Monday, 18 November 2013


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:
  1.  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.
  2. Occupations and obligations.
  3. Places – your house, your church, your place of work
  4. 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:

  1. A sense of safety – without the usual social boundaries of home or support of services.
  2. Allies – people I know I can trust and who understand me.
  3. Peaceful sleep
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. Anything purely ornamental
  2. The church in the sense of the building
  3. Processed food
  4. Chairs
  5. 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:

  1. I am good at lighting and maintaining fires
  2. I am extremely resourceful
  3. I can cook basic food from first principles
  4. I have a smattering of basic medical knowledge
  5. 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:

  1. 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…
  2. Building – I have common sense but no expertise
  3. Organising (people).  This I cannot do.
  4. 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
  5. 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.


amber giles said...

Ok my Jesus Agemian print. Its alive with His spirit, and its the last thing i see at night and first thing I see in the morning and talk with through my soul throughout the day.

My printed off blog collection x 3 between me and two other blog writers over a 3 year period. Reveals my beloved communications and journey of the greatest Love affair in him/Him

Hand bag. It contains my treasured Beloved rosary.

My apple lappy.

No 5 needs more thought xxxxxxx old photos maybe diaries xxx how bout you???

Anonymous said...

Ok my Jesus Agemian print. Its alive with His spirit, and its the last thing i see at night and first thing I see in the morning and talk with through my soul throughout the day.

My printed off blog collection x 3 between me and two other blog writers over a 3 year period. Reveals my beloved communications and journey of the greatest Love affair in him/Him

Hand bag. It contains my treasured Beloved rosary.

My apple lappy.

No 5 needs more thought xxxxxxx old photos maybe diaries xxx how bout you??? amber x

Ganeidaz Knot said...

Pen: We've camped a lot so I know my limitations. I miss being really warm/cool & comfortable in bed especially.

I miss choices: in books, food, drink, activity...

I don't like lots of fear: for loved ones, pets, friends,what's happening around me. I'd miss not being afraid.

Predictability. The unexpected is only fun within predictable parameters.

Convenience: of foods, drink, travel ~ TOILETS!!!

And I would miss computers because that's my access to the wider world: culture, art, music & those are things I would miss ~ & the leisure to indulge them.

However:I have reasonable survival skills & could produce a shelter, clean water, fire & food [not meat]

I have basic medical skills ~ most mum's do ~ especially if they have boys! ☺

I am a stoic. If I can see what needs to be done I just get on with it because it is what it is & wishing won't change it.

In all honesty though, what I think would be hardest for me is having my life reduced to basic survival because I know that man does not live by bread alone! That grinds me down faster than anything else.

And then the filth & the smells would compound that. I know that from my time in Suva. So much too depends on how your community reacts. If it pulls together & is supportive everyone benefits. If it loots & steals & hoards everyone is in trouble. I'm not sure we can ever know unless we've been through something like this & I for one do not want to find out! Thank God for prayer, the secret weapon for power, strength & miracles!

Pen Wilcock said...

Amber - ah, that's so interesting! You are someone who would save precious things, special and irreplaceable or meaningful, rather than practical or utilitarian. x

Ganeida - so much of what you have written resonates with me - the fear, the lack of toilets the unpredictability - and that everything turns on the reaction of the people caught up in the scenario, how they respond. x

Julie B. said...

Very thought provoking post Ember. I can't make the whole list right now, but I know I would miss a warm, comfortable bed, and creature comforts like a hot shower and a clean toilet.

I would not miss TV but without books life would be difficult.

I have been thinking of and praying for the people in the Philippines and to see the devastation is beyond comprehension.


Anonymous said...

Been thinking about this since I read it.

I'd miss toilet roll!

I'd miss my landline and my computer and as an extension my friends here and overseas that I keep in touch with.

If I could grab some things to have with me I'd hang onto my IPod til the battery ran out...lots of teaching stuff on there that I would want to get through. My Ray Mears Survival Book ;-D

I don't fear death.

Apart from that I have the most important thing... a relationship with Jesus and a firm belief that manna and quails was not a one time only miracle :-D

Pen Wilcock said...

Julie - yes indeed - too devastating to take in. From what I've heard before of such disasters, one of the challenges is, with all the landmarks gone, simply finding their way round. I have felt humbled by messages seen on Facebook coming from the Filipino people, with their thanks for all the support coming in from around the world. May God comfort and help them. xx

Deb - you have a Ray Mears Survival book? Now there's a most useful addition to the bookshelf! x

Bean said...

Golly, talk about making a person think early in the morning!

Five strengths:
1. I am very level headed and generally look for the positive in any given situation.

2. My husband, he can repair/build/rig things together.

3. My faith.

4. I do not have any medical issues so feel that physically I would be able to cope.

5. A can do attitude.


1. Disconnect from news and not knowing what is going on, or what help is coming - Fear of the unknown.

2. Worrying about loved ones, are they okay, do they need us.

3. Knowing it is not a camping trip and I can go home at the end of the weekend, rather this is life for the time being.

4. Isolation.

5. Toast :)

Pen Wilcock said...

What a wonderful list! I think it's especially useful to identify level-headedness and a habit of looking for the positive as excellent attributes in times of disaster. xx

Anonymous said...

I do Pen. I also have a lot of his DVDs but they would be of no use to me :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a lot to mull over. But we had a house fire in 2009 that temporarily left us with only what we were wearing and what miscellaneous stuff we had forgotten in our cars while things were being sorted out, gutted and rebuilt. We did not lose everything, much was salvaged. Thankfully our insurance co. came to the rescue, but it illustrated how much I missed our home and my stuff while we were being relocated 4 times in the 9 months that followed. That said, this post seems a bit more survivalist in spirit. For that I would need a bible for direction,waterproof warm clothes and sturdy broken in boots as I hate being cold and wet, a savory food supply as too much sweets makes me feel sick and some sort of protective shelter with a cushy spot to sleep at night, or my arthritis will make it too hard to get up in the morning. I would really miss plumbing. I guess I don't need a place of business to continue being a mental health professional, I would go where God leads me and help as I could in that regard, but it seems it would be more about praying then counseling then, as people forget their lesser woes when disaster strikes. Lastly, I need a source of music, I am not a musician so I would have to find some other source.

Pen Wilcock said...

Deb - doesn't your computer play DVDs? x

DMW - some wise choices there. In treated in what you say about people forgetting their lesser woes when disaster strikes. I think that was one of the things I valued so much about the time I was a hospice chaplain - the people I met had their minds focussed on what really matters; that could be little things sometimes, but always very real. x

Anonymous said...

Pen, Pen, Pen...(shakes head...) Yes my computer plays DVDs (also my portable DVD player upstairs) BUT we are talking survival situation remember?? DVDs won't be any good...although I suppose I could turn them into Ninja throwing things and chuck them at rabbits :-D

BTW...have you ever read 'After the Fire' by John Lockley? It's about a virus that kills most of the population. There are 3 books in the series...the first one was Fab, the second two less so, but worth a read if you can still get them from the library. The reason I liked the first so much was the way the characters tried to survive...what they looked for in terms of places to live.

Pen Wilcock said...

Aha! Yes, I see! Your ninja suggestion is good, but there may be more useful objects to save…
I don't know that book - will look out for it. x

Anonymous said...

I think I'd save my matches first :-D I don't have any good knives but I guess a veg knife would do so I'd try to save that too. :-D