In two weeks, 1,000 of the best and brightest in dentistry will be meeting at the 13th Annual Dental Management Conference in Scottsdale, AZ. This event is produced by my team and company - the American Association of Dental Office Management. There is an unbelievable amount of planning and logistics that goes into this event. This Saturday, I received a call from our Executive Director, Kim McQueen, alerting me to just how badly Texas will potentially be affected by Hurricane Harvey and how we need to plan for those affected who will not be able to make it to the conference, possibly up to 50 attendees. How can we make it right for them? She then suggested I speak, not from a logistical standpoint (we'll take care of that), but from my heart to those affected, as I was in the direct path of Superstorm Sandy not that long ago.
So, here goes. My hope is that these words deliver hope to those who need it now.
The night before Superstorm Sandy hit, I evacuated my family from my home in the town of Rumson, NJ. I live on the Shrewsbury River, only two miles from the Atlantic Ocean. We traveled 30 miles inland to my mother's house. Without power there, we could not watch any news and were spared the shocking imagery of the storm - this magnificent beast of Mother Nature. I returned home the next day with my husband, expecting to find some minimal damage. We returned to what looked like Benghazi. The devastation was surreal. Our idyllic town looked like a war zone, and being right on the water, our home had suffered badly. Most of our possessions were ruined, if they were not picked up and swirled out to sea. It would be several months before we could safely return home for good.
The few months after the storm were like being in a dream state but here is what I can tell you:
- Your priorities will shift - in the best possible way. What seemed so important, suddenly was not. What was important was that my family was alive. That simple. My dog was alive - we evacuated her with us. Again, that simple.
- You have more stuff than you need. We lost so much "stuff" in Sandy. Stuff is not what makes life great. Your friends, your family, your work, your passion, is what makes life great.
- There are angels everywhere. I promise you this. They will present themselves to you in the days and weeks ahead. These are the angels I am grateful for:
- The service workers from Alabama Power and so many other states who came en masse to work around the clock to help restore power to our state. It was also these angels who threw candy from their trucks on October 31st, so our kids could have some semblance of Halloween that year.
- The insurance worker flown up from Oklahoma who, before diving into "insurance business" as we stood in the wreckage, simply gave me a hug. Thank you.
- The volunteers at the Senior Center where my children stayed with my mom for several weeks. Thank you for feeding them, and for playing cards with them to pass the time and for making them smile.
- All who donated. In my life of privilege, I never thought I would find myself on the receiving end of charity. But there I was, at a makeshift Help Center a few weeks after the storm. My children had to go back to school. Their backpacks were ruined and stores were closed so I could not buy them new ones. At the Help Center, donations of all sorts were there for the taking: food, diapers, clothes. I told one of the volunteers I needed 2 backpacks. She told me all of the backpacks had already been taken. She must have seen my crestfallen face and, mother-to-mother, she said to me, "Wait here. My children are older. I think I have some at home". She returned 15 minutes later with 2 used backpacks for my children. Eternally grateful.
- My AADOM Team. They picked up for me in every way. They showed their true colors and proved to me I have a team that has my back. You will find the same with so many in your work, and in your community. This is a blessing. You don't always have an opportunity to find out how deeply people care about you.
For those in the throes of Harvey, these next few weeks may be harrowing for you and will certainly test your faith and your resilience. I wish you hope, sunshine, love and strength. The storm will pass, literally and figuratively. You will see rainbows again.