The Twelve Gifts of Jersey

by Marilynn Halas on January 6th, 2013
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I’ve always been proud of being from New Jersey, but Super-Storm Sandy has given me an even deeper appreciation. I grew up at the corner of Jersey Strong and Fightin’ Irish – born and raised by parents who emigrated from Northern Ireland – but Sandy reminds us all that people of New Jersey have never had it easy. Being from here means you stand tall and don’t give up. Even Sandy, with all of its destruction, didn’t count on our collective stamina, commitment, and heart. In the spirit of the season, and in honor of our state, I offer “The Twelve Gifts of Jersey”:


The first gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: wide-open generosity. To grow up here is to learn that we take care of each other. Sandy reminded us that we are on the same team, part of the same family. Even people who seem to have lost everything still find a way to give something to each other.


The second gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: humor after all. Sandy was no laughing matter, but our ability to find the humor, and Governor Christie’s fleece, got us through.


The third gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: still self-assured. When you live in New Jersey you have the confidence that comes from knowing who you are. The destruction from Cape May to the PATH trains brought out the first responders and volunteers who knew they could lend a hand and make a difference.


The fourth gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: staying down to earth. Sandy was the great leveler: practically nobody got away unscathed. The good news is that people from the Garden State aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and rebuild…even if it messes up our manicures.


The fifth gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: opportunity. Thomas Edison wasn’t the only one who saw that New Jersey was the place for invention and industry. From Rutgers University to global corporations, Sandy did not and could not shut these down.


The sixth gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: courage in a crisis. Our history of bravery stretches all the way from the American Revolution to those hours leading up to and following the storm, when people jumped into rising floodwaters, severed power lines and fallen trees to help those at risk find safer ground.


The seventh gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: optimistic outlook. The people of New Jersey believe things will get better. We will not forget Sandy’s terrible destruction, but because we see the future beyond the heartache, it has become a watershed for all manner of new projects and dreams. New Jersey will rebuild even better than before.


The eighth gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: proud and determined. We take pride in ourselves:  in our families, our homes, and in our work. Made in New Jersey means it’s done right. As we recover after Sandy, we may shed a tear, but we will not give up.


The ninth gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: Cheering Jersey on. Whether you want to start a business or a family, or just get your life in order, you can get from plan to goal in record time, because people around you will be cheering you on.  Sandy is forcing many to take inventory and plan a different future. Clean slates can be daunting, but as lonely it may seem, none of us is truly doing it alone.


The tenth gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: Supportive of all. In the Garden State we don’t just tolerate other views, we celebrate them. Sandy hit residents of the Jersey Shore differently from those in Trenton and Hoboken, but however our needs differ, we all want the same thing, and New Jersey is roaring back stronger than before.


The eleventh gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: the allure of the shoreline. Even after Sandy, we will still go “down the shore” to catch our breath, recharge our batteries and make some happy memories. The old beaches, boardwalks and cottages may have changed, but nobody doubts that next summer a new Jersey shore will be ready to welcome anyone who knows how to have fun.


The twelfth gift of Jersey that Sandy helped me see: these gifts are our gifts. We’ll take these qualities of Jersey wherever we go and know this for sure: the rest of the world can always use a little Jersey spirit. If disasters hit other places, other people, they can look to New Jersey and remember how we denied Sandy her desperate quest to destroy and answered back with defiance and determination.

Despite the devastation of Sandy, the strengths that we draw from it will support us as we progress. The holidays are a time of celebration and re-assurance. As another

Jersey native, Bon Jovi, reminds us: “Take it in, take it with you when go…”


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