When the Whole World Shifts – how to deal with our fear of disasters

When the Whole World Shifts – how to deal with our fear of disasters

I love comfort. I spend most of my day curled up on Handsome’s bed, or on the floor near a window where I can see what’s going on outside, or out in the yard where I can hear and smell everything. I’m very happy doing this. And I get annoyed when someone interrupts me and takes away my comfort.

But it boggles my little mind to try to imagine what it must be like if someone’s comfortable world completely changed. What if our house suddenly collapsed, or if our yard suddenly turned into a lake, or if the complete government was taken down and suddenly we didn’t know who was running the country?

These unimaginable things have happened in our world lately. The huge earthquake and tsunami (now there’s a word for spelling tests!) that hit Japan have destroyed homes and buildings and… well, way more than we know yet. And in the Middle East, nation after nation is experiencing people taking their governments down. What’s it like to live in these places? What’s it like when the world you know totally changes?

It might be a fun thing for you to write a story about what it would be like if that happened to the place you live. (The best thing about stories like that is that you can always make yourself the star, and do lots of heroic things!).

But it can also be really scary to think about. We go through our days expecting things to stay pretty much as they are, and that’s how we get by: grown-ups need to believe their jobs will last at least for a while, or else they can’t make any plans. And kids – hey if you didn’t know if your school would be working tomorrow, I’ll bet you wouldn’t do your homework tonight. (I know, that might not sound so bad!)

So how do we get by, knowing something crazy could happen, but counting on life going on as normal? The best way I see is to prepare however you can, and then trust the preparation. We dogs, and kids, don’t like to be super-responsible, but just a bit of thought can really help later on.

So it’s a good idea to talk with your family and friends about what preparations you have. Of course you can’t prepare for anything that might happen (Martian Invasions, for example – how do you prepare for that?!), but you can prepare for the most likely problems you’ll face.

Maybe there are specific things about the area you live in (People in California should have setups to use in case of an earthquake. People in Kansas should be ready for tornadoes. People in New York should have preparations for blizzards. People in India should be ready for monsoons!). What’s special about where you live? And what should you have ready?

But there are other things that apply to everywhere. Everybody should have flashlights and candles for power outages, extinguishers for fire, a first-aid kit, and some bottled water. And do you have a setup for how you and your family would communicate if something happened when you weren’t at home? Maybe a place you could agree to meet if you couldn’t get home? And do you all know how to reach emergency services if you needed them (in the United States, for example, to call 911)?

And on that subject, if you have a dog or a cat, do they have identifying information, in case they get lost? Tags on collars are the most important, but sometimes my collar has come off! So my veterinarian one day injected a tiny chip into my shoulder. It didn’t hurt any more than a normal shot (I still didn’t like it, but it wasn’t that bad!), and from now on, if I’m ever picked up by the police or a dog catcher, they’ll be able to read the chip through a scanner, and let Handsome know where I am. I really recommend these for your pet friends.

Meanwhile, there’s an amazing fact that’s coming out from these troubled areas in our world. As chaotic (a big word that means everything’s going topsy-turvy) as things are in Japan, people are being incredibly kind and polite to each other. And even in the revolutions in the Middle East, most people in
the streets have been treating each other really well.

There’s a great lesson for all of us here, in case of a disaster: If you need help, be really nice. And if you’re the lucky person who is doing okay, help out the other person.  Everyone’s scared, everyone’s tense. And even if they aren’t as nice to you as you are to them, that’s okay – still try to be kind.

For example, if you approach a scared starving dog, it might growl or snarl or even try to bite you. So don’t get too close; be careful. But you could still leave it a treat, and know that you’ve helped the poor thing out. One thing disasters teach us is how connected we are, and how much we have to care for each other.

Whew! Okay, enough of that! Now it’s time to change my tone!

You see, it’s awfully important to remember that most of us are doing okay. If you’re old enough to know about probability, remember that the odds of getting hurt in an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, or any other natural disaster, or even a human one like a revolution or a war, are really small.  Especially for a kid.

And the humans of the world are better at knowing what to do to in a disaster than ever before, by a long long ways. As I’m writing this, the world is very focused on the question of something possibly going very wrong with the nuclear power plants in Japan. Now I can’t begin to understand the details of nuclear power (I am a dog, after all!), but what I do know is that these plants are built better than they’ve ever been before, and people know more about how to help keep them safe than they ever have before. And beyond that, even if something absolutely horrible were to happen, it would help people in the rest of the world learn more about how to keep such plants safer (or maybe just that they can’t be kept safe, and we just have to get by with less energy for a while, which would be very sad for everyone).

But I’m not saying to do nothing. The best thing you can do is to try to help. Maybe you can send some money or other donation. Maybe you can work in a project with your school or church to help. And on that count, if you believe in prayer or manifestation or even just good thoughts – then send them.  Everything helps.

But meanwhile, unless you’re there on the streets of Cairo or Tripoli, or in the rubble of Sendai, be grateful. Be glad. You’re safe from these problems. Your job is to live, to have your own adventures. Sure, be prepared for what might go wrong, but at the same time, don’t live in fear of it. Live your life, and be kind and helpful to others. And I can promise you almost everything’s going to be all right.

So now I’m going to “practice what I preach,” and go outside and have a good sniff to see if any sassy squirrels have been around, and then I’m going to climb onto Handsome’s bed, curl up against his pillows so that my nose rests on my tail, and try to send some really good doggy wishes to all those kids and pups who are having a tough time tonight.

And to look forward to waking up into a tomorrow that is safer and more peaceful than any we’ve ever known. A tomorrow I’m so happy to share with you.

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