even harsher response one of her friends, who accused me of being clueless, obtuse, absolutely ridiculous, appalling and telling me to, “…get the hell off Facebook and start worrying about what’s important.”


As shocking as a hurricane hitting the eastern seaboard was, the name-calling, finger-pointing behavior added insult to injury, especially in light of the fact that Facebook was one of the ways I was keeping up with my brood, when they could find electricity.

There is no question, NO QUESTION that Hurricane Katrina left untold misery in her wake, with repercussions that continue to this day. The point was that devastation is devastation, no matter when or where it strikes. Human life is the same, be it on the gulf coast or the eastern seaboard and that now might not be the best time for a, “Who-had-it-worse?” posting.  Compassion, not comparison.

The good news, the silver lining if you will, is that I truly believe most people are good; in the wake of this madness, I asked my own Facebook friends to remember all of those (including my own family) who were struggling in the storm’s aftermath. Their outpouring of support, faith and love was overwhelming and I cried with each message. They are the ones I will remember in the aftermath of this storm, far more than the torrent of criticism from a sharp-tongued stranger. In the meantime, we pick up the pieces and prepare for the next big storm.. all the while praying it never comes.

Yo! Nice to meet you! You can find out more about me on my blog, Good Enough Mother.

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