When the men of the Exodus Program decided to join the volunteers of the local church who were going to assist in rebuilding a New Jersey community in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the decision was as spontaneous as it could be. They had less than a week to get ready and go.
These are men in a nine to twelve months residential recovery program, fighting their own battles to regain lives lost in addictions. When the opportunity came, they seized it and went to help others fighting battles to regain lives torn apart by a natural disaster.
While both of these battles deal with physical loss, they are also characterized – to an even greater degree – by a heavy weight of emotions.
Upon their return, after a week of self-giving for others, I asked them the two familiar rhetorical questions : One, what was the biggest lesson from your experience, and two, what did you find inspiring?
Their experience in New Jersey taught them that no adversity is insurmountable. The people who lost every material possession they had, were in no means reduced in their determination to continue with their lives. They learn the same lesson every day in the recovery program but their experience with the victims of the hurricane gave them a different perspective.
What was most inspiring in their experience was the spirit of people coming together to help one another in response to adversity. Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists and agnostics, all joined together as one to respond to human need. Some found even more inspiration in the fact that the people out there helping in the disaster zone were not of government organization. They were driven to respond to their hearts.
Responding to the needs of others is the most blessed experience anyone can have. There are many opportunities and there are equally many looking for such opportunities during this holiday season. Despite the spectacle of Black Friday and the subsequent shopping sprees, any opportunity to focus on something or someone other than self will prove to be the most satisfying experience of the holiday season.
The holiday season is meant to be celebration, thanksgiving and relationships. It is a time of our rejoicing. Yet, we know too well that often, it is also a time of sorrow for many, a time of opening up of old wounds, a time for acrimony and family feuds.
For peace of mind and to enjoy the holidays, consider focusing on someone or something other than yourself.