Barbara and I have recently been through an extremely busy season. During that time we made a promise that if we could get through the first of February we would take some time off, just the two of us. The island of St. Martin is a place we have visited while on cruises. We wanted to revisit and spend some extended time there, so we made plans around a trip to Peru to go to St. Martin on our return. Our Peru trip was rearranged due to weather related delays, but we still had a few days we could spend in St. Martin.

While making arrangements for a place to stay, I kept noticing comments about the condition of different properties as a result of Hurricane Irma which had passed through several months prior. The hurricane and its aftermath are mostly removed from our memories because it did not directly affect us. We have had our own personal experiences with hurricanes, so we were not sure what to expect when we arrived. It did not take long to begin to see the destruction that had taken place.

When I see things like what we saw in St. Martin, I often begin to think about how those things relate to everyday life and maybe some lessons we can learn from it. This island is a mess. I was brokenhearted by some of the things I saw. There are some lessons we can learn from it since all of us have been on the backside of an ugly storm at some time or another. Here are a few things that might encourage you or help you be an encouragement to someone else in the same situation.

Beauty returned immediately

The main attractions of the Caribbean are warm weather, beautiful beaches and crystal clear water. The hurricane that passed over the island was only was there for a few hours at most. Within a short period of time after it was gone, those same attractions were almost immediately present. The highlights returned to normal. The weather was warm. The beaches were beautiful and the water was clear and beautiful. There was some debris around but most of the things that attracted people returned to normal very quickly.

I see the same thing happen in people’s lives all of the time. Some devastating event happens in their life like death, divorce or some disease and the world stands still for a moment. People are concerned and caring for a short period of time then suddenly everything and everyone around you seems to return to normal while you are struggling to figure things out. All of the surroundings are the same, but you are not and most others have lost interest.

Scars will be obvious for a long time

The airport terminal in St. Martin will be closed for another 18 months. Visitors must board planes and go through customs under tents and temporary buildings. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of boats are capsized all around the island. Restaurants and resorts and damaged, many of which will never open again. The repairs on those that do reopen will take years. There will be marks of this hurricane for many years to come. These are the things people will point to as a reminder of how bad things were. They are the scars of the storm.

Our lives are no different. Catastrophe may have come and gone but we still have the scars that show its effects. Loneliness or depression. Grief that cannot seem to be comforted or tears that cannot seem to be dried. We talk differently. We look at the world differently. We have been scarred by what has happened to us and it shows. It can improve over time, but some of these scars will be visible as long as we are alive. Though the trouble has gone, we still have the reminders of how bad it was.

People are afraid to come which leads to more suffering

There are a limited number of rooms on the island but in general, there are places to stay if you want to come. But even in the information age, people are unsure of how to get the information they need to evaluate the condition of the island. They wonder if there will be restaurants or nice beaches to visit or if companies are still offering tours. The devastation has scared people away which only magnifies the problem. Tourism is a way of life for these islands. When people do not come, there is even less money available to rebuild. Restaurants do less business and hire fewer people. The same is true for every other facet of tourism. Fewer jobs means the people who need money the most are without. The problem gets worse instead of better. The recovery is much slower than it would be with people visiting.

I have seen this play out in so many lives including my own. I specifically recall what abandonment looked like during divorce. People didn’t know what to say or do. They didn’t want to choose sides, so they went silent. At a time when I needed people the most, they were absent. I see this often in other people’s lives. When they need people the most is when they are most often avoided. You don’t need everyone when everything is up and to the right. Life is good. But when things fall apart, you need people more than ever. It is during these times when you find yourself the most lonely, which just leads to more suffering.

I am not sure what you have gone through or what your experience has been. I do know that if you have experienced any of the things I have mentioned above, it should make you more aware of what other people need when they are facing devastating events and difficult days. Be aware of how things play out, both in your own life and in the lives of others. It will help you walk through the most difficult of times and also give you the information you need to help others through the same types of times.