Five years ago, on August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina rolled into the Gulf Coast and changed thousands of lives forever. Neighborhoods and communities were destroyed and history was erased. Nature demonstrated that man's knowledge and technology does not compare to its power. This tragedy showed us that in the scale of the universe, we are no more than tiny specks.
However, Hurricane Katrina also demonstrated the resiliency of the human spirit. The people of the Gulf Coast are living proof that people can not only survive a tragedy but can go on to thrive once again. These people have demonstrated the undeniable spirit of many of our ancestors, the people who built many of our cities, our railroads, and our civil infrastructure. Even in the face of adversity, these people have done what was necessary in order to survive and succeed under these challenging, substandard and subhuman conditions.
America is currently facing a catastrophe of tough times including record foreclosures, record unemployment and a historical recession. Just as the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina was unexpected, people all over the country are being challenged more than they ever thought possible. But if there's something we've learned from the disaster that occurred on the gulf coast, it is that the people of America have the abilities and the resilience to make it through storms.
Personally, the last five years have been incredibly tough as I was forced to endure one storm after another! Within the span of these years, I have been almost drowned by nature, deserted by my government, kicked out by my employer, stabbed by the economy and nearly poisoned by corporate neglect and greed. During the first three of these years, I struggled to sleep at night. I was forced to acquire so many lawyers that every time they call, they still have to each brief me on what work they are employed to do for me. On top of all of this, I lost my stepmother to cancer four years ago and six days later, I also lost my father to cancer. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, neither of them could get the treatment necessary to survive and as a result, my family and me were forced to suffer through two funerals in three days.
During these years I would find tears rolling down my face at unexpected times and places. I have lived and still live the words from the song that Juelz Santana wrote in "The Second Coming:" "Blood, sweat, and tears, I dripped all three just to be here." I still yearn to once again have a sense of community, even a sense of family, back in my life. Each time I walk through the streets of New Orleans, I think of what was and I am determined to work even harder for what can be. I think of how even though my family has already lost nearly 20 homes, the government is trying to take - by imminent domain - the house that my father built and I grew up in, the same house in which my mother died! I think of how I lost my job when my tenured academic position in engineering was eliminated by Tulane, even though they kept the football program.
However, even after all the pain, tears, set-backs, disappointments, and broken promises, I and the people of the Gulf Coast are STILL STANDING. Just as W.E. B. Dubois stated, "There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained," you too will survive whatever storms you are faced with.
To survive the storms in your life there are three things to remember:
1. Get Spiritual Connection. Remember, God brought the storm! Even when things look bleak, they are never as bad as they seem because God will not place anything on you that you cannot handle. Research has shown that people who pray or meditate have better health and well-being than those who don't, and that prayer and meditation have healing powers for those who are sick.
I experienced this first hand when I connected to people of like faith and my own spiritual and mental well-being was restored and nurtured. In whatever way you connect with your creator, if you establish this connection during a storm, you will realize that you are not alone. One of the good things about suffering through a storm is that it can transform people who have never considered themselves spiritual and show them the importance of this connection.
2. Seek Community. Find others who are going through the same or a similar storm and support each other. No matter how you choose to do this, whether everyone comes together to rebuild each other's homes or you simply cook for one another, it is important to support them in some way and to have their support. Thinking that you are the only one in the storm will be overwhelming and lead to depression and a sense of hopelessness. Use each other for the strength you need.
3. Get Busy! You have to face the challenges of a storm and begin to deal with them as soon as possible. There is a saying that "the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time." Prioritize your problems and begin to attack them one by one. Have faith that each effort and step you take in the right direction is making a difference and bringing you closer to a resolution and to an end to the storm.
If you haven't recently experienced a Storm, I can almost guarantee that one is coming your way and most likely it won't contain water, oil, or money… So you need to work everyday to prepare for the storms that are bound to come in your life and in your career.