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  • Nancy Hovan Carpenter

The Gifts in a Disaster

Updated: Apr 16

Everything that has ever happened to you, large and small, painful and joyful, crafted you into the amazing person you are today. Without any one of those events, you would be different. Everything is a gift. A disaster, even today’s COVID 19 medical and economic disaster, is a gift.


A disaster is an event that overwhelms the resources needed to respond to it. It is relatively unexpected. It endangers lives, property and/or the environment. A disaster can be worldwide, regional or local. When you are impacted, it is a personal disaster.

A disaster tests your resilience on all levels: our government, our finances, our relationships, our physical bodies and our emotions. Resilience is our ability to recover quickly from adversity. It’s toughness. The old quote has substance, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” For example, when a child gets sick, then overcomes the illness with minor or no intervention, their immune system is tested and strengthened. Importantly, overcoming the illness trains their immune system to fight similar events in the future. The same can be true of a disaster.


After disaster strikes a community, the community will likely recover, but it will never be the same. Some things are destroyed or lost. Other things are created or born anew. Change is inevitable. Lessons are learned. Growth occurs. For you, things, people and ways of thinking or feeling can be destroyed or lost, but you are transformed. You learn and you grow.


Many of the gifts delivered by a disaster to you will be personal. Some may be profound. You may not recognize them until long after the event, when you can look back upon the path you traveled and see your growth, your lessons and how your path was altered.

Some gifts delivered by the disaster are boarder and can be enhanced by your awareness of and engagement with them.


The Gift of Gratitude: Being without and being in fear brings gratitude for stability, for services, for goods and for relationships.


The Gift of the Wake-Up Call: Now you know that a disaster can happen to you. Through experiencing disaster, you learn that you need to be prepared and take action. You need training. You learn which goods and tools you need to store for a disaster. You learn to depend upon each other. You learn that relationships mean everything.


The gifts from a disaster are large and small, painful and joyful, but they are all gifts. When each is unwrapped and embraced with gratitude through the passage of time. You grow and you are trasnformed.



Nancy Hovan Carpenter is a veteran disaster preparedness and response instructor in Washington state. She is an active Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) instructor. Nancy is an award-winning speaker and instructor. She is also an author and technical writer.

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