I was supposed to be in Wilmington this week for the inaugural Hustle & Heart event put on by Wilmington-local Stephanie Lanier and her passion project The Inspiration Lab. As most of you have undoubtedly seen, our home state of North Carolina was devastated last week by Hurricane Florence and one of the areas that experienced the worst of the storm was Wilmington.
To me, Wilmington is more than just one of our coastal cities. In fact, Wilmington and more specifically Wrightsville Beach is one of my favorite places in the world. Only about an hour away from us, my wife and I try to sneak away for short beach getaways, sit along the Intercoastal Waterway and watch the boats sipping a cocktail and delighting in perfectly cooked crab dip, and feeling the sand between my toes as the sound of the Atlantic Ocean crashes. I often refer to it as my “happy place” as the salt air seems to soak up all my stress and leave me feeling lighter.
As the forecasts came in throughout the week it seemed that Wilmington was in for a direct hit and I began to think about my dear friends along the coast. I nervously texted with friends and with Stephanie asking about her home, her friends, her business, and even the event. After putting on my fair share of conferences, I know the work it takes to plan and produce one of these events. Although I haven’t given birth, I imagine it is a similar experience. My heart was broken over the thought of her event being postponed or worst - cancelled. To watch my friend pour her heart and soul into this event and it be taken from her out of anyone’s control was tough. I settled my nerves with a comment that one of the panelists shared on our prep call earlier in the week, which ironically wasn’t intended to relate to the storm. “You can’t live your life worried about what might happen. You just have to live your life and make the best of the circumstances you are dealt.”
As the storm hit, I knew instantly that we were in for a long recovery process as a state. Pictures of places that I adore were truly underwater and in the moment, it was almost paralyzing to imagine coming back from that sort of devastation. I had seen such things before with Hurricane Katrina, Harvey, Maria, or even Matthew but never had I watched the places I love be truly impacted. I gave to relief efforts before, but I never really understood how far they really had to go. While Wilmington isn’t home, North Carolina is and that’s the thing about North Carolina - it doesn’t really matter what town you call home, we’re all North Carolinians. We’re all in this together.
In past posts, I’ve talked about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, but I really encourage you to take the time this week and do that. There are a lot of people that are really hurting. There are a lot of people that are committed to rebuilding but aren’t even really sure where to start. There are a lot of people that need you to help them get that start. If you aren’t sure how to help, the Red Cross had prepared to help as many as 100,000 people across the region, and sent out equipment and supplies, including vehicles, meals and cleanup kits. You can donate to the group online, or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or texting “RED CROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Google is matching donations up to $1 million.
As for Hustle & Heart, the event will go on sometime later this year, but something tells me that there is still plenty of hustle & heart happening around the Carolinas as we work to rebuild the areas we love so much.