I started writing this piece as Hurricane Ida thrashed Louisiana on its way to Mississippi. I had already done all the storm prep work at home and checked in on our team members in New Orleans and Jackson – and now needed something to do with my nervous energy. The thing about hurricanes is that we are reminded in the most visceral way possible that we are not in control.
During Hurricane Katrina, I watched the 100-year-old oak trees in my backyard fall in slow motion as my two young sons clung to my legs. Seven years later, Hurricane Isaac was our crisis communications team’s first major storm to handle for our utility client. Our clients evacuated to our offices, and we worked 14-hour days side-by-side. I won’t soon forget these vivid memories associated with each storm.
Today, our New Orleans team is safe and relocated. But like everyone impacted by Hurricane Ida, they are worried about their homes, with little to no idea of when they can travel back. Our team in Jackson is breathing a sigh of relief that we were for the most part spared – this time around. We are asking ourselves, what can we do?
To borrow a phrase from our friends at the Bitter Southerner, it is time to practice radical empathy. Do whatever you can to translate your emotions into meaningful actions. It matters more than you know.
We are checking in with our team members, sometimes only just to listen to their concerns. We are providing financial assistance to our team members who are stuck far from home. We’ve asked our NOLA family to provide organizations close to their heart so that we can offer our company support. We have already made a donation in our team’s honor to Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen, which is already providing meals to people in New Orleans and across the region. Our goal is to send a team of volunteers to New Orleans with food just as soon as that’s possible. Said another way, I believe that words, thoughts, and deeds will be appreciated – no gesture is too small.
If you know someone who has been affected, I encourage you to reach out. Practice radical empathy. And for those wishing to support a nonprofit, here are a few that are doing good work in the city that we love so much.
Second Harvest Food Bank
Cajun Navy Relief
Imagine Water Works Mutual Aid Response Network
Feed the Second Line:
Culture Aid NOLA
United Way Southeast Louisiana
Chris Ray, CEO