Harvey, Irma, Maria…simple names given to a weather disturbance, changing into a tropical storm and finally becoming devastating hurricanes. Ones that made landfall, destroyed property, disrupted and even took the very lives of some who were in their path. The communities hit by one of these wind-driven monsters that no one can control, are currently in various stages of rescue, recovery, and rebuilding. Ours is one of them.
I have heard a sentence repeated multiple times in my community that begins with these six words, “why does it take a disaster?”
As we work through clean up, as we begin the rebuilding, we are found helping one another. It may be that for the first time we walk six homes down from us because we realize theirs is the home with water in every room. Having never met this neighbor whose home we pass each day on the way to work, we introduce ourselves, then quickly follow with how can we help.
When we are able to venture out, we see the trucks that have arrived in Florida from communities as far away as Canada working to restore power. Appreciation fills our hearts as we scurry home to grab water bottles and grill a few burgers on the gas grill—the only way we can cook the food that is thawing in our freezer. Then we load the car and head back to the lineman working their 16 hour shifts so that we can show these men and women, who we would not have noticed on a normal day, just a bit of our gratitude.
The neighborhood communication system opens again, this time not with complaints about a dog or traffic, but a post to make all aware that our mail carrier lost everything she had, her home, furniture, clothing, and was living in a shelter. The community was asked to help, providing furniture, money, a place to live until she could get back on her feet, which they did. Her name is Monica, most of us hadn’t bothered to learn her name before this disaster.
“Why does it take a disaster?”
As the communication sources gained ground the devastation that seemed overwhelming in our immediate community paled to what had happened 30 miles away. Families whose possessions were meager before the storm’s arrival were left with even less. Flatbed trailers were parked in local church parking lots then loaded with diapers, wipes, water, clothes, the necessities needed to bridge life while waiting for further assistance.
The moment the local churches obtained their power they opened their doors; not to hold services and pray, although prayers were offered fervently from all corners of our community in this season, but to meet real needs. The volunteers who arrived at the church doorsteps were tasked with preparing and serving meals to thousands, offering plugins to charge cell phones, handing out water, and even setting up movies for kids in the activity room as a distraction from the “when will we get back to normal?” refrain.
But this does lead you to wonder, why does it take a disaster to activate us?
For compassion to be demonstrated to those around us? To notice the individuals who serve us every day, acknowledging their hard work, learning their name? As much as we all would love to avoid life’s disasters, we can’t.
As we find ourselves glued to the weather channel willing the hurricane’s turn out to sea (only to discover it is time to decide whether we are staying or going), we realize we are faced with one of those we-have-no-control-of-life moments. Experiences and choices will be forced upon us that remove the “normal.” We will choose what we do and how we act when those days come. The worst of who we can be will sometimes show its ugly face, but the best, most compassionate side of our nature will very often rise up. We become the best of who we are.
It is a disaster that levels life, forcing us to rely upon one another, to look past economics, race, and culture. It is disaster that levels life’s playing field, reminding us that we are all in this thing together, stronger when we join forces and reach across the artificial barriers we place between us.
Maybe it takes disaster to remind us of what we should be, what we can be. Maybe it does take a disaster to create the bridge between one another. May we take the understanding disaster brings into our everyday purpose. Recognizing the needs of others when life becomes normal again, asking and remembering a name, saying thank you to those we often don’t notice, caring for those who don’t have when we do. Yes, it appears it takes a disaster to open our eyes and change our hearts. As we begin to rebuild and re-enter our normal, my prayer is this, may we not waste it.
Yes, it appears it takes a disaster to open our eyes and change our hearts.
You’ll also like How Can We Be the Bridge to This Great Divide?, Living With Grit and Grace in the Eye of a Hurricane, For the Woman Who Wants to Be Strong, Your Identity Is Not What You Do, but Who You Are (Video), Anatomy of a Strong Woman, and When Life Gives You a New Normal