After experiencing two hurricanes in 23 months – in an area of Florida that was to have been hurricane-free – I can say that some of us in St. Augustine are resilient. Some of us are just plain tired. And some of can be found engrossed in play.
Last year, besides making donations and spreading the word about resources through social media outlets, I also mucked out flooded houses in my neighborhood. While the work was necessary, I realized I wasn’t very good at it and I wondered how else I could be supporting the community. This time I turned to what I know how to do – play. That might seem like an odd thing to contribute after a natural disaster because technically we don’t “need” play. However, play helps combat stress, it helps us connect with others, and, it has been shown to increase resiliency. And that’s the key to surviving — and thriving — after a natural disaster hits.
So we held our improv class (for grown-ups) three days after the storm and invited all levels of students. Those that were able to attend were thankful for the outlet as the days prior had been filled with nothing but stress and fear. One student told me it was the only time she wasn’t thinking about the flooding in her house. Two days later, we held an improv playshop for kids who had been out of school for 10 days. Several of them wanted to know why it had to end after “only” two hours. Seven days after that, we hosted Caffeinated Comedy – an improv show to benefit the United Way of St. John County’s Hurricane Irma Relief Fund. While the fundraiser was hugely successful as it raised $1,000 for hurricane victims, and brought much needed customers into City Bistro who had suffered a financial hit due to the storm, it brought something else into the space – laughter. The United Way representative got emotional not just about the fundraising dollars, but about the packed room of people sharing laughter, which was in very short supply during – and after – Hurricane Irma.