I expect that in recent days you have often found your thoughts turning to the people of the Philippines, wondering what it must be like to have your whole world flattened, just like that. Left wandering, homeless, among the matchwood of what constituted everyday life.
Imagine – and be truthful, now – that you, too, lost everything. What are the five things you would miss the most from your everyday life? What five things would you miss the least? What could you easily replace? What would be hardest to replace? Would you care most about the things that were hardest to replace, or not necessarily?
For the sake of not hurting people’s feelings, let’s leave family members out of this. I mean, supposing in the event of a typhoon you might lose your spouse/parents/siblings/children. If your silent prayer was “Thank God!” you would hardly admit it here, would you?
So let’s keep it to the following:
- Actual objects – useful things like your car and household implements; and beloved things like an album of wedding photos or a baby’s first curl.
- Occupations and obligations.
- Places – your house, your church, your place of work
- Things that make life easier – banks and ATMs, hospitals and clinics, schools, fuel plants giving you electricity, water treatment works and mains, train stations, car fuel stations, shops.
You can’t have a generic item in your list, like “all shops”. But you can have in your list of things you’d miss most “a grocery store” (and to make life easier we’ll assume you mean a grocery store that has food in it – perhaps overseas agencies are supplying it by helicopter drops - explain when you list it), and in your list of things you’d miss least “a jewellery store”.
You can also tell us about why you wouldn’t miss things – for example that you would have missed the jewellery store a great deal were it not for the fact that you are a dab hand at looting and feel confident that, since your place of work has been flattened and you now have a lot of spare time, you could spend your days combing the wreckage for gold and silver in preparation for setting yourself up again once the infrastructure has been restored. Or perhaps that you won’t miss the grocery store because your daddy taught you how and where to catch fish barehanded.
Then there are two more lists: “Abilities”. In such devastating circumstances, what five abilities do you have now that you think might come in handy? And what five abilities do you not have but think would be very useful?
My own lists:
Okay, assuming I had a basic outfit of clothes including shoes and a coat and hat, but lost everything else, here are my lists:
Five things I (think I) would miss most in a disaster scenario:
- A sense of safety – without the usual social boundaries of home or support of services.
- Allies – people I know I can trust and who understand me.
- Peaceful sleep
- My wood-gas stove (the whole pack, including its small saucepan and dry matches). In fact I would have tried to save this if I could.
- A really sturdy large bag – I hope I could find one – for foraging.
Of course, food and water are a must, but I think I could catch rainwater and scavenge a container for it, and scavenge/forage for food - very dependant on weather, of course!
Five things I would not miss:
- Anything purely ornamental
- The church in the sense of the building
- Processed food
- My car
I wonder about communications. Would I miss those or not? Often, knowing how bad things are on a widespread basis just makes difficult situations overwhelming. On the other hand they could be a source of giving and receiving help.
Five abilities I have that I think would be useful:
- I am good at lighting and maintaining fires
- I am extremely resourceful
- I can cook basic food from first principles
- I have a smattering of basic medical knowledge
- I can sit on the floor (a surprising number of people find this very difficult)
Five abilities I don’t have that would have been useful:
- Hunting – not only have I never done this, I doubt if I could bring myself to either. Well – I guess I would in extremis, but…
- Building – I have common sense but no expertise
- Organising (people). This I cannot do.
- Charm – I think this could be vital in a disaster scenario where one depended on the help of others. What charm I ever have evaporated long ago
- Mechanical/engineering skills
I think it would also help that I know and profoundly believe in the power of prayer.
It would not help that I am a total wuss about pain.
It would help that I have no fear of dying.