In recent days since Hurricane Irma wrecked much of Florida, I have been dealing on a very personal basis with that wreckage for my mother’s home was ruined by the storm. I won’t go into those details but suffice it to say I’m learning some things along the way as I navigate this disaster.
A disaster is always personal even when it is regional One way we naturally gauge disasters like a hurricane is by satellite images and radar or even drones that hover above the landscape and provide us a perspective of the breadth of a disaster. The depth of a disaster, however, lie at the deep level of individual lives. Their narratives are comprised of trauma, harrowing escapes and sometimes unutterable loss.
When the storm dust is in the air, use fog lights. The first time I learned this lesson was as a child in the back seat of a car. My father was driving and we went down a hill and as we did, suddenly a storm of dust out of nowhere filled the air. He turned on his lights so he could be seen (ever see folks ride through rain storms without headlights on? they think they can see, and perhaps they can, but we need to see you!) but my father also pointed out that persons headed our way had their bright lights on which filled the dust with light and blinded everyone. Dim lights or fog lights are the best way to navigate one’s path through. But of course, people turn on their bright lights and with that they turn up their volume, yelling and frantically lashing out in panic. Turn your fog lights on, turn down the volume and find the path out.
We are interdependent and rely on the kindness of strangers. I hope the country can finally come to terms with a covenantal view of human interdependency and be done with the half-truths of libertarian and other conservative ideologies that extol the individual’s liberty at the expense of our biblically mandated obligation to care for one another. The question is not whether or not people “deserve” our help–we all need the help of one another. Living selfishly, as the monk Thomas Merton pointed out, is living at the doorstep of hell. My mother has now made two trips to two different hotels. This morning, as she drank her coffee in the free breakfast area of the hotel, a stranger helped her with getting some hot water and other items. Kindness is a hand that lifts our chin. We are humanized by those kindnesses and when we are the ones offering the kindness then we are also humanized in the process.
Life is a storm. The Buddha’s first noble truth is, life is suffering. Christianity has at its very center the suffering (the Passion) of the Christ. To live is to navigate storms and loss. We all suffer. For me, at this frantic time, I am doing my best to get to Sunday. Why? Because I know when I get to Sunday, I get to peace and communion with others, hymns of joy and prayers of sustenance. I hope you can find an oar and paddle your way over to our safe harbor.
~See you Sunday