Giving thanks this holiday season is going to be difficult for many. Those still living in tents or managing in makeshift living conditions because of the destruction from the Category 4 Hurricane Irma on Sept. 10 likely have challenges in simply keeping a stiff upper lip, remaining patient and just getting from one day to the next, much less celebrating.
We are all in different places with regard to recovery. Some of us simply need new landscaping, roof repair or patchwork restoration. Others have it far worse, particularly those in the Lower Keys, where full-scale devastation has rendered many homes uninhabitable. It’s unlikely a Christmas tree or a menorah will be on display in those used-to-be-homes.
In many areas of the Keys, hundreds of households are still living in local hotels. That’s where they may celebrate their Christmas. And while it’s better than the alternative, like living in your automobile or out in the elements, it’s certainly not going to be a traditional Christmas morning.
All the debris piles crowding our roads are a stark reminder of what we have experienced and continue to contend with while possibly making a holiday season celebration trivial. But if we learned one thing these past three months it’s that there’s help all around us.
The United Way of the Florida Keys and the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys have each distributed tens of thousands of dollars to those in need. Their grant money was for those needing help with lodging, electric service and food, and their help was a godsend.
We’ve had local performers like Howard Livingston step up and who, with the Southernmost Coconut Castaways, was instrumental in releasing a compilation CD called ”Keys Strong” with all all proceeds collected going to the United Way of The Florida Keys.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been here with assistance in the form of rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable, grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items, and unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits. Some may debate that FEMA’s help was uneven but it’s been here the entire way and helpful to many.
The human spirit is tough to define in each person, but essentially it’s what makes us human, more than almost anything else. It’s what drives us, gets us out of bed, wills us to take action regardless of whether it’s a routine day or something more impactful or meaningful.
Simple gestures carry great meaning. Even tossing some loose change into a Salvation Army kettle or offering assistance where none was requested make recipients of those gestures better off with minimal effort on the giver’s part.
If we want to be #KeysStrong, it requires helping someone, exercising our human spirit. Give where you can, whether it’s money, meals or time. Helping a neighbor repair a fence may well be more valuable to that family than a financial handout. Just listening to someone who’s suffered from Irma could be enough.
It’s that helping hand and that human spirit that really makes us #KeysStrong.
We here at the Keynoter Publishing Co. Inc. want to wish everyone in the community a happy, healthy and, most importantly, hopeful holiday season. We are all in this together.