Gratitude and Sandy.

A random and completely incomplete list of things for which I’ve found myself suddenly, heartpoundingly grateful, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy (which, let’s not forget, was all of eleven days ago):

  1. The chance to have a fight with my 9 year old daughter about what jacket she should wear.
  2. The temperature of my shower water.
  3. The ability to get online and have Peapod deliver boxes of food to my front door.
  4. The fact of my front door.
  5. The access of everyone in my family to the various medications we take.
  6. Holding my children in my arms.
  7. The opportunity to run something over to the middle school because my 13 year old boy irritated the crap out of me by forgetting it.
  8. My thermostat.
  9. My family photo albums, dry, complete, and all in one place.
  10. A tank of gas.

It has been easy, in this week of nail-biting elections and joyous outcome to forget that tens of thousands of American citizens are currently living under conditions that are third-world in nature, without any of the coping skills, mechanisms, or networks that third-world citizens must necessarily develop to survive. It’s always awful to have your access to food and clean water and mobility washed away — there’s something particularly perverse to having it happen when you live 20 floors up, a circumstance only made possible by the assumption that all of that can never happen.

I’ve made donations to the Red Cross, have made an appointment to give blood, and I have urged others to do the same. Out here in the middle of the country, I feel like it’s just about the best I can do — but please note that there is a lively conversation going on in the comments of yesterday’s open thread, offering information from the ground, and alternative outlets for help (thank you Neocortex, Nora Munro, and watson42).

I remain very, very worried for the individual people still living in such awful want, and about the implications for New York City and the rest of the country going forward. I think we have a long way to go before we really understand the full impact of this storm (and the followup northeaster), and I fear it’s going to be worse than we may have even feared.

If you can help, please do. In the meantime, I’ll be over here counting my blessings.

Shabbat shalom to all.

UPDATE: The Rumpus has just posted a Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort Roundup which folks might also find helpful.

Two ways to actually help the folks on the Eastern Seaboard (spoiler: Not canned goods).

Last night I found myself really worrying about the next few days in the lives of people who were in the path of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy. I have a sense that this is the point at which supplies have run low or just plain out, people who are poor or elderly or stuck on the wrong piece of geography have been stuck and without resources for a day too long, the money has been spent and there’s no gas in the car, or no train to your job — if only where you work was up and running, but it’s not.

There’s not a whole lot that people who don’t actually live within walking distance of folks in need of help can do in these circumstances, and the next few days will be what they will be — the federal government will do all it can, the Red Cross will do all it can, neighbors will do all they can, and yet it’s not necessarily going to be very pretty.

As for the rest of us, though, there are two things we can do, one obvious, one a bit less so:

1. Go ahead and make that donation to the Red Cross. If you can only help a little, that’s fine, because a nonprofit can always do more with your $10 than you can (I always think of the fact that for $5, your local food pantry can buy a whole grocery bag’s worth of food, whereas you and I can buy four bags of spaghetti and a can of tuna). You can go to the website, or just text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.

And if you can’t swing even $10 right now (and I’ve been there) remember that they will absolutely still need help in a month or two or six. And not incidentally: By donating to the general “Disaster Relief” fund, you’re providing money that the Red Cross can use wherever it’s needed — and the Red Cross also works in Haiti….

2.  The less obvious thing: Everyone on the Eastern seaboard will, in fact need help in a month or two or six, and they need not only a President who will have their backs and focus on things like recovery and rebuilding infrastructure (not to mention bring an honest approach to the future of climate change), they also need a Congress that will support the President.

I think that I’m not alone in feeling like, barring new surprises, President Obama is pretty likely to win re-election. But, even if that’s so (and it’s far from a foregone conclusion, so don’t get complacent), the Republican Party has shown in word and four years of deed that it is not even a little bit interested in working with this President, for any reason whatsoever. It took President Obama a little longer to figure this out than I might have liked, but he’s figured it out, and we need to figure it out too — and the actionable part of “figuring it out” is working over the next few days to get more Democrats into Congress.

If you can find a few hours to help your local Democrat canvass and/or get out the vote, if you can talk to friends and family and remind them of the importance of casting their ballot even if they don’t think they need to, please do so. If I can, I’ll be going up to Wisconsin on Tuesday to work on getting out the vote for Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin. (And if you don’t know how to go about helping, just Google the candidates’ headquarters and show up — they will be thrilled to see you and tell you when/where you would be of most use).

So, unless you’re within easy travel distance of a neighborhood that needs supplies and helping hands (and if you are, please do what you can!), here’s what you can do: Give money to the people who know how to use it, and get out the vote for the people most likely to do good recovery work.

And if you’re among those knocked around by this storm? All my prayers and best wishes for quick repair and healing, from out here in Fly Over Country. Big love, East Coasters. Hang tight.

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