Spring Break was amazing. I am blessed to be able to spend time traveling and seeing the world. This year we visited St. Thomas and St. Maarten, and we met people who embody gratitude and optimism.
Both islands were hit by the hurricanes that ravaged the Caribbean last fall. Both islands are still very much in the early stages of recovery. St. Maarten was hit particularly hard. What was once an island of shops and bars and restaurants is now an island of rubble. But the beaches are beautiful and the water is full of colors you can’t imagine and the people we met there were kind and optimistic and grateful. It was humbling and overwhelming to be in their presence. They have so much to teach us all.
“You’ve got to have a plan.” These people had foresight and survival instincts. They took their mattresses with them into the bathroom as they hid from Irma and Maria. Those mattresses saved their lives when the storm blew out the windows. They found temporary shelter for months during and after the storm, using coolers and getting creative when there was no power and no electricity. They kept their wits about them, and they had a plan for survival. You’ve got to have a plan.
“It is not the physical damage that causes the most pain. It is what can happen in your head.” We heard stories about children after the storm who kept reliving the experience, mothers who worked tirelessly to help them feel better and who are still focusing on the emotional needs of the people around them. Trauma changes people. Physical wound heal. Emotional wounds linger.
“When the storm is over, you pick yourself up, find your family and friends, and start cleaning up.” No one we met was wallowing or focusing on the negative. They were all just taking the next step, doing the next thing.
Every person we met on St. Maarten thanked us for being there. They are grateful to be alive, and they are grateful that people are visiting “even though the island is broken.” It is an amazing place. It is beautiful beyond description, and the people who live there are wise and strong. It has always been a paradise for visitors, but right now it is also teeming with life lessons. I am blessed to be able to spend time traveling and seeing he world.