Question: I have friends who keep gold coins and have food stored up— just in case. I used to laugh. But not anymore. Brexit didn’t make sense. Then India ran out of cash. Now Trump has me worried. Am I being stupid by not being prepared?
Paul Sutherland: This is a great question. The truth is that bad things do happen. Part of leading a spiritual life is being able to help yourself and your loved ones and not be looking for others to save you. If you are on an airplane, you know to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. And the first rule for a lifeguard is not to be taken down by a drowning victim.
I live in Kampala, Uganda. As I write this, my wife is in Turkey, where there have been two recent terrorist attacks and the country is under martial law. She has cash, we have friends there, she knows where the U.S. embassy is, and she has a plan B, C, and D. We do this because we have met people from all over the world who suddenly had to leave. Most S&H readers live in the USA and tend to believe that coups, bank failures, happen in other places. But airports closed, ATMs went down, and many stores did not open after 9/11. No place is exempt.
Here are some “What ifs” to be prepared for:
What if ATMs stopped working?
What if banks went on indefinite “holiday?"
What if the government declared large notes worthless?
What if your currency lost half its value?
What if all the shops closed? What if you had to leave the country?
What if a snowstorm, tsunami, or earthquake took out electricity, Internet, phones, and water for a week or two?
I know such thoughts are uncomfortable and even ugly. But we must kiss the ugly. We need to be prepared. Here is a checklist of ideas to consider.
- Be confidential, be humble, and don’t tell people you’re prepared. Do not attract attention to yourself or family.
- Have a stash of small and large bills in a safe, hidden behind a lockable door that only you and your spouse/partner or a trusted friend know about. Gold and silver coins or small bars are not a bad idea, but dollars and euros are best.
- Have a valid passport.
- Have a flashlight, prescription drugs, first aid kit, and other essential supplies you would need if you had to grab your cash and leave your home for who knows where. Print copies of your contact list with addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses as well as photocopies of passports and birth certificates (to prove your kids are your kids, for example). I would also include such items as baby wipes, hand cleaner, granola bars, safe water tablets, a few box juices (I have kids), dark chocolate bars, spare batteries, and a charger for your phone. Have extra stuff to share and to trade.
- If you own a car, it should never be in need of repairs that would make it incapable of a long trip and should never have less than half a tank of gas. It should have a usable spare tire, drinking water, blankets, and some extra clothing as well as a copy of your contact list.
- Learn basic self-defense and have your children and spouse know the basics, too. My children know how to yell, “You’re not my dad! Put me down!” while kicking, pulling fingers, biting, and trying to bonk the assailant’s face with their head. My wife and kids know that if we have trouble, their job is to get to safety without me, and my job is to slow down the assailants. Uganda is not Chicago, but stuff happens in Chicago, as well.
- My kids know to find a police officer or go into a shop, get behind the counter, and say, “I can’t find my parents. Keep me safe!” When we travel, the kids wear wristbands with our cell numbers on them.
- I do not believe that guns, knives, or weapons keep you safe, and statistics bear this out. If you do choose to own a weapon, get training from a real self-defense expert—not the person trying to sell you the weapon. Pepper spray may help, if you might need to ward off animals.
- Think ahead and communicate with your family what you are thinking. Realize that people keep people safe, and that your relationships are what will keep you safe. Know whom to call: Who can help? Who is reliable? If you need to move in with friends, don’t be a selfish, self-absorbed, needy victim. If you have resources to share, offset their expenses, and don’t be a burden. If you’re in their home, keep it clean, do the dishes, cook the food, help with the kids, sleep on the floor, do the laundry, and ask, “How can I help?”
- Your plans A, B, C, and D should include keeping yourself psychologically, emotionally, and mentally strong if your spouse dies, your kids get sick, you wake up without your legs and unable to speak, or your friends abandon you. These things happen, and some people become victims while others become sages and saints from the experience. Those on the spiritual path will accept the reality of the event and ask, “How do I make the best of it?”