Qualified Entry: Non-Fiction Category
It was Friday the thirteenth. Hurricane Charley scraped the roof off my home, and dragged my soul away with it. My nine-year-old mind searched for stability, as well as the comfort of my trashed stuffed animals, yet I was overwhelmed by the scene presented; the tendrils of homelessness suffocated not only my security, but my ability to cope. After Hurricane Charley destroyed my home in August 2004, I forgot how to live; I forgot how to read.
I was compelled to shape my own concept of what it is to be a victim of a natural disaster or any misfortune, for that matter. Until that point, my echelon of sympathy was nonexistent; I had never truly encountered anyone for whom I felt compassion. Moreover, as the shock of the chaos disintegrated, I detected an unknown passion shooting through my veins. I didn’t know my self-pity had turned on me at that moment, but it couldn’t have been more clear that it had. Rampant as it was, the self-pity transformed as time progressed; it evolved into another kind of emotion, an emotion for which I was not the object. In fact, as I re-learned to read, I read more and more about the hurricane and those whom fortune had not treated as kindly as it had me. The feeling again burst through my veins, my heart thumped under my goose-bumped skin, and I knew that I felt compassion.
Coincidentally, four months of homelessness can transform a person from a selfish individual to one of care and concern. I found myself feeling increased emotion than prior to the trauma of losing my home, and the sight of victims of every misfortune would drench my heart in sympathetic tears. Gone was the nullification of others’ dismay, gone was the living in luxurious self-absorption I had cultivated. I knew that I found what had been obscured; I had found my humanity for the first time.