First came the floods, then came the winds. In the wake of these natural events, destruction and devastation raged. Friday, 27 January 2023, 9:08pm. A moment in time, forever etched in my mind. Lights went out, waters rose and the necessity to swim out of home knocked on the door. Life changed. Chaos reigned. Disbursed through the accompanying bedlam were people, displaying the worse, and thankfully, the very best of human nature.
In the ensuing days, the business of clearing and cleaning, tidying and trying to make sense of life literally turfed into disarray followed. Most people rose to their full human potential. Support and empathy were extended. Practical help offered. Friends turned up their sleeves to do whatever they could. Complete strangers offered old fashioned kindness. It was a salient reminder of what we are capable of as individuals and a society. When hard times strike, most of us band together, laying differences aside, channelling our efforts towards putting things right. It’s the Kiwi way after all.
Many people throughout the country are still dealing with the obliteration that’s been brought to bear. Some to greater extents than others. Irrespective of whether these catastrophic events have affected us personally or not, everyone is impinged in some way. After safety is achieved, thoughts of money dominate. As a nation, how are we going to fund the work required to return Aotearoa and her people to a semblance of normality? On a personal front, how do you rebuild what’s taken a lifetime to create?
Having survived the floods, these questions have commanded my attention. Both country and personal aftermaths are likely to take some time to redress. I’ve started my trek however, attempting to put my world to rights. On the basis this is a money column and with the thought of helping others manage calamities that befall them, I’ve shared below some of the steps I’ve been taking. Hopefully, you’ll find value in them.
1. Put your hand up. Ask for help. Then, gratefully accept it.
This can be difficult when we feel unworthy of receiving assistance. We reason other people are in greater need or deserve assistance more than we do. As my friend Lois patiently told me however, people’s pain can be different but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t recognise your own pain nor take steps to alleviate it. When I let others know what had happened, people literally came out of the woodwork. They showed up and stepped up. One kind couple who I hadn’t even met before the sudden turn of events, lent me their car. Others turned up with hot drinks and food. As humans, most of us want to rally around those we see in pain. On this basis, let them. Accept help. It will propel you forward. Remember, you are worthy of others time, support and love no matter what form it comes in.
2. Make a list. Jot down the things you need to attend to. Prioritise them.
Top of my list was finding a safe place to stay and organising people to move and salvage what I could. Having a list keeps you organised and on track. It’s your blueprint to putting your world to right and creating your future.
3. Mobilise people. Reach out to your friends and your networks.
Managing nightmares often requires a call for reinforcements. Don’t be embarrassed about your situation or accepting charity where it’s offered. Through my networks I was told about Storage 4 You and Boardman Movers. These guys stepped forward that unforgettable long weekend, working literally day and night to help me and other Aucklanders. By Monday, you could see the toll it was taking on their faces, yet they still kept going for people.
4. After taking care of immediate priorities, move down your list.
For my part this meant contacting my insurers. Despite living in a world where technology is at our fingertips, it’s no easy feat when everyone is tapping at their keyboards at the same time or burning up the phone lines. This is where perseverance comes into play, which can be a hard quality to invoke when your emotions and energies are depleted. Take a breath. Keep going. For me, the hold for 2 hours and 9 minutes was worth it. Once I spoke with a real live person at my insurance company, I felt a whole lot better. Things became clearer and easier for me.
5. Hand the job on if you can’t do something you need to do.
I applied this tip to making my insurance claim. Throughout my working life I’ve retrieved, perused, classified, and analysed information so I’m familiar with the process of data management. Still, when it came to making my own insurance claim, I felt like I was drowning. The sheer number of things I had to list, photograph, find a price for, etc, was overwhelming. To manage this, I told a good friend who literally sat with me, helping me fill out the insurance claim form, went with me to the shops to get the prices I needed, and set up a Dropbox for me to manage the data by. Their actions enabled me to get the job done. I also advised State Insurance who then allocated someone to help me. This meant I didn’t have to struggle on alone. Once the claim was made, I felt much calmer.
6. Make a list of expenses coming at you then work a plan for dealing with them.
Managing catastrophes is a costly business. You will incur expenses you didn’t plan on. Look at your list and ask yourself how you will meet those unexpected bills. Are you going to have a cash flow problem in the coming months? Do you need to access emergency savings? Should you make an application for an emergency withdrawal from your Kiwisaver? Do you need help? If so, talk to people. The Government and its agencies have been offering assistance in all sorts of shapes and forms. IRD for example will look at helping you manage your taxes. The same goes for the main banks in town who are open to assisting borrowers with their mortgage payment commitments and are even providing temporary overdrafts to customers. Likewise for your insurers. Often insurance policies have built in benefits like temporary accommodation supplements. This extra financial assistance is extremely beneficial as you try to get back on your financial feet. Understandably, these conversations can be difficult to have but are worth the effort as people can only help you if they know you’re experiencing difficulty.
7. Start the journey of rebuilding your life.
When you’ve lost a lot or indeed everything, this is a difficult step to take but take it you must. One of my first actions was replacing the car that had literally been emersed in water. When I spoke to Suzuki Greenlane, they instantly stepped forward and gave me a temporary car until a permanent one could be bought. As a company, they didn’t have to do this but I sure was grateful they did. Their actions meant I could get to work, which was important to me as it gave my life some form of normality. Suzuki acting in this manner showed the brand had a great heart. Other companies in New Zealand have done and are still doing right by Kiwis too. Some are offering free services, discounted products and even financially contributing to relief funds. Remember our companies are stocked with people just like you and I who do care. Reach out. Speak up. There’s no shame in taking assistance, especially if it eases your burdens.
8. Look around and help others once your world is under control.
Tragedy doesn’t affect everyone to the same extent or even in the same way. As a society we know this, but as time passes from the immediate aftermath, we often forget this salient fact. Be aware that you may have managed to progress in getting your affairs sorted but others aren’t so lucky. Consciously look for this and step up to the plate where you can. It’s invoking the ethos of paying it forward I so strongly believe in. If everyone helped just one person, we’d all overcome adversity so much quicker and as a society, move forward at a much greater rate of knots.
9. Finally, take care of your health.
You may not be wearing injuries that can be seen but that doesn’t mean you’re 1000% firing on all engines. My scrapes and scratches cleared up over a couple of weeks, but the difficulty in concentrating, the tears and the nightmares continued for about two months. This sort of thing can take its toll so if you’re losing a bit of sleep, recognise it and seek help. None of us are bullet proof and most New Zealanders understand this.
10. In a Nutshell
The recent tumultuous weather events have touched us all. Many Kiwis have been affected directly. Others have seen family members, friends, work colleagues and gym buddies deal with the disorder and chaos these events unleashed. Undoubtedly, economic effects have been felt too. All of New Zealand is dealing in some way with delays in obtaining products and services and increased cost of living. How quickly New Zealand as a country and we as individuals recover, is largely depended upon the support available. Whilst money is needed, support comes in many guises. A kind smile, an encouraging word, taking a burden off a person’s shoulders are all gestures that aid those treading the path of recovery.
We need to personally do our bit too in these times. We need to help ourselves move on. Being proactive in recreating your life helps you feel in control and that’s a nice feeling to have when your life has suffered a major disturbance. Putting up your hand and asking for help may be the first step you need to take. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of moving forward. Which is where our eyes need to point – forward. Look back by all means, but don’t stare. Our futures as a country and as individuals lay in the horizon which is where I’m now swimming to.