Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

The Trauma Impacts of Hurricanes

The Trauma Impacts of Hurricanes – 15 years ago, I would never have thought about something like that. The trauma impact of Hurricanes?


I used to think that trauma was something that happened in an automobile accident or something like that. “The crash took place at ______ mph and the driver passed away due to blunt force trauma to the head.” That kind of trauma.

But there is another trauma. Actually there are two but really many more types of trauma. For now, we’ll leave it at two:
– Single event trauma – something happened and for some reason the foundations of that person’s life changed for ever. The sudden death of a loved one. A major car accident. The entire destruction of a person’s home, town, school and place of being and worshipping. Those are some of the type of single even trauma’s that can cause long term impact. Oh and having to evacuate in the middle of the night and spending 30 hours in the car, yeah that’s pretty traumatic too.
– Long term trauma – the trauma that comes from a life altering experience. If someone is in a car accident and loses a leg, that is a long term trauma. If someone loses everything they own in a natural disaster and it takes a life time to rebuild, that’s trauma.
If someone is put in a situation where their entire life and their entire world as they knew it has been changed, that would be trauma.
If someone is put in a situation where their family structure has changed and it is not something they have control of, that is trauma.
If 95% of the buildings in your country were destroyed by Hurricane Irma and now there are more hurricanes that MIGHT be heading in your direction, how do you prepare when you lost everything? How do you survive anther hurricane if there is no place to shelter? That is trauma.

So what does that mean? For Florida? For Houston? For Barbuda? For……..

One of the things that makes trauma so hard to care for and help recover from is that it often can show up in different ways with different people.

But, to handle the trauma well, the schools need to be educated, the churches need to be educated, the families need to be educated. And that doesn’t even sound the call for educating the medical professionals.

What are some signs of trauma to watch for? These are by no means an exclusive list but more of an unofficial starting point……
– if small issues become big issues without a known reason. For instance, someone who never had a problem with thunderstorms now spends the entire storm under their bed in tears.
– the three main responses to issues when they come up are known as the three “F”s – Fight, Flight or Freeze.
– Fight – pretty self explanatory – if you don’t feel comfortable, if you feel scared, lash out and attack the issue.
– Flight – run away from the cause of the stress. “I’m never going to ____ again, because the last time I was there, Johnnny tried to throw a baseball at my head.
– Freeze – paralyzed with fear. Not able to move and to remove themselves from the problem because they are too paralyzed with fear.

I’m concerned that with this recent batch of really bad weather and with more appearing to be on its way soon, we are going to see a significant increase in the amount of trauma people are dealing with and a significant strain on the mental health system (if there is one) as people try to (hopefully) get help.

So what can you and I do?
1. Pray for the victims and first responders of these recent and ongoing hurricanes.
2. Support your local mental health agency.
3. If you have someone who has been through something and seems to “overreact” to minor things, empathize with them, acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that either you are there for them or that the situation isn’t as bad as they might think (i.e. “I just checked the radar and the thunderstorm is just a thunderstorm, not a hurricane and it should be over in 20 minutes.
4. Don’t try to tell them that their feeling isn’t real. Their feeling is real. But if they will listen to you, tell them that what they are scared/worried/traumatized about is not going to be an issue. “Mary, I can understand why thunder would bother you after your house was flooded but this rain is supposed to be done in 20 minutes and we will not get enough to be more than a flower watering storm.

Trauma, it’s not just for soldiers any more. Please pray for the trauma victims all over the world – whether from war, from terror, from weather, from political unrest, from familial problems, from a variety of political unrest and struggles.

And Harvey, Irma and now Maria aren’t making it any better.


Treading Lightly on a Deep Subject


– for many white people, it was like, “Yikes, I didn’t know there were people around who still felt that way. This is a problem. This isn’t who we are. This is a small group of crazies.”

– for other white people, it was like, “It’s about time someone stood up for everything we have lost to “them.”

– for many people of color, it was like tearing out the stitches on a relatively recent wound. They knew it was there but suddenly it got a whole lot more real again.

– for some people of color, it was like re-breaking a leg that you broke many years ago in a high school football game. You always knew it was there, but suddenly it got a lot more painful again.

Now please note, I am not a person of color, so my estimate of what they were feeling comes from someone who hasn’t been there, but knows people who have. So if I’m wrong or at best different from your perspective, please accept my apology.

So what does this leave us with? A deep subject that a lot of people are afraid to do anything more than tread lightly on. Or if they are willing to jump in and discuss it, they have only their opinions to back it up. (I think that many of those who jump in with only their opinions are afraid of being wrong and believe that loud is a good compensating factor.)

I am going to try something different here. I have been and will continue to be in touch with preachers and other church leaders – and they are not all white Dutch guys. I have received a substantial list of books that address the issues we are attempting to deal with – issues that were once again brought to light by actions in Charlottesville and elsewhere.

These are authors and activists and theologians who talk about all aspects of white privilege, racism, what God has to say, what the slave traders had to say, what our Founding Fathers had to say, what the leaders of the civil war had to say, what pastors in Nazi Germany had to say and what Martin Luther King Junior had to say (and that’s only a start……)

I’m going to do a series on the blog about these issues. It’s not going to be a short one because it’s a deep and multi-faceted problem.

But it is a problem. Collectively, we (the white man) are not treating others the way God wants us to.

That has to change.

I don’t know how long this series will take – but there are a lot of details that people currently are ignoring that need to be known.

Walk with me. If you want to write a guest post about the issues, let’s talk.

I believe we can do better.

I believe we must do better.


Haiti and Irma

“If you say a big hurricane is coming here, then it’s the end of the world for us,” he despaired, turning his gaze to the ground.

Please say a prayer for all who face Irma, but especially those who have no protection……


Stick to Sports?

I’m sharing this from my nephew, Adam Vanderwell, without his permission. I know he won’t mind……

Incredible to hear the work being done in relief of Hurricane Harvey by the likes of J.J Watt (Raised $20 million), Tracy McGrady (who opened his own home to those displaced) and the many other professional athletes using their platform and resources combat the suffering in Texas. But what about the whole “Stick to sports” narrative? If we really wanted athletes to just “stick to sports”, which is absurd and silencing to begin with, then what would we have to say something about the work being done to relieve those afflicted by Hurricane Harvey? Now I realize I am being ridiculous, of course no right minded individual would have any issue with an athlete using their platform and resources to address human suffering as a result of Harvey. But the question I then have is when it comes to other forms of humn sufffering ,certain social issues “police brutality, racism etc.”, why do we demand athletes stick to sports? Why can they not combat these instances of human suffering using their platform and resources? It would seem this narrative has far more to do with resentment towards certain issues being addressed, rather than an actual desire to see athletes stick to sports.

Band Aid?

What’s a body supposed to do?

Do we care about what happened in Charlottesville and not pay attention to the Harvey victims?

I don’t think, actually I know that God would not be happy with us ignoring the countless people who are struggling because of the remnants of over 4 feet of rain. Think about it. A large percentage of middle schoolers would not be able stand with their head above water if that happened and there was no one there to help.

Or do we put a very long term problem once again on the back burner and go about helping Houston and then back to business as it was?

Whether you believe that racism is a very large problem in the United States or racism is a small problem that is blown out of proportion, I think we can all agree that Charlottesville was like the bandaid that got pulled off very quickly. It hurt and it pulled the scab off.

Do we need a bigger bandaid to stop the bleeding? Or are we going to have to go in and have surgery to stop the bleeding and heal the wound?

We don’t know yet, in terms of Charlottesville. We do in terms of Houston. A Band Aid won’t work in Houston.

May God have mercy on those who have suffered extremely – either from a natural disaster of epic proportions or a racial demonstration with ramifications around our country.

And may we continue to ask ourselves, how is God wanting us to help those less fortunate?


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