Who knew that “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” would become the Leitmotif for Starbucks earlier this week? It did, of course, when day after day we piled into the crowded store to warm up and charge our worn-out computers and cellphone batteries.
A refugee camp with latte.
An odd camaraderie arose as we ordered our cappuccinos and politely shared couches and – more to the point — outlets. We took turns plugging ourselves in, nodding and smiling at each other, strangers thrown together due to the power outage. We became a shape-shifting community of sorts, coming and going, not much in common except the cold houses we had escaped from, and the desire to connect with the world, at least for a little while.
Well, the power’s back on in my neighborhood, and life is back to normal, more or less. The classes at the studio are back on track. Most folks have been able to move back home after staying in hotels, or in the homes of friends and family. The trees — cracked, splintered and wounded — stand as stark reminders of the storm that whipped through town, but the clean-up is well under way, and the streets are almost passable now. I don’t have to write by candlelight anymore.As challenging as these past few days were, they offered strange comforts, too. Without TV, radio or the internet to lure us into our separate corners, we suddenly had time to talk, to go to sleep early, to settle into a slower, more mindful rhythm. I felt like a pioneer in earlier, simpler times, when fire and food were not so easy to come by, and when being with others was what kept us connected.
My heart goes out to those who are still without electricity, heat, and the comforts of home. And I won’t miss the bone-chilling cold nights curled into a fetal position under mounds of blankets. But I find myself holding onto the sense of shared survivorship I felt at Starbucks. And I feel an enormous sense of gratitude for things I’ve taken for granted: electricity, a hot shower, the internet at my beck and call. It’s easy to forget how fortunate I am. And so, as costly as this recent storm has been on so many levels, the lessons I’ve learned are priceless.