Next week the National Association of Realtors opens its annual convention in Orlando, with thousands of its members’ homes underwater — or washed away completely.

Many Realtor members living in the northeastern U.S. will not make it for the first time in years. One out of four American families is in various stages of recovery from the incredible disruption of everyday life Hurricane Sandy delivered during a lumbering visit through the neighborhood.

In some cases, Sandy may have left a boat blocking their driveway. Or maybe they have a diabetic child who needs insulin, and even if a drug store is open somewhere there’s no gas in the car.

I was going to write a column about Sandy’s economic impacts, but after seeing television interviews of desperate young mothers and grandmothers staring into the camera begging for help, I realized they did not care about the impact this storm would have on the price of lumber or the potential surge in jobs.

Standing in the cold where your home used to be will do that to a single mother of two standing on the spot where her kitchen used to be.

Through it all, we see families who face the devastation with resolve to come back stronger than ever. We see neighbors helping neighbors. And we wonder how the families of first responders cope with their fears and needs as their spouses rush to unknown risks that await them just around the corner or at the next bridge or tunnel.

We are reminded that the adage "You are either making progress or falling behind" is not true. Sometimes just staying off the rocks is enough progress in some storms.

Twenty-five percent of Americans are fighting to make this kind of progress right now, doing all they can to not emotionally crash, as they ramble through the rubble searching for their favorite family memories, or wait one more cold night for their electricity to come back on as they contemplate yet another ride to work that might be faster if they walked.

Recovery will start soon. Healing will take a lifetime, or the end of one.

We cannot replace memories, we can only try to remember them. That why we take pictures, shoot videos and save baby shoes.

It is why we see mothers and wives who lived years in a home they lost overnight rambling through the rubble looking for the teddy bear, a dead husband’s photograph, or baby shoe that helps them not to forget to remember the good days, as they go through their own personal storm.

As a Realtor, how do you start over when your business is washed away? Homes you listed, gone. Closings you had scheduled, canceled.

If there is one group in the country who understands their community and the people who make it go, it is you, the Realtor. You know more about schools, roads, taxes, and new industry coming or leaving town than anybody.

You help families buy, sell, settle in, move out, find their way. Your town is going to need your expertise like never before. And you will be the one your neighbors look to for news about your area.

Perhaps there has been no time in the history of your profession that your charitable assistance is needed at such a deep level to reassure, to encourage and to replace your neighbor’s pain with the hope and faith to believe that this too shall pass.

It is a high calling.

After all, faith, hope and charity are the foundation of America’s soul.

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