Post Sandy: Living In The Two New Yorks

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It’s been a disorienting week here in NYC.

We were blessed to be located in a part of the city that was left relatively untouched, save a few downed trees. Fierce winds hammered us and school’s been closed all week, but we kept our power and only lost web, TV and phone for a few days.

Many friends and family are still without power. Lines for gas at the few stations that have it are half-a-day long. And those are still the fortunate ones. You’ve all seen the footage of parts of the city and surrounding areas that were on the coast.

I don’t know anyone who took a direct hit on that level, but as a family, we’re working on how best to help. As are many people in the area.

And there’s this odd dichotomy.

Above 23rd Street, life has pretty much kept on keeping on. It’s not like you see it on TV. Most businesses have re-opened, people are figuring ways to get where they need to go, do the work they need to do and return to relative normalcy. Below 23rd Street, it’s still largely a dark zone. And in the outer boroughs and coastal areas, it ranges from being a major inconvenience to post apocalyptic.

It’s like there are two New Yorks, living two realities side-by-side.

Unscathed and blessed as we were, I’ve been having a lot of trouble working this week. I’ve got a ton of work to do, responsibilities to take care of, income that needs to be generated to keep a roof over my family’s head. I have amazing things on the horizon, possibilities to breath life into. Desires and aspirations. All still entirely realizable.

But, how do you pursue your own best life, your own great vision, when there’s so much disorientation and suffering so close to you?

What do you do? Hold your family close? Do your work? Reach out to friends and family? Offer to help in ways you know how? Explore how to help in ways you don’t yet know? Pursue your vision with zest? Put it on hold? Tone things down? Be grateful?

And, how much of what’s going on do you share with kids? How do you keep them safe, but also expose them to the impermanence of life and need to help on a level that engenders gratitude, service and compassion?

I honestly don’t know what the answers are. I’m grappling with them.

But, staying silent for the week just doesn’t feel right.

I’d love to know your thoughts…

With gratitude,

Jonathan

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65 responses

65 responses to “Post Sandy: Living In The Two New Yorks”

  1. Tina Cochran says:

    Jonathan,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you. One thing to remember that might help is that you are a positive influence and inspiration to those you touch. By taking care of your own energy, physical and emotional needs you are protecting that light. Hang in there and keep on being the you that brings hope to the world.

  2. Jonathan,

    Thank you so much for grappling with this out in the open. I, too, am munching on the same questions. Part of me wants to dive into my work; part of me feels like doing anything that doesn’t involve helping my neighbors is utterly meaningless.

    Where I’ve landed for now (and it certainly may change) is that I can do both. I can find ways to be of service every day and spend time at home, focusing on taking care of me and my business as well. Even with that solution, I’m with you — still living in the question more than the answer.

    Thanks again for this conversation.

    Warmly,
    Nisha

  3. Elisa says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thank you for expressing what many of us are feeling. I’m certainly grateful, and wondering about many of the questions you raised as well.

    All the best,

    Elisa

  4. EmmKay says:

    Continue your mission which helps many. But take a little time out this week to lend a helping hand directly in your community. Maybe spend an afternoon delivering meals to lower Manhattan elderly who can’t leave their apartments. There are a lot of ways to help. Pick one that resonates.

  5. Lion Goodman says:

    Jonathan:

    You are asking excellent questions. They will be asked by more and more people as time goes on. I think the questions are more important than the answers, and each person needs to find the “right fit” for themselves. There aren’t any right answers, or rules about it. We’re in no-rules territory. The actions we choose are a reflection of our character and our beliefs. It’s a good time to question deeply – “What do I believe?” “What is most important?” “What is of value, and how do I measure and prioritize my values?” The most important elements are, in my opinion, to stay awake, keep your heart open, and care for yourself and others. Then let your intuition be your guide. Do what you can. Do your best. Stay in compassion. You can’t go wrong.

  6. You echoed my thoughts exactly. I’m living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where very little has changed. And yet my family members have been evacuated from their homes, and are staying with me because their basement was flooded and there is still no power. I’m at my computer in my quiet apartment, trying to work. I have so much to do, and normally would welcome the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time at my desk. But this is not a normal situation. At least it doesn’t feel that way.

  7. Josh C says:

    I’m on the West Coast so I’m not feeling the same impact but seeing the photos and hearing stories from my clients over there still affects me greatly.

    There’s a balance to be struck with plowing through it and acknowledging the chaos around you. People who work hard and love what they do need to listen to themselves and time the time needed. If you, Jonathan, of all people, find it hard to create and produce right now then there’s thousands of other people who must feel the same way. Ignoring that need to pause for a minute and take it all in, good or bad, won’t help anything.

    As a related, recent example, my grandfather passed away a while ago during a really busy, exciting time in my business. He lived in another state and we only talked monthly or less but it hurt badly when it happened. I glossed over it fright after I heard the news, then found myself crying in the kitchen out of the blue. It was time to stop for a while so I took a walk, spent time with family and friends, and acknowledged what happened. It took a little bit to feel normal again but the time I took was time I needed and it felt right to do that, for him and for myself.

    Thoughts and good vibes to everyone on the East Coast.

  8. Melissa says:

    Hello Jonathan,
    My husband and I are both pastors, and we always live with this sort of disorientation because one moment we may be celebrating a marriage while the next we are at someone’s bedside at the end of life. One day we are holding a newborn and another we are helping someone without a home move their belongings across town. We share that tension with our children so that they can know that there are always two worlds that we inhabit. What keeps us going is the knowledge that our calling to this work is greater than the circumstances of any given moment. And when you can be honest about the existence of the two worlds, then you can embody unconditional love. Grace and Peace to you!

    • Sara says:

      Melissa, your words are so beautiful, I’m writing them down in my quote book.

      Jonathan, by you doing your work, you give voice to the many. I think that’s because your concerns are about the human condition that we all experience. Remember that post you wrote a few weeks ago about your creative time and when it’s best for you to work? Well maybe you could take some of that time when you’re not in creation mode and use that to contribute. It sounds like you’re yearning to do ‘something’ but as a busy parent and self-employed adult you’re not sure how. The city is at your doorstep. Just take one small step. That’s all you need to do to begin.

      I also guess, though (I admit) I haven’t yet read it, that your book, Uncertainty, might be of help to you.

      Thank you for putting your thoughts out here for all of us to share in. It makes a difference.

      With gratitude,
      Sara

  9. Mindie Kniss says:

    Your post brings up the intricacies of finding balance between the impermanence of our physical lives and the value of the Work that you are here to do. I don’t know what your answer will be, but I find the most peace in attending to both, as you are able.
    I love that you asked about how to involve the kids. I’ve taken kids on service projects so they are exposed to the realities of the world, but in the best possible experience of it (giving back, taking action, etc…)
    Blessings to you, Jonathan.

  10. Marguerite says:

    I’ve always used my talents to help fundraise as well as volunteering to help. This is the only way that I’ve found to completely soothe my soul in times like this. So much pain and devastation and only so much one can do – but one also, like you said, has to keep a roof over one’s head. Being able to use my talents to help in some small way and then carving out time to volunteer has always kept me going.

    As for my sons, I’ve never shielded them from what’s going on in the world, I’ve always been quite upfront. However, I’ve brought them along to volunteer and they were never allowed to shop for the other without first having shopped for someone less fortunate – birthdays and Christmas. They’ve kept on volunteering as they’ve grown older, are very community-oriented, and still donate to Toys for Tots. They handle a great deal well and with compassion.

    • Cindy B. says:

      I think we teach our children what normal is by what they see. I remember taking my kids to do tasks many kids would wonder WHY? But, I also gave my kids an opportunity to teach their peers as well.

      The richest example was a Saturday morning. I took three children, 4 five gallon buckets and we went to their grade school to pull weeds from the front of the building. The WHY answer was: this is our school and maintenance does not always have time to weed. This is something we can give to our school.

      My kids are adults now, and they continue to do volunteer work.

  11. Erin Ross says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Jonathan.

    I honor and appreciate your vulnerability and willingness to be in the “not knowing” of the answers. In my heart and mind, they are complex, elusive and ever-shifting in this time of great change and uncertainty about many things… they require long conversations with good friends, personal exchanges of acknowledgment and service with seeming strangers, and a much deeper look at our individual responsibility for the whole. I know this doesn’t really answer any of your questions, but I don’t know if there are any “real” answers out there other than to Be Love… whatever that looks like for each of us.

    Thank you for being such a bright lantern in the midst of the storm, Jonathan. You are truly inspiring.

  12. Cathy says:

    As a veteran hurricane survivor (and now you see it is the post-storm apocalypse that is the true challenge), I think that honoring both sides is important. When you are focused on your daily work, you are holding that light, that space, that frequency that normal is still HERE somewhere, and that becomes a golden thread that will guide the struggling back to their new normal. You are holding hope for them, the light along the way. And then, when you choose your action of direct service, it is from that same “yes, you will make it forward” energy. And when so much structure is destroyed, it is those internal, eternal, unnameable acts of service from source that carries people through. This is what helps all of you balance this dramatic paradox, of destruction and survival.
    Best to all of you up there…

  13. True Black says:

    I typically go with my instincts in similar situations (I live on an island that gets several typhoons each year, some of them quite destructive). Commitments must be kept, even under duress. That’s what gurus, coaches, and great dads and husbands do. But if my gut is telling me to stop and spend time on something else, I try to heed that call, at least for a few hours every day. There’s almost always something that can wait a while longer.

    Best wishes.

  14. I think that it’s important to state that there have always been “two New Yorks, living two realities side-by-side.” Not on this scale, or this easy to delineate, but still there. Still separate in important ways that relate to human comfort, suffering, etc. For me, the answer is to financially support organizations that help people who are in difficult situations – and volunteer time where I can. I don’t know what the answer is for other people.

  15. Hi Jonathan,

    Glad to hear you and your family are okay.

    I think I would be overstepping, to say I could answer those questions either. But the fact that you’re asking them, wrestling with them, is a major step in the right direction. Being sensitive to the pain and disruption in other’s lives is a wonderful quality that not everyone possesses. So raising these questions, bringing them to our attention, will draw us closer to solutions and to each other.

    I believe people are wired differently, we are all unique, and as a result we will respond in ways that ring true to who we are inside. Some of us may need to set our lives aside in order to help those in need, while others may need to stay their course in our order to feel as though they’re stabilizing the greater world around them. And for others, it may be a mix of both. All are valid responses.

    And as far as children go, I have five, so I also wrestle with how much exposure vs. protection you provide. Again, I think as a well-connected parent, you can gauge that based on recognizing their individual “wiring” and unique ability to process information, so it will vary from child to child. I think the important thing is to be sensitive enough to how each individual child is wired and what would be a healthy amount of information for them to process with you. Overall, I believe, done together, wresting with these issues at some appropriate level with each child is healthy and leads to creative thinking and compassion building character.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Warm regards,
    Steve

  16. Anita says:

    Hi! Love this post. I was in NYC for RHHLive (and said a very quick hello to you!) and arrived back in London yesterday. I was affected with no power and everything shut. I was staying in Soho. My opinion is based on being in London at the time of the London bombings and again 7 years later for the Olympics. The best thing I believe you can do is show the city your support, get out and buy your coffee and food from local businesses that have lost trade on the bad days. Show up and support the NYC marathon, the city needs positivity and good karma right now. Thank the people who are showing up for work each day and serving you. I made sure I thanked the staff in the coffee shops that opened, the hotel staff who were amazing, the airport staff at Newark. Acknowledge their contribution and be thankful. It makes such a huge difference. Our cities are amazing and resilient because of their amazing and resilient citizens.

  17. Daniel ONeil says:

    Jonathon,
    I went to Port-au-Prince 24 hours after the earthquake and directed the operations of one of the larger NGOs in country (www.padf.org). The devastation broke my heart, but I was thrilled to be able to help. My wife organized donations from the Dominican Republic and my kids did their part to raise funds in school. Although I was gone 80% of the time for several months, we were closer as a family than we had ever been.

    I don’t know what options there are for you to volunteer, but I’m sure it would be good for your soul as well as your families.

  18. Suzanne Vara says:

    Jonathan

    Thank you so much for writing this. It is hard when you are in an area that was not hit hard but you look to the N, S, E and W and those areas were pummeled. First instincts kick in and the overwhelming feeling of relief sets in that we are safe, our family and friends are safe and the unknown neighbors 2 houses down are safe. Most times having no power or cable is a royal pain but in times like these, the minor inconvenience of being out a few days (of course we say that after we are fully restored) is nothing compared to the surrounding areas.

    When areas are not hard hit, when is the right time to start to ease into “normal life?” We do not want to be insensitive towards are fellow NY’ers or NJ’ers whose lives have been so displaced but at the same time, can we put all work/income on hold? We want to go and help and do all we can to assist in the recovery but if we stop our work will that further complicate the financial aspect of the storm recovery? It feels like a power struggle or that feeling of being selfish for wanting to support our family when so many are in need of help.

    Answers are hard to come by in this situation but it is enlightening to see the conversation getting started.

  19. Kathy Kliskey Geraghty says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Love your work. My thoughts are to keep working, and look for ways to use your work to benefit those in need. Re: children, I believe that we need to share life’s situations with them, but in a way that is appropriate to their ages and sensitivities. Best always, Kathy

  20. Genna says:

    I’m so glad that you and your family are okay. I’m down in Washington, DC and we barely got hit at all. My thoughts are with you in NYC and with those in NJ and all along the New England coastal areas that got hit. I wish I could do something to help from here in DC, but with this disaster it doesn’t seem like sending money will do any good. It’s manpower that seems most needed, and dare I say, skilled manpower. I’m trolling the internet for ways to help either remotely or hands-on. Anyone with knowledge about what I could do, please share. I’ll share what I find with anyone else interested.

  21. Hi Jonathan,
    Thanks for this post, and for sharing the questions you’re grappling with.
    I am glad your family is okay, and I wish all of those who have suffered, and are suffering, as a result of Hurricane Sandy. You’re all in our thoughts and prayers.

    I write this from the safe, high country of the Frontier of Wyoming — far away geographically, but close at heart. My family reflects and prays for all of you affected by the storm every morning and evening.

    Thanks again
    Shelli

    p.s. I think there are no right or wrong answers to your questions, but I am moved that you have thought to share them, as I can only imagine we’d be asking the same ones in your situation.

  22. Heather Holm says:

    Many of us spend most of our working lives in our heads – in a huge, mentally-constructed, sometimes consensus-based reality. You’ve just been confronted – again (as you were, for example, on 9/11 and when you became a father) – with Real Life, the way our ancestors since before we became “human” lived it. Hard physical reality, full of danger and beauty. We aren’t wired to ignore it. We do violence to our bodies and psyches if we ignore it. No matter how we protect ourselves with pavement, insurance and central heating so we can live in our heads, once in a while reality rears its head. I think it’s totally healthy to acknowledge it and get involved at some meaningful and EFFECTIVE level, without endangering what you have built already for self and family. And that is a balancing act.

  23. Kari says:

    After reading your post I sat in silent lucidity for a few moments, reflecting on how refreshing it is to hear a celebrated personality expressing himself so honestly. Not that others don’t, but I have a propensity to be cynical (darnit!!) and I hear too many flowered up cliches to just think positive et al. Your willingness to say you are grappling, real time, is brave, and motivating to do and be the same.
    If I may…
    “Selfish” has been a theme for me recently; wondering how much focus on my work (which is largely introspective) is healthy and productive. Honesty is always a theme for me, in particular the ways we deceive ourselves into thinking we are being honest and transparent, when we actually are holding tight to an identity of being the honest person.
    So much of the current movement is about being grateful and holding your vision with laser focus, follow your passions etc, but then disaster strikes in whatever form, and all ideas of right and wrong and position and stance are blown to smithereens and there’s nothing to hold on to but air.
    It’s both unnerving and freeing at the same time. Then you add the element of the children and a whole slew of fresh uncertainty and fear arises. Who’s to say what’s the right thing? No one knows for sure.
    I think we ought to be quiet and listen inside for the answers, and then dare to be guided from within. We’re already birthed into our uncomfort zone, maybe stretching our neck’s out a bit further could teach us about gifts we didn’t know we had. I don’t know. Fear and uncertainty can be pretty smart sometimes. Good luck. Godspeed.

  24. Genna says:

    A place to look if you want to help:
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycservice/home.html

  25. Hi Jonathan,
    As others have said, great post, right questions. I was just talking to my cousin about survivalism and how much to share with the kids last night.
    I volunteer with a local search and rescue group in Las Vegas, so this is an important subject for me. I’d like to suggest incorporating preparedness into our daily lives. This isn’t about fear-mongering, but about being ready if a fire happens, or someone gets lost, or one of these smaller incidents occurs. Having a plan can not only help save your life, but it can be comforting when you see so much destruction around you.
    Additionally, apply preparedness to your business. What would happen if you lost power for a week? Are there other offices or backup systems in place? Half of businesses that close due to a disaster never re-open. The SBA has resources to help with this kind of planning, as does the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.
    Besides that, help where you can, build your business as you can, and try to merge your entrepreneurial spirit with your urge to do good.

  26. Jonathan, it must be disorienting with the contrast so distinct and close… I’m at the Jersey shore, having evacuated my 82 year old mom from her barrier island home. There are no easy solutions right now. We have to remember this is not the first time or the last we will face these difficult weather related challenges. My only consolation is that my mom is safe, I’m with her, caring for her myself, and she is not alone.

    Thanks, Jonathan, for your kind spirit…

  27. merrie says:

    save your work for later at night. but this weekend, as best you can, go to an area that is still in recovery mode and donate your time for a couple of days. go to the Mayor’s website and find out where people are most needed.

  28. Jennifer Bump says:

    Greetings Jonathan,

    Your post stirred something in me that I was having trouble pinpointing, thank you for lending your voice to us.
    I am in Arizona and have been environmentally unaffected by the hurricane, yet as a part of humankind, I find my heart there with those of you who have been so abruptly affected. I have a genuine appreciation for the East Coast, more kin to my first ‘crush’ 🙂 and the places I’ve visited in NY and NJ keep me coming back consistently. I was just there less than two weeks ago and the places I visited are now completely under water. I have dear friends and their families in the area and I scour the internet for updates during the day, looking for a glimmer of brightness to share with them when I can since their access to power is through sparse Facebook or email updates from phones that have to be charged in their cars. Your post was actually very refreshing and I’m so happy to hear from someone who is ‘ok’ and close and able to lend a hand or a voice, whichever you feel is right at the time. I so badly want to help and I feel so far away. I read about a gas station owner in NJ who has been pumping gas for 36 hours and was suffering from overexposure to the fumes, yet as continued to work with slight bleeding from the nose and mouth, the drivers continued to push for service so they could fuel their vehicles. To me, that’s a rock and hard spot that my heart reaches out to because I can relate to the importance of both sides. The panic in those areas is rising and I don’t believe it needs to be there. Now, far be it for me to truly say, because I am not there, although there seems to be a rush to get back to business as usual because it’s what people are used to doing but the aftermath surroundings aren’t ready to sustain anything at full-power. Looking at it big picture, a large mass of people are beginning to release the fear and panic they held during the preparation for, and the moment of the storm. That emotion is being released while also trying to recover and resume life as it was just days before the storm, which heightens the emotional intensity and confusion. When we do this we get very small and self-centered. We fight for individual survival and we forget that we can come together as a unified group to solve the problems we have. Your post and the comments I read in response to it, is the beginning of a different kind of wave that needs to sweep the area. You are positively affecting individuals who may be lost in a mindset of single-focus, or at least influenced by the tragedy that surrounds them. You are bringing people together as a group in a positive way, and you are asking the questions that from the feedback you’re getting, seem to be right on time. You have affected people across the country. I have noticed others responding from outside of the East Coast. We too want to help, whether in the form of thoughts, prayers, sharing words or joining in with your voice. As I mentioned previously, I want so badly to help and I feel so far away. I want to be there to help the gas station owner pump gas for a little while, just to give him a break and I want to find other people who would be willing to do the same. I want to help residents clean up their yards, their streets and their homes. I want to wrap my arms around the mother whose two boys were swept from her arms during the storm and hold her, comfort her the best that I can. I want to sit at the table with the planning committees and hear what their plans are to really get aggressive with how to get public and political support to increase funds to the states so they can implement the flood prevention that needs to be in place so this doesn’t happen as fiercely again. I want to help it happen. I want to gather children together and read them a story about heroes to put their minds in a place of power. I want to reach out however I can. If there is anyone who reads this who would like to help and who would like to let me know what I can do, I will gladly listen. Jonathan, you’ve poured water on willing seeds with your post. Thank you so much for speaking up and reaching out. My heart is with you and your family and everyone who is searching for how to heal and move forward.

  29. Kristin says:

    Thank you for this post Jonathan. Since I don’t believe in coincidences, it only made sense that this post was received about four hours after I had a slight, tearful breakdown from watching what seem like endless, tragic , Sandy stories on the Today Show. I’m up in Albany and some of my closest friends live in or near the destruction. I feel so connected in one way and so DISCONNECTED in another. Your words were at the core of my emotional “moment.” For some reason I feel so guilty and I can’t understand if it’s because I can’t get down there to help out or because we were lucky enough—living only two hours north– to go relatively unscathed by this horrendous storm. It’s strange. For what it’s worth, your thoughts made me not feel so alone or isolated. I will keep all whose lives are forever changed in my heart and thoughts. We will remember…again.

  30. Tal Rachleff says:

    Thank you for this post. It is so refreshing to see deep and personal and challenging questions from a thought-leader instead of glib proclamations and feel-good aphorisms that might have people believe you’ve got it all figured out.

    These are tough times (one might even say we are living in the best of times and the worst of times).

    One one level we are living in a fundamentally broken system that can not be fixed simply by our individual ‘bottom-up’ actions that play by the rules or mindset of the system (i.e., 1% of the population controlling 60-70% of the wealth, more black men in prison or on probation today than were enslaved in 1850, the continuing horror of the war on drugs (see previous point) and terror, etc. etc. etc.). And yet we have nothing but our individual actions and intentions (even when we choose to combine forces to create collectives and movements — or, worst case scenario, mobs).

    Van Jones said something I resonate with as true — we need three different dimensions of action and transformation to make the shift to a life-based culture:
    1) top-down (i.e., government, business, non-profits, other orgs, etc.)
    2) bottom-up (individual and collective grassroots movements) and
    3) inside-out (from the heart to compassionate informed action).
    When we can embrace all three instead of just one or two of these dimensions of creating change, I believe we will begin to see some real change in the systems that frame and shape our consciousness in ways most of us (and I include myself here) don’t even realize.

    As far as revealing challenging and difficult things about this world to children, I believe Bill Plotkin has one of the most intriguing suggestions about what to reveal, what not to reveal, and when. I’d recommend getting your hands on his book “Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World” (great title, right?). I won’t even try to summarize his perspective, b/c I’m worried I wouldn’t do it justice. But please check it out. It’s a great book and a manual of sorts of how we might begin to heal ourselves, our communities, and our relationships to the other beings of this planet.

    Thanks for your inquiries, and wishing you and your family and all the people and other beings affected by this storm a speedy and sustainable recovery.

    Best,
    Tal

  31. Rob Lively says:

    From NYPD (https://www.facebook.com/NYPD)

    Looking for a volunteer opportunity or other way to give throughout the City? Visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycservice/home.html

    To help assist New Yorkers citywide in areas worst affected by the hurricane the NYPD will collect non-perishable food, clothing, and other donations in the parking lot of 110-00 Rockaway Blvd. in Jamaica, Queens, which can be accessed from 109th St. & Rockaway Blvd. near JFK airport. Uniformed Community Affairs officers will be accepting the donations daily from 10am to 6pm and then delivering the items to locations citywide impacted by the storm. Money cannot be accepted. Anyone who wants to give is urged to donate canned goods, canned milk, bottled water and other non-perishables; paper products, personal and baby care products, trash bags, cleaning products, linens and towels, flash lights, batteries; clothing for colder weather.

  32. Hey, Jonathan.

    I’m in the exact same situation as you, in nearby Columbus Circle and very fortunate in terms of how little the storm affected us. However, I have lots of family & friends downtown and in NJ who were hit quite hard, some of which may not be back in their homes for months to come. I guess being there for your family and friends in any way you can is a good start. Maybe that means just being a person they can talk to, cry with or just plain listen. Your heart will tell you what’s right and the actions you feel should be taken. The Big Apple and the surrounding area is ripe for a rise in random acts of kindness!

  33. Tal Rachleff says:

    Figured I’d share this here, as it’s relevant to the question about what to share with children:
    http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/for-adults-a-catastrophe-for-children-a-memory/?smid=pl-share

    Thanks,
    Tal

  34. deb harpster says:

    it comes as no surprise to me that your heartfelt compassion comes through loud and clear! it is one thing to write (speak, communicate) with intention and yet, another, to “walk the talk”! i only “know you” through your blog and interviews (and, yes, they are inspirational and always, interesting) but this post shows an even deeper, more universal, jonathan …a seeker and a teacher…a person who is willing to gather empathy for others, especially, those who have been traumatized and are suffering from this horrific force of nature, while he has been spared. you’re a good man, charlie brown!!!

    regarding “how much to share with kids”, even the youngest understand acts of thoughtfulness and pick up good, bad, and in-between beliefs from their primary role models. if/when “we” freak out, they freak out, right? but, the same holds true when children witness acts of loving kindness…”doing onto others as we would like others to do for us” (and, i must add, on a regular basis! ’tis most powerful stuff!!!

    today, when i reported for (potential) jury duty, a man in the roomful of “fellow waiters” stood up and asked that we take a moment of silence to send wishes and prayers to the victims of “sandy”. this gesture allowed hundreds of strangers to “become one” and, just like that, the distance between california and the east coast evaporated.

    gonna close now…wanna go help a person less fortunate than me! stay safe and thanks again for being YOU.

  35. I know exactly what you mean! In my own personal experience, I learned to not go looking for the answer. By letting myself feel, touch and almost taste in the present moment. Really listening to my heart, the answer always came to me. Here in South America, I have been and lived in neighbourhoods were some people live in homes made of cardboard boxes. Many times over, I have been faced with these same questions. The answer came when I stopped looking for it. We all have a responsibility towards humanity, a duty. Like you so beautifully said, staying silent never feels right. Being engaged in any way will contribute in a positive way. It can mean continuing to do our work, especially if it reaches out to others for awareness.

    I do believe that children should be made aware of these situations. It will strengthen them, teach them how almost 80% of the rest of world lives and maybe be inspire them in the future to get engaged and a make difference.

    Thanks Jonathan for a much needed post!

  36. Jim Greenwood says:

    You’re a good man Jonathon. I trust your instincts…

  37. Patty Soffer says:

    I love that you can just be honest about how you feel. What a concept. This is a human catastrophe and anyone who can carry on with no emotion is not human or of this universe. Even pets feel the stress of what has happened.

    I’m here in Florida and had the same feeling of disconnection from commerce and strong connection to the energy of people who are scared and suffering. I’ve been through three hurricanes and what I remember most is how people cut the crap and just banded together.

    It’s too bad our memories are so short. Some have none. Donald Trump simply could not contain himself immediately during the aftermath. (When can he?) Now, four days later, I had to turn off CNN just now because the presidential candidates are at it again, braying and arguing. It is absolutely exhausting to listen to this.

    All could take a lesson from you.

  38. Jeannette says:

    Thank you for raising the issues and emotions we very lucky folks feel.

    Right now, we’ve donated money and clothing and apparel items to local organizations.

    We are also serving as a go-between in communications for several friends w/o net service and/or limited phone access due to power and other outages. We’re looking up information online and conveying it.

    We don’t have the space to take anyone in and I feel bad about that but that’s a reality I can’t change.

    Prayer just doesn’t seem “enough” and we are now researching how best to volunteer locally.

    TO me, one of the most important things to do is to do what it takes to put pressure on local officials, government officials and whatever organizations are involved (FEMA) to ensure that those who need assistance, get it.

    If this entails contacting the media, writing articles, lobbying specific officials, whatever…this we all must do on behalf of our neighbors who are in a living hell right now and whose lives are forever disrupted.

    Keep the pressure up even when the spotlight goes out.

    And if you can physically get to someone you know in distress (or get them to you), do it. A lot of people will not leave the areas where they lost power or homes (and one can understand given the looting, etc.), but they need to be around people who can provide emotional support and practical necessities.

    In all of this, aside from volunteering to help those in our buildings and neighborhoods, if all we do is to ensure that we have prepared our phone families, that’s a start.

    It is an awful feeling to see so many in such dire circumstances. It’s just a matter of luck that we’re not in that situation and the reality is, what happens to one of us, happens to all of us in that it IS our responsibility to find ways to help.

    Do whatever you can for those around you and give whatever you have. (If only organizations were better organized for us to make donations of apparel, household items, toiletries, etc. and literally get them into people’s hands. TOo much bureaucracy. Way too many rules. Even the governors and presidents have said: Forget the paperwork. GET IT DONE.)

    Contact our local govt reps.

    RIght now, one thing we want to do is help everyone who wants to vote, to be able to do so.

  39. Lissa says:

    I left a longer response to your question on FB, but realized after I’d sat with it a bit I’d missed something…

    Asking myself to respond by holding both sides of the equation (in the way I felt called to) helped me learn how to better be with paradox & suffering, frustration & uncertainty (etc) and still move forward. Find meaning. Make meaning. And meet my responsibilities in ways that knit it all together.

    Now that I think about it, your promo/announcement video for Uncertainty played in my mind those early days – how genuinely living the answers to questions that aren’t easy to answer gives birth to an authentic response that meets the moment & the future with what my life could give to help it along. Hope that makes sense. And thanks for asking. Sending much love to everyone there.

  40. We live in Florida and have gone through quite a few storms.One of the worse ones was “Charlie” on the opposite side of the state from us. We loaded up Gatorade, water, and so on to help out. Your help is needed some where and soon enough you will know what that is.Take care, stay safe and God Bless.

  41. Lorena Knapp says:

    Jonathan-
    As many have said above, good questions.

    I wanted to share my own thinking as far as sharing information with children. I was teaching a classroom of 2nd and 3rd graders on 9/11. I had to make a choice: how much to share? Especially when I didn’t have an opportunity to filter it but needed to respond fairly quickly.

    I think the most important thing to remember is children experience the stress of the world around them- despite our best efforts to protect and shield them from it. I’m not advocating that we share all the gritty details but what is most frightening for children is when the adults around them aren’t being honest and truthful- their internal feelings don’t match the external.

    I think it is best to acknowledge your children’s fears. Ask them: Is there anything you’d like to talk about around Sandy and what is going on? Have you felt concerned or worried about this? Is there anything I can do to help you understand what is going on better? Most times children will be able to tell you what they need if you ask.

    However, what children are sometimes unable to do is “name” their feelings. They don’t always have language or words (like anxiety) to describe their experience but they have the feelings- giving a name to their body sensations can really help.

    As a teacher I felt it was important to let my students share some of the things they’d heard about 9/11- there were a lot of worries and fear and not letting them express them (even if they were overblown and unrealistic) wasn’t helpful. I tried to reassure them whilst also hearing them.

    You’re going to do great. We’d love to hear how it went.

  42. Jonathan-
    You really did pinpoint what I was feeling inside. Here I am sitting in the middle of Brooklyn with very little loss, just slight inconveniences, but feeling it all with a very heavy heart. I think everyone is right in the fact that we should try to hold gratefulness at the same time as keeping moving forward with our pursuits and maybe incorporate our awareness of others and their struggles helps us in our own work. I know it does for me. I packed up some clothing, food, and supplies today that were delivered to some of the relief effort and even that little moment helped me do my work better today, helped inform my work, particularly as an artist….and really as a human.

  43. Alicia Power says:

    Jonathan, thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts. We here in Australia honestly wonder how you all are ‘faring’ – deep down. And you voiced it beautifully. The intense dichotomy of devastation versus smart empowered life-fulfillment, that New Yorkers do so well. Thank you for your humility and vulnerability in sharing. It is inspiring.

  44. Jennifer says:

    Great post Jonathan.

    I totally get your questioning and I think there is really no right or wrong here. I too have also wondered if I should be doing “this or that”. All I can say is that do what feels right to your heart. What do you stand for? What are your values? This is a great opportunity to reflect on the things you want to accomplish in this world or to just spend time feel bad about things. It does not have to be big… it only has to be genuine.

    Also if I may add. Anything helps. From good thoughts,love, thankfulness to physical action etc.

    Great post and happy you and your family are ok. Do not EVER let your dream/aspirations/goals go.

    Sincerely,
    Jennifer

  45. Hey Jonathan

    It’s indeed a tale of two cities. Glad you’re ok. My apartment in east village and office in Meatpacking still without power, but that pales in comparison. Have clients who have been flooded or lost their homes in the tri-state area. Many of my neighbors in StyTown and East Village flooded too. Was lucky enough to move to higher ground on tuesday and we stayed with family near lincoln center.

    I’ve been over-tipping every cab/car service driver I come across, and have donated to the NYC Fund – https://www.nyc.gov/html/fund/html/donate/donate.shtml to support disaster relief and all the tireless first responders. I gave $100. But it doesn’t feel like enough. I want to give 100x that much. That motivates me to do my work (what’s mine to do). I plan on making another even more generous contribution shortly.

    Michael

  46. Hey Jonathan,

    Hope is what keeps us going. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better feeling. In a struggle caused by life’s circumstances it is sometimes difficult to sustain that hope. When life hits us hard, we often lose our ability to look into the future through our imagination. In that case I suggest people to simply focus on what they’re doing well, and share that with other people. Don’t wait to receive, go out and give yourself to others and follow your heart! It’s a small step toward dreaming again, because I believe that it’s in the creation of a future image, we sustain our hope.

    Sending you strength and courage from Florence, Italy

    Wouter

  47. […] Be aware. If you have children, help them understand the suffering and unrest. In your way and your time, teach about compassion for all beings. My recent m.o. of reminding my five-year old every time he has a tantrum probably isn’t the best way. But I bet you have some ideas, and I’d love to hear them. So touched today by Jane Green’s Facebook page: “ I still love my adopted home, but to see man’s inhumanity to man, to read about people dumpster-diving for food in New York, guns being pulled at gas station, makes me fearful for the future. Every storm passes, and I can only pray this too shall pass, leaving room for a brighter, happier, sunnier day.” And Jonathan Fields‘ Post Sandy: Living In The Two New Yorks. […]

  48. Connie Herman says:

    Thank you for your honesty and creating an opening for this conversation. I’ve been “fighting” it all week. Feeling resistance to alll “normal” activities – nothing feels the same somehow. I felt similar grief and chaos after 9/11 (I am in NJ). My heart aches for the suffering of so many. First the physical storm and now the emotional storm. The comments posted here are comforting – wise, compassionate and loving – this is part of the healing for us all.

  49. My thoughts are when you have a voice … you speak the truth with that voice from where you are as you just did and when you do WE NOW KNOW the truth of the trenches from someone we trust. Thank YOU for building the TRUST cause I’ve been wondering the truth of it all in Tennessee.

  50. Heather says:

    Jonathan – beautiful post; so authentic. Not being in the situation I’m only offering comments as a totally unscathed observer.

    I’m reminded of the spiritual teaching of “it doesn’t matter what you do, but how you do what you do, that determines if your fulfilling your destiny.” – Eckhart Tolle.

    Perhaps some quiet meditation and contemplation – asking for guidance from the etheric and astral planes. Knowing the ‘how’ is the important piece, what can you do that will invite your life force energy into your life, body, mind and spirit? What will allow you to honour the connectedness of all of life and abandon any inklings of separateness? Whatever you do, do it in the energy of love and you will be making a beautiful contribution.

    Sending love and light your way.

  51. I think sometimes the job at hand is exactly what you just did. Tell us what it’s like. Tell us what the questions are from your intimate and particular point of view. Voice the questions and let us grapple with them too. Being on the edge of Two New Yorks presents a peculiar set of questions, and by asking them aloud you have engendered a peculiar kind of empathy. Thank you. That is a good way to spend your energy.

  52. Nat Nanton says:

    Jonathan, thank you for opening this discussion. Such a touching post.

    I find the contrast of the “two New Yorks” is present on so many levels throughout our lives, within our own circle of friends, our cities, countries and continents. Misfortune hits some and leaves others unscathed.
    The best I can do is understand that these are all opportunities, for the “lucky” ones to develop understanding, practice compassion and not allow guilt to get me down (meditation is great for this). And for the “unfortunate” ones, I see these events as temporary pain and long-term growth, if not in this lifetime, then the next.

    You are doing work that makes a difference. I say, get in your zone even more so. Honing your talent is doing everyone a favor.
    As a parent, I would communicate. Ask them how they feel. Answer any questions they have. But the best way to put their mind at ease is find your peace.

    So much love,
    Nat

  53. Jonathan Fields says:

    As always, gang, blown away by the thoughtfulness of your insights. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, ideas and experiences. Oh, and a little piece of your soul along the way.

    Much gratitude,

    JF

  54. Paula Grieco says:

    What a genuine piece. How do we best live our lives, meet our obligations, etc. — when those around us have urgent needs and are suffering. If everyone is truly our neighbor, that’s a question we should all be asking ourselves everyday. I’d say, this week drop everything and go help those in the 2nd NYC. I don’t think you will ever regret it. Peace, Paula

  55. Bob White says:

    Although I have never experienced a storm the magnitude of Sandy, I have boarded up a couple of homes and weathered the brunt of 2 hurricanes without major damage or personal injuries – first response is with the family; communication level depends upon the ages of the children.

    Reaching out is a given – calling loved ones, checking on neighbors – communicating with places of worship to learn what is/can be done as teams – I am blessed to belong to a large (3000+) church which organizes teams to travel to areas where help is needed – and our pastors always say(regarding donations) – “let your heart determine your level of generosity” – NYC will be cleaning up plus counseling and assisting people for many months – if I were there I would be foregoing my normal leisure time activities to help others in need – do the right thing.

  56. Gina says:

    Seconding a few of the most recent comments that this might be precisely the time to jump in and give of yourself.

    I think — if it’s on your heart at all, if you’re feeling that tug at all to get out there and help others in this situation that is your higher self urging you on to do what’s right for you in this moment.

    So – give attention to where its needed to keep your own life on an even keel, and then get engaged and go help your neighboring communities in some way.

    Let your kids see too. They don’t need to see the harshest realities, but kids are resilient and can handle seeing more than we give them credit for. Better than keeping them overly sheltered.

  57. Nina says:

    Are you saying you want to help but don’t know how, or really that you don’t want to help but feel you ought to?

    If you want to help, people above have offered plenty of ways, so there should be no problem.

    If you don’t want to help (but feel you should), find ways to come to terms with that reality, perhaps by recognising that you feel your role is a different one.

  58. David says:

    Firstly, I am glad Jonathan that you and your family are ok after the terrible things we saw on the news here in the UK.

    Having read all of the emails above I feel I cannot add much to what has already been offered.

    Except to agree with Jim Greenwood…

    KR

  59. Anne-Sophie says:

    Beautiful post, as always. I believe that, as much as you can, it’s important to do what you need to do. This’ll serve everyone. Not only will you be able to serve your family, but you may also be able to help those in need. It’s awful what happened, but going into paralysis won’t help anybody.

  60. […] without my incredible partner. One real, one a fear-fest fantasy. And then I read a line in Jonathan Fields’ blog about Hurricane Sandy and the two New Yorks that exist at present; some of us unscathed, some […]

  61. KC says:

    First, offer up home, warmth, food, hot showers, conversation to family and friends who need them.
    Then, begin gathering clothes (all those sweaters that we never wear) and cleaning supplies. Bring them to Staten Island (see list of Help Stations in http://www.silive.com, the local newspaper). Visit parents/ grandparents. Return home and be as loving as possible to those with whom we share our days.

  62. […] Be aware. If you have children, help them understand the suffering and unrest. In your way and your time, teach about compassion for all beings. My recent m.o. of reminding my five-year old every time he has a tantrum probably isn’t the best way. But I bet you have some ideas, and I’d love to hear them. So touched by Jane Green’s Facebook page: ” I still love my adopted home, but to see man’s inhumanity to man, to read about people dumpster-diving for food in New York, guns being pulled at gas station, makes me fearful for the future. Every storm passes, and I can only pray this too shall pass, leaving room for a brighter, happier, sunnier day.” And Jonathan Fields‘ Post Sandy: Living In The Two New Yorks. […]