We just returned from donor luncheons in New York, one in lower Manhattan and one in Melville Long Island. We could see first hand some of the chaos caused by Superstorm Sandy. The area near Battery Park and The World Trade Center memorial site were crawling with utility trucks, demolition and clean up crews, mostly wearing haz-mat suits. When I asked a crew of hard hats staying at our hotel what they were working on, they told me their company specializes in saving and preserving paper. I hadn’t thought about all the valuable and historical books and papers and documents must be in danger from the storm surge. On the way to Long Island we noticed how many trees had been uprooted and fallen.
At the luncheons, all of our donors had stories about being without power, or having family and friends who had suffered terrible damage. Many people were home bound because they couldn’t get gasoline for their vehicles. One family bought a generator after last year’s Hurricane Irene, but after a few days they ran out of gasoline to power it and couldn’t get any more.
Amid the destruction and tragedy, there have been so many kind and generous people reaching out with offers of help. While crisis can bring out the bad in people, many times it shows the goodness we are all capable of.
For eighth grader Elliot and seventh grader Jay, this was their first airplane flight. New York is so huge compared to what they know, and they were riveted on all the sights as we hopped on a tour bus to learn about the history and culture packed into a few square miles. Their cameras clicked away constantly as they discovered places they’d heard about or seen on TV or the movies. The most notable landmark for them was the Flatiron building, which they recognized from Spiderman.
We did a fair amount of walking. We stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to say a few prayers for folks back home. Art and statues and shrines also teach a lot about God and salvation history. With all the buildings, hustle and bustle, the large rocks in Central Park overlooking the pond provided a reflective view of the glory of nature.
Christine, one of our houseparents until she retired last year to be with her grandchildren, now lives on Long Island and brought her family to the luncheon there. She was able to share with the folks at her table the joys and challenges of raising a dozen 7 and 8 year olds in one household.
A joy for me at the luncheons is meeting folks who have been long time supporters of St. Joseph but haven’t had the opportunity to see the school, or meet any of our staff or students. With a group, the time always seems so short as my time is split between many people.
One evening Geri, our Director of Major Gift Services, arranged a meeting with a couple who has supported us for many years and couldn’t make the luncheons. Having a more in-depth conversation with a small group was even more satisfying. I was awed by the many other causes the couple supports around the world, with some tremendous networking to make a real difference in the lives of people in the Third World and in our own country. For all the negatives we can focus on in the world, Thanksgiving reminds us there are also so many people and things to be truly grateful for.