As the 24-hour news cycle churns out information surrounding Hurricane Sandy's arrival in the Philadelphia region, I can't help wondering if the storm will actually cause the billions in damage that's predicted.

It's my hope that the estimates are overblown, but if they're accurate, I hope we're prepared for what's to come.

 

 

But preparation isn't a last minute dash to the grocery store. It's not a run to the bank to make sure there's cash on hand. No, storm preparation is a long-term strategy that begins before the first rains arrive. I've learned that over the years.

Preparing for life itself

Perhaps that's why, when I look at the children in my neighborhood, and dream of the teens they'll become, I know that the time to prepare for the next stage of their lives is now. Make no mistake. That preparation begins at home. Not in school, or on the playground, but at home, with the love and correction of parents.

If parents don't deliver that kind of guidance in a child's early years, both the child and the parents suffer later. However, they aren't the only ones who suffer. Entire communities wind up suffering, too.

So why do storms remind me of that reality? Because teens, at their core, are brewing storms. With raging hormones, growing muscles and rapidly changing brains, they are impulsive, unpredictable and strong.

Like storms, they can cause incredible damage. If their power is harnessed and pointed in the right direction, however, it can be a force for good. The outcome depends on their relationship to the things and people around them.

The outcome depends on our willingness to prepare.

Batten down the hatches

I began preparing for the next storm after spending an entire night wielding a water pump and buckets during the worst of Hurricane Irene. A few months after that long night, we shored up the basement, cemented the outside wall and sealed leaks. As a result, we don't expect to spend the night trying to save our house from the damage Hurricane Sandy might cause, but that's only because we took the time to prepare.

It's much the same with children.

On Sunday, as neighborhood kids played outside our door in piles of autumn leaves, we spoke to them, just as we always do. I admit, I was annoyed because I wanted to rake the leaves, but as their playtime wound up, I asked some kids to join my own two children, Eve and Solomon, in helping me to get it done. They picked up rakes and brooms without question or complaint, and when we finished, I gave each of them a dollar. They smiled, skipped away, and said, "Thank you Mr. Solomon."

I smiled, too, because it's my hope that our relationship with the neighborhood kids will serve as preparation for the next stage in their lives.

Like storms, they can either be a force for good, helping things around them to grow, or they can be a destructive surge, tearing down everything in their path.

I'm prepared to do what I can to push them in the right direction, even if it's just a kind word. When I speak to them I lay a strong foundation. When I share with them, I build bonds of friendship. When I work with them I create mutual respect, and hopefully, that prepares us to stave off the coming storm.

Solomon Jones reads from his new novel, The Dead Man's Wife, Thurs. Nov. 1st 7:30 p.m. Free Library, 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia. Free.