Lessons from Hurricane Wilma: 10 Years Later

guatamala

The girls in Guatemala and me. Who knew we had so much in common?

Anniversaries are a good time to reflect. This week (technically, October 26, 2005) is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Wilma, the fourth costliest hurricane on record according to the National Weather Service.

It was the first costliest for me.

I can still remember watching the TV, our eyes glued as the storm sat over the Yucatan Peninsula for three days instead of the predicted 28 hours. The newscasters said things like, “The fact that this Category 5 hurricane is sitting over Cancun is really good news. It will take some of the strength out of it before it reaches Florida.”

Oh, really? That’s good news? Not for the people in Cancun. Not for our friends and employees. And definitely not for us.

It has been a very long 10 years. Ten years of recovering financially from a startup business, which was quite literally destroyed with a gust of terror. Ten years of rebuilding, not once, not twice, but multiple times. Being innovative and on the cutting edge wasn’t as marketable as we thought, especially when we later hit speed bump number two: the economic recession.  Ten years rebuilding careers and rebuilding bank accounts.

This week also marks the first time in 10 years my husband and I finally looked at each other and said, “I think we are finally there.” We are on a trajectory that doesn’t take us back under water (knock on wood). A trajectory of hope. Wow! Almost exactly 10 years later. It has been a long 10 years.

When I was in Guatemala doing a home visit with my friend’s sponsored child through Starfish, we sat in a circle with her family and they asked us questions. In the midst of her little bedroom that she shares with four siblings, she asked me, “Have you ever experienced any hardship and what is your advice for getting through it?” She explained. Her perception of people from the United States was that we are very rich and we don’t have to struggle.

I told her my story. How we had built a business and worked multiple jobs to survive while we built it. How we had put all of our time and money into it and how it was crushed in an instant by a hurricane. How we lost everything and that put us into huge debt and how we had to muscle our way back. I told her it was because of our education and a lot of caring people that we were able to recover. You can lose all your money and all of your things, but nothing can take away your experiences and your knowledge. Those are treasures beyond value and that is what makes it possible to rebuild. To dream again. (I think it was the best “stay in school” speech I’ve ever given.)

I remember the shock on her face as the translator relayed the story. She couldn’t believe that someone in the United States would have those kinds of troubles. Both of our eyes were opened that day. We are all alike. We all have wounds and struggles and hardships. They are not all the same, but this broken world is broken for us all.

The lessons I’ve learned in the last 10 years have changed me in so many ways.

I’ve been humbled. And I’ve learned how to humbly receive. Having someone pay your water bills or help you with your mortgage will do that.

I’ve been loved. And I’ve learned how to have an incredible marriage.

I’ve been judged. And I’ve learned how to shake it off and be understanding.

I’ve been hungry. And I’ve learned how to feed others.

I’ve been given gifts. And I’ve learned how to give more.

Do I wish it never would have happened? Sometimes. Am I glad for the perspective it has brought me? Absolutely.

As an added bonus to my learnings, my husband and I are now expert couch critics when watching Shark Tank. Here’s to the next 10 years! I can only hope I gain as much perspective as I’ve gained over the last.

cancun-office

In memory of TekTrek and our little office in Cancun. A dream that blew away.

One thought on “Lessons from Hurricane Wilma: 10 Years Later

  1. I love this post! I witnessed the changes these setbacks made in your life, and am humbled myself at how you have grown and matured instead of becoming bitter or selfish. I don’t think I would have done as well. Thanks for 36 wonderful years of friendship!

    Like

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