with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

You Don’t Know What It’s Like

You don’t know what it’s like. You can’t imagine what it’s like. You would never believe it. You don’t know how hard it is. You don’t have a clue.

Well, guess what? I do. I know what it’s like. I have an imagination. Having traveled a lot of the planet, I can believe just about anything. I know what hard means. And yes, I have lots of clues.

Maybe I’m just too tired. Bone tired. It’s 11PM and I just got home. I should have been in bed an hour or more ago. I have barely slept through the night, catching an hour or two here and there, for over a week. So maybe that’s my excuse.

Maybe it’s because I’ve heard this before. I’ve heard it so many times before I want to puke.

Or maybe because I heard it just one too many times today. Maybe that’s what is causing this rant.

I am so damn tired of people making sweeping assumptions about me, but also about each other. Four of the many people who came into the campground office today, where I have been working almost non-stop for the past three, four, okay, five, six, or more days, said one of those phrases to me. Two more told me the same things on the phone. “You don’t know what it’s like.” “You can’t imagine…” “…never believe it.” “It’s harder than you know.”

I also heard them said to Diane over the past few days, part of the team of Charlie and Diane, proprietors of Shady Acres Campground.

To all the folks who make such sweeping assumptions and accusations, I have a message.

Shut the hell up.

The cliche is: if you want to judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes. I’d like to see some of these people trade shoes with me, Diane, and Charlie for just a few minutes. Bet they would sing a different assumption.

We all face suffering at one or dozens of times in our lives. Loss is part of the family of humans. So is gain. Win and lose. Ying and yang. But your loss is no better or worse than mine. It’s just loss. It’s how you deal with it that lifts you up or puts you down.

As the panic and hysteria over the trauma of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita dies down to a dull, low roar, our struggle to hang on continues. Camping insurance agents, new to the job, who couldn’t hack it are gone. Others have moved on to Texas and West Louisiana to deal with the new claims from Hurricane Rita. Others are moving in, and they aren’t feeling the pressure of the initial panic. They are taking a lazier and slower attitude. And they want their air conditioners, tree free clearance to their satellite dishes, and cable television.

I have to remind them that we are still in a disaster zone and Comcast lists us low on their priority list for restoring cable throughout the campground. And the broken and dying branches in the trees will be removed as soon as the snorkel is repaired after being flooded and underwater for a couple days. When they are cut, then they can get access to their satellites hovering overhead their $300,000 motor homes and fifth wheels. I warn them repeatedly to turn off their air conditioners when they leave for the day as the whole area continues to battle power losses and surges.

Guess what, folks, you are now in a disaster area. Luxuries haven’t been totally restored. Read a book.

Just because I’m standing in a campground office, looking like I know what I’m doing, doesn’t mean that this is the total sum of my life. Like you, I have traveled. In fact, I probably have traveled more than you. I just don’t say so. Like you, I have suffered, and maybe I’ve suffered more or less, or at least in different ways, but I know hard and suffering.

Don’t assume I lack imagination. I don’t have to walk far around the corner of the block to see massive destruction. Just because you weren’t here for the first month of massive cleanup and the campground and park looks nice and welcoming doesn’t mean that it was always like this. Extremely hard manual labor and dedication went into making it pretty again. We’re also good at hiding what still needs fixing.

Don’t assume that because I’m sitting at the table, quietly having a cup of tea, that my life is boring and lazy. It’s the first chance I’ve had to sit in the past 16 hours and I sat down as you walked through the door.

And don’t assume I’m stupid. Or I’ll assume that you are stupider than me.

While you were thinking up assumptions before we even met, I was helping dozens of people with their own personal problems and suffering throughout the day. Working in a campground office is like being a nurse, shrink, carpenter, handyman, receptionist, cashier, book keeper, sales person, tour guide, restaurant expert, and secretary. All skills required, along with a great deal of flexibility, durability, and patience. Hey, Mr or Miss Assumptions, does your job and life require all those skills?

And while you are making assumptions, don’t assume this is my job. I’m helping out where I’m needed to give the poor people who own this campground a little bit of a life. I’m helping people who are here, giving of their precious time and life and energy to help others get back on their feet and recover from the disaster. What are you doing to help? What do you have to give to those suffering around you instead of whining about how we don’t know nothing about your suffering?

End of rant. I’m off to bed. It will be better tomorrow.

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