You can’t tell what church they go to (or if they go at all). You can’t tell how much money they make or where (or if) they vacation every summer. You can’t tell what school they go to or where they shop or who their parents are. You can’t tell if they are first-generation Americans or not. You can’t tell who they voted for. You might be able to see shades of skin color, but even that is blurred. You can’t tell if they are gay or straight, married or divorced. You can’t tell any of that.
All you can see is the one thing they all have in common: water has destroyed much of what’s around them, many of them are in imminent danger, and life as they knew it before this past weekend has been changed drastically and forever. Because no matter who they are or where they’ve been, Harvey has come for them, and very little in their lives will ever be the same.
Natural disasters do not choose their victims. We are all vulnerable to them. And while some of us have greater resources, more contacts, better lots in life to survive and rebuild, the initial horror itself does not discriminate. The divisions we construct in our daily lives are irrelevant in the face of real-time, desperate need for survival.
It’s awful to just watch it happen (drop in the bucket awful, let’s be clear, compared to the hell of those living it)–I feel entirely helpless in the face of the news footage and the social media posts from the friends and colleagues I know in South Texas. Today, praying is all I know to do, even as that seems so futile. It’s gut-wrenching and terrifying, and I wish I could make it all stop.
And yet…and yet…I am struck by the beauty already emerging. The people helping people. The efforts to save and protect. The reaching out and pulling in and neighbor helping neighbor, even as the waters continue to rage. I am humbled to tears by the power of the human spirit at its best and brightest. THIS is the United States I love. THIS is the part of being human that makes the rest of our selfish ways worthwhile. THIS is what we were made for…to walk each other through this life as if we believed the truth that we are all in this together.
There’s no other way to do it and survive.
My heart is torn apart for this country right now. While Harvey rages, hate does too, and I don’t know how to stop it. While we claim to be one nation under God, we judge who and who isn’t God’s–the worst blasphemy of all, in my book, because as if any of us can truly grasp how it is that God works in the world. All I know is that God is love, and I hold on to this with all I’ve got these days. Because if God is love, there is no room for the way we are biting at one another in our own fear and anxiety and grief as a nation.
I read a story a long time ago that stuck with me–it’s main idea was that we can choose to be people that edify (build up) or we can choose to be people who destroy. I’ve been both, even if not consciously so, and what I want now, more than anything, is to be a person that consciously seeks to edify, to build up, the world around me. And what I want now, more than anything, for the United States, is the same–to be a nation that builds up, that edifies our own citizens and the world around us. This, it seems to me, is, in the midst of destruction and anger and division, our only hope.
If it helps, you’re more than welcome to imagine me saying that Stars Wars style…”You’re our only hope.”
Because you are. And so am I. And so are we together. All of us. Our only hope. And I don’t want to see us destroy ourselves. Too much has already been sacrificed. Too much hard fought and won. Too much on the line. And maybe if we each just said, “Ok, I can’t fix this mess we’re in, but I’m damn sure not going to make it worse,” that would be a step…albeit a baby step…in the right direction.
I don’t believe God causes tragedy and heartache. And I believe God cries with us when the worst things happen. But I also believe that in the midst of the most awful things, it’s possible for something good to be known. I have no idea how this works, I just believe it does–even if whatever that good is happens beyond our lifetime and in ways we never really see. And today, I am holding on to this thing I believe, and praying it will be made true in Harvey’s wake…and across our nation…in ways that will made very plain to all of us. Very soon.
Because my great hope is that on the other side of this helluva a time we’re in, there’s something new struggling to be born. And I think it’s up to us to make way for it. In ways big and small. We have to make the choice to set about edifying–our relationships, our families, our communities, our country.
Goodness emerges only when we are able to tap into the very heart of what it means to be human, discovering there the truth that when you strip away all the trappings, all the supposed status, all the hate and mistrust, all the things, there is room made for mercy to work her gentle grace among us, so that we might be reminded how we’re all so very much the same.