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Finding gratitude in a post-Ian world

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Eileen Kelley/WGCU
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Jacqui Clarke-Naklin is counting her blessings and not her losses this Thanksgiving.

As Jacqui Clarke-Naklin got closer to the heaping mountain of furniture, she stared at a husk of a house that once provided rest and comfort to a family. The 69-year-old breaks the silence.

“That’s the family room, and that the bedroom. And that floral, that’s the living room,” she said, continuing the tour of her tattered, but as she calls it, blessed life. “That’s part of the mattress belonging to the master bedroom."

Clarke-Nalkin has been counting her blessings since 1968 when she left her native Barbados at 15 with join her father in the United States.

America, her father told the family, was the best place for opportunity.

Clarke-Naklin breezed through high school. She went to college. Married. Had children and a career in special education in Boston and Port Charlotte.

She’s experienced two major hurricanes since moving to Southwest Florida in 1995 —Charley and Ian

After Ian she stayed with a neighbor. Then with family. She had a short dog-sitting stint and a long weekend in an overpriced hotel. When those were no longer available, Clarke-Naklin and her multi-generational family slept inside their destroyed home.

“We were staying in the house and we shouldn’t have, but we could not find a place to stay,” she said.

In spite of her own needs, the retired educator has been volunteering and helping others. “By doing that—giving yourself to other people—your endorphins fly. Your endorphins grow and it helps you. It really, really helps you when you give back.”

Not one to want to draw attention to herself, Clarke-Naklin said she tends to keep her problems to herself. But word of her family’s living condition slipped out when she was talking to someone at her church.

Words sprung into action.

“Enter our humble abode,” she said, a large smile splitting her face.

Instead of standing outside in front of the trash heap, Clarke-Naklin gives a tour of her new home, a 42 foot RV loaned to the family. “I’ve never seen a place with so many cabinets, cabinets galore.”

Clarke-Naklin is thrilled with her new living arrangements. Her faith, she said, and experience helping children overcome adversity has grounded her, helping her to cope with the losses stacked up at the foot of the driveway.

“These are just things. Some might be expensive things some might not be, but they're just things and we have to realize they are just things,” she said.

Clarke-Naklin and her family were invited to spend Thanksgiving with the in-laws of a relative, and for that, she is still counting her blessings

“Most importantly, I'm thankful that that we can still continue to celebrate and not wallow in self-pity,” she said.

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