I’ve been trying to find the beauty in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. I didn’t feel good about writing a blog on how to tweeze your eyebrows, or my favorite bathtub soaking oil, when so many people in such close proximity to me were going on day number 5, then 6, then 10! – without electricity or heat, and after a time when so many lost every material possession they’d ever had, and some, their lives, and the lives of loved ones.  Then my mind raced, thinking of how many people in this world are in constant states of struggle and hardship, and yet I continue to sing to the world about the importance of curling your eyelashes perfectly, and how important it is to drink a glass full of fresh green juice, when so many people don’t have access to anything of the sort.  I felt uneasy about it, and didn’t know what to do, until a friend said: why don’t you use your blog to share with people how happy it’s made you to see your community of friends come together to show those in need that they’re not going to have to go it alone. (Thanks, AEVJ.)

My eyes keep welling up with tears as I’m typing, thinking about all the stories my friends and I now have (and those I’ve heard from them, on days when I went to do a makeup job instead of accompanying them) from trips to volunteer in the Far Rockaways in Queens, Saten Island, the Jersey Shore, and even to parts of the East Village that are just a quick cab ride away from my apartment.  That beauty of it really is: people are just showing up at a house or apartment building that was ravaged by 6+ feet of water, and saying: “we’re here to help in any way you need.”  Someone hand made and hung a banner reading: ‘Mutual Aid Is Not Charity’, and the simplicity of the statement moved me to tears. I’d like to try to keep this as my motto: I help others because I can, and I expect that when I’m in need, I’ll be met with help. Community, humanity, empathy – it’s pretty simple.

In the days immediately following the hurricane, families were confused by the presence of individuals like myself who just showed up to help, because there had been no sign of federal response coming to check on them, whether it was the oldest, or most infirm resident in an East Village, 26 floor public housing building (that still doesn’t have electricity, which means no elevators, which means no food or medical supplies), or a single family home in one of the blue collar neighborhoods in Queens. It’s now been two weeks and one day since the storm hit and when not actively taking part in providing relief, I’ve been diligently following the actions of the INCREDIBLE grassroots community groups that have mobilized to provide all kinds of help SIMPLY BECAUSE WE ARE ALL CONNECTED.

Now, 15 days post storm, residents have come to know the well-organized all-volunteer relief teams who hit the streets on day 1, canvassing the neighborhoods to see what the needs were, and then systematically calling for action from the community at large – which means EVERYONE on this planet. I have enormous respect for the people of Occupy Sandy Recovery, as well as for all of the individuals and groups that have formed strong bonds and brought their resources, strength (physical and emotional), and positivity to neighborhoods in need.  When FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and The Red Cross closed their make-shift doors 9 days after Sandy, when another storm threatened the area, Occupy Sandy remained and provided help to those hit once again.

I’m embarrassed to say that I was completely ignorant about the devastation this hurricane brought to the Caribbean, and other parts of the East Coast until a good week after it hit. (ok, I don’t watch TV, and I didn’t have internet access for a week, so maybe that’s why). I include those areas in my virtual hug for all who are hurting right now, and I apologize for not reaching out immediately to those I know and love who live there.  I included two photos below from hard-hit Santiago de Cuba.

If you’d like to show your fellow humans that they’re not alone in their suffering, there are plenty of great options, and this one is a hub- updated daily if not hourly – with needs in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, and New Jersey:

You can stay up-to-date on who needs what here: http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/

If you already gave monetarily, or of your time, thank you. If you can give more, please do. If you haven’t yet, I hope this beauty-blog-turned-soap-box can inspire you to be a part of the connectedness that is this life.  Grab a friend/family member/neighbor, or go alone, and do for another what you’d hope would be done for you. If you’re not physically able to help gut a basement, but you can prepare food or buy supplies, that’s wonderful. I spent the other day cooking 20 big trays of food with a bunch of friends so that the people who did do the manual labor on the front lines, and the countless families now living in cold shelters without access to a hot meal,  could have something warm in their hands and their bellies. No act goes unappreciated!

I just got a text from a a good friend (hi, Signe) who told me that just yesterday, Madonna visited – and donated to – the relief house where she’s been volunteering (relief house = where they stock all the supplies to be taken by volunteers to the homes to help gut the parts that were damaged, as well as food, and coats/hats/boots for those who lost everything). The most amazing part of this story is that the relief house was started completely by the good hearts of some strong-willed individuals and now has helped hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of people, and will continue to do so until the job is done.  Now that’s seriously awesome.

I didn’t take any of these photos; I found most of them on the internet, and some were taken by my friends. I apologize for not having photo credits for some of them.