Many know the story of the grinch who stole Christmas; the bitter, grouchy creature of a man who hates Christmas and who conspires to steal all the decorated Christmas trees, the presents and the food for the Christmas feast of a merry little town.
Having stolen Christmas from all the town’s homes, the grinch retreated to his cave to await the bitter and distressed cries that he expected would come from the town’s residents.
The townspeople do not rise to his bait.
Instead they gathered, without their usual Christmas ornaments, to sing joyous Christmas hymns and songs. So surprised by the town’s reaction, the grinch repents and returns all of his stolen bounty and joins in with the town to celebrate Christmas.
Dorian proved to be our grinch this year; and his mean actions are being transformed into compassion and kindheartedness from strangers who have proven to be friends and neighbors.
The devastation wreaked by the mega hurricane on Grand Bahama and Abaco caused 70 confirmed deaths, left hundreds of others missing, destroyed or severely damaged the homes of thousands leaving most homeless, laid to waste most businesses eliminating and/or placing thousands of jobs in jeopardy and destroying or seriously damaging public infrastructure including schools, clinics, telephone, water and electricity services and roadways.
The fallout from the destruction and/or damage to the second and third largest economies in The Bahamas has impacted all of The Bahamas. And, the cost of restoration of those communities will reach into the billions of dollars.
Pre-Dorian predictions of a banner tourism year and real economic growth in the economy have been shattered. Similarly, announced progress in bringing government debt under control will now be reversed.
But, like the people of the fairytale town who refused to be dulled or stifled by the grinch, most residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama are rising from the wreckage and rubble left by Dorian to begin to rebuild their lives.
Thankfully, the victims of Dorian have met generous hands from foreign governments and their aid agencies and from national and international NGOs, from churches and charities and from ordinary people – Bahamian volunteers and international friends of The Bahamas, who even now continue to deliver food, water, medicines and medical care, reconstruction materials, furniture and furnishings to assist in the return to normalcy for so many of the distraught and displaced.
Important also has been the national and international media that have kept the tragedy of Dorian in the forefront of the donor community.
Thankfully also, hundreds of civil servants – police, defence force officers, social and health care personnel, teachers, national insurance benefits officers, and administrative staff at NEMA offices, the registrar general’s office, customs, immigration and passport offices, continue to work delivering public services to the thousands of scarred, displaced and newly unemployed, who struggle to make sense of their new realities, even while continuing to service others in need in non-Dorian impacted areas of our country.
Amid the tragedy and misery impacting so many storm-torn people and communities this Christmas, we in The Bahamas still have much to be thankful for.
To mark their Thanksgiving Day celebrations, several American relief volunteers in Abaco and Grand Bahama hosted special Thanksgiving Day meals for Hurricane Dorian survivors. One such celebration on an Abaco cay is reported to have served 500 turkey day meals.
More recently, hurricane donations are being supplemented by holiday seasonal gifts and treats: decorations, trees and toys meant to ensure that the most disadvantaged children of hurricane affected communities will not find a proverbial “lump of coal” in their Christmas stockings this year. The sight of Santa and elf-costumed volunteers delivering early Christmas gifts to children in Grand Bahama and Abaco has been heartwarming.
We hope and trust that the spirit of generosity that has already been shown by so many Bahamians and selfless friends of The Bahamas families will reach out to welcome the hurricane displaced and others amongst us in need of assistance into their churches, their homes and their festivities during the holy season of Christmas.