It's currently Day 5 of Hurricane Harvey madness here in Houston. Since we're stuck inside and I've been slacking on blogging this year (best laid plans, right?), I figured this would be a good time to write a post.
The fact that I can write this post now -- that my husband and I are sitting safe and dry in our apartment, the only major disruption to our comfort being that we really shouldn't spend too much time outside or drive very far right now -- is definitely due in large part to the preparations we made before the storm hit.
But, as in so many other instances, to call that the whole story would be a disservice to all the ways in which factors beyond our control have worked out in our favor, and how the same factors that benefited us hurt others in our greater community.
When we heard the weather was turning bad, we did everything we could to prepare. We put our apartment in order, pulled items in from outside, filled our cars with gas, stocked up on necessities, made sure our devices were fully charged, took out cash to have on hand, filled our bathtub with water for sanitary purposes. Over the course of days we did everything we could think of, everything within our means to be ready - "means" being our available material resources, which are equally a combination of hard work/smart planning and plain old good fortune.
As it turned out, the preparations we made either worked in our favor (we've had plenty to eat and drink this week) or turned out to be completely unnecessary (I mean, better safe than sorry, but we never lost power or water and our credit cards are still being accepted . . . ).
But so many things could have gone so much worse for us and rendered all our work and planning useless. It wouldn't have mattered that our pantry was fully stocked if we'd had to evacuate. It wouldn't have mattered that our gas tanks were full if our cars had been destroyed by a tornado. The extra water for sanitary purposes sitting in our bathtub wouldn't have done us any good if we'd been up to our waists in flood water.
And, yeah, theoretically we could have been even more prepared. I mean, theoretically we could have bought a boat, just in case - but how many of us really have those kinds of resources? How many of us can truly be prepared for every possible outcome?
Also, what if a tornado destroyed the boat?
My point is that the choices we make to affect factors within our control can only ever be part of the equation. There will always be factors outside our control that may or may not work in our favor. Sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes we don't.
While clearly I have this Category 4 hurricane-turned-tropical-storm that's been sitting on top of our city and hammering us with rain on my brain right now, the same balance of work and luck applies in the rest of our lives. No matter how hard we work, how much we prepare, how well informed we are, the outcome of any given plan will always be at least partially contingent on factors beyond our control.
We can make the best choices among the options available to us. We cannot create new options from nothing.
We can choose to look for new and better information which will help us make more informed decisions. We cannot choose what information we find and when we find it.
We can do everything right, have everything perfect, and a natural disaster (for example) can strike and undo all our hard work.
Our work can only take us so far without the help of factors beyond our control. Working our hardest and preparing our best will never guarantee our best outcome.
Every moment in our lives is the culmination of of choices within our control and events outside it. All we can ever do is make the best choices we can with the knowledge and resources available to us and hope that the things we can't control work out for the best.
PS - Many people in our community were not only more affected by the hurricane than my husband and I but also had and have significantly less resources at their disposal.
If you would like to help the recovery effort, please consider donating to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund through the Greater Houston Community Foundation.
"After receiving an overwhelming number of inquiries from citizens and companies who want to help, Mayor Sylvester Turner has established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund that will accept tax deductible flood relief donations for victims that have been affected by the recent floods."