It’s been a little more than 5 years, plus two moves since Sandy entered our lives and created chaos, upheaval, and community. I wrote this post in the weeks following Superstorm Sandy’s devastating path across Long Island. I had heard horror stories from my students, staff, and others in our extended community about destroyed homes, close calls, and this sense of unrest that comes with having the conveniences of life ripped away from you. I also heard stories about and experienced community in a way that I never had before.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it seemed appropriate to share this post as we enter a time where we should be building our sense of gratitude.

Thoughts from Five Years Ago

With the start of this week, I have officially entered my post-Sandy life. A little more than a week ago, I was beginning think that the end of days was approaching or at least a recreation of the 10 plagues. After all, between the hurricane, the snowstorm, the blackout, and then the gas shortage, life was feeling sort of bleak.

Or was it?

Yes, as a school principal, I was filled with anxiety over the lost instructional time and worrying about my students, their families, and the faculty. Could we open school? Should we open school?

Yes, we had been hit with a major disruption to learning and, in many ways, this week has felt like the first week of school all over again.

Yes, my kids’ lives got turned upside down once more. As a father and a husband, I was worried about the potential damage to our home and concerned about when my daughters would experience normal life again.

When I look back, though, I have a different sort of feeling that seems to override the anxiety of the moment. It is a feeling of contentment and satisfaction with my lot in life. I’ve just had the opportunity to spend significant quality time with my daughters while we waited for the lights to turn back on. We read stories, played games, and generally enjoyed each other’s company. We drew closer with new friends who truly demonstrated what it meant to create community when they took us into their home during the hurricane. I learned about the power that our community has as I worked to facilitate a charging and respite center at our synagogue. I enjoyed sharing communal responsibility for meals, cleaning, and even child-rearing with four families who had blended together during the storm and its aftermath as well as with the others who joined us for a meal or two. I gained a newfound appreciation for the power that electricity has in my life and how for granted we take so many of the luxuries in our lives that’s had previously thought of as necessities.

So, I’m going to say something that in the midst of the last two weeks that I thought I would never say, thank you, Sandy. Thank you for pulling me closer to friends and family, thank you for showing me the beauty and importance of community, and thank you for teaching me that things that I have taken for granted are really luxuries.

Parenting with Gratitude

Looking back at this reflection has made me think more about how I need to make sure that I don’t rely on natural disasters to trigger my sense of gratitude and to build my connections with the community. Part of what made that experience so meaningful was the opportunity to bond over the challenges that parenting brings and to be thankful that we had others to turn to when we were at our wit’s end. Yet, it took being in the eye of the storm to recognize this because our daily rushing about doesn’t offer us the opportunity to reflect. It’s simply much easier to do when the power is out!Brene's Brown quote - A good life happens when you stop and are grateful for the ordinary moments that so many of us just steamroll over to try to find those extraordinary moments.

Positive psychology and mindfulness practices include exercises like keeping a gratitude journal. Much like a traditional journal or diary, it’s an opportunity to record daily the things that you are grateful for. It’s pretty straightforward, but as I saw during Sandy, building up a wealth of gratitude can do wonders for the soul.

So here’s some of what I’m grateful for right now:

The support of my partner in writing this blog.
The patience of my children when I’m trying out a new parenting strategy on them.
The trust of my clients when I ask them to stretch just a little bit more.

And, of course, my readers who share in this journey of innovative parenting each week.

Happy Thanksgiving!