Living: Getting by with a little help from our friends
My insurance adjuster must think I’m a moron.
The guy was
terribly nice, didn’t mind that at least two of our animals tried to
get personal with him during his brief visit, and knew infinitely more
about our house than I did.
wander around and see secretive mold spots or double-glass windows that
were missing a panel, and ask “Was that hurricane related?” while I had
to stupidly parrot back, “Umm… I don’t know. I never noticed that
this answer was apologetically followed by some sort of sad excuse
like, “I’ve just been so busy at work” or “I had to wash and condition
my hair,” so he would surely realize that I was somehow an importantly
busy person, and didn’t think that I was completely oblivious to the
deteriorating state of our house, which simply occurs sometimes when
you live in a place that gets wind and saltwater from all directions
for an entire day.
And, to be
honest, I felt kind of embarrassed leading him through our home.
life of me I can’t figure out why I was so ashamed in front of someone
who was there to help, and, more importantly, why I wanted to prove
that at one point our home was a beautiful and classy neighborhood
landmark. (We did have an awesome and eye-catching pirate flag
pre-Irene, after all, before it was blown away.)
even one point, after he strolled around the black mucky yard taking
photos of the flood lines, that I forced the poor guy to look at my own
photos of how amazing the yard had looked before, with figs, eggplants,
and tomatoes growing in the garden area, butterfly bushes in full
bloom, and the yard a lovely lush green carpet for our pets to get
personal with strangers on.
I was proud
of how we looked pre-storm, I suppose, and I didn’t want anyone to get
the impression that I was “in need” of anything -- even if I did file
an insurance claim to the contrary.
you think about it, Hatteras and Ocracoke islanders are very
that we need help, or that we’re not as consistently tough and salty as
usual, is difficult to do.
admitting that we’re struggling and might need a hand from someone,
whether it’s the government, our neighbors, or fantastically kind
strangers, is even harder.
there are dozens if not hundreds of people who have lost their homes,
their possessions, their jobs, and now live a nomadic lifestyle,
asking for much help. And they are able to do this every day, with a
smart smirk on their face, as if it’s a minor inconvenience and they’ll
make everything right again in the long run.
I know this
for an absolute fact because it’s happening right now, in the
tri-villages and Avon, to some of the best and most respectable people
quite there yet. I noticed my roof and storage shed damage, called my
local insurance company, and then whined like a silly third-grader when
it took them at least a few weeks to come out and survey the damage.
admittedly, I ended every phone call to the insurance company with,
“I’m so sorry. I realize you’re very busy… but it would be great if you
could look at our house in the near future,” which is basically a
backhanded way of saying, “Better come out here soon or else I will
whine like a silly third-grader.”
honestly, when the time did come to show our storm damage to the proper
authorities in all its glory, I was slightly humiliated that I was
asking for help.
And this, I
do believe, is an island-wide phenomenon.
heard reports of people who go to the local Really Really Free Markets
-- which are remarkable beacons of assistance in this tragedy. They are
people who have lost everything and who are literally the folks that
donations are aimed towards, but they are embarrassed to walk in and
walk out with desperately needed clothes and food.
even a program shortly after the evacuation was lifted, where residents
who had lost all the food in their refrigerators could walk through the
Dare County Social Services doors and minutes later could have food
stamps in hand for $200 dollars or more.
This is a
fantastic and very well thought out idea, but many people didn’t take
advantage of it, simply because they were embarrassed to pick up and
use food stamps. (In fact, my fiancÚ and I rationalized this even
further by admitting that if we had hundreds of dollars in free
groceries, we would stock up on the staples we lost, and then just buy
really expensive blocks of cheese that we’ve always been dying to try.
And frankly, this really didn’t seem like a good use of food stamps,
and totally went against the program’s intentions in the first place.)
point, though, we have to realize that asking for help when we really
need it is not, in fact, a shameful act.
make us any less of a hardy islander or any sort of parasitic creature
that feeds off the goodwill that’s amazingly coming our way.
If you need
help, ask for it.
If you need
food, clothes, or even a good distracting board game -- I recommend
Trivial Pursuit, Pit, or Uno -- that is available at the free markets,
then please, by all means, take it. It’s not like your name will be
printed in some sort of local “THESE FOLKS ASKED FOR HELP – HAHAHAHA”
it. For most people here, asking for help is an excruciating thing to
do. Locals pride themselves on being resourceful and being
able to take care of themselves, and they have an incredibly long
history of doing so.
point, it’s my understanding that during the Civil War, locals were
taken over by federal forces, and then ostracized and cut off from
shipments of supplies from the Confederacy for living on a “Union”
island. So, basically, both sides were in some way, shape, or form
against Hatteras Island.
So what did
the locals do? They took independent contractor jobs when they could
find them with the occupying soldiers, farmed more, helped their
neighbors more, and survived nearly a decade until they were
independent once again, and prospered even more than before the war.
granted, this is an entirely different situation, and 150 years later,
but asking for a little help from your neighbors, and taking advantage
of the free markets, might just make it a little easier to eventually
thrive and prosper.
in the same rickety boat, and if the outside world didn’t appreciate
Hatteras Island, then we wouldn’t have an influx of food and supplies
at our disposal for the folks that desperately need them.
take them. And use everything that’s offered to get back on your feet
and restore the island back to that awesome, uniquely one-of-a-kind
place that the people who, for whatever reason, are giving us stuff,
are tough. No doubt about it.
why we can hold onto our photos of how amazing everything looked
pre-Irene, show them to total strangers with absolute pride, and then
do our darndest to get back that way again.
lives in Avon, where she really had a nice yard before Hurricane
Irene. She visited the Avon Really Really Free
Market, came home with a new comforter, and now volunteers at the