3rd September 2011

I was intrigued today as I read reports about the tropical storm Lee racing toward the Gulf States, or more specifically toward New Orleans. What struck me was the comment made by the executive director of S&WB, Marcia St. Martin, to the citizens of the greater New Orleans area that “The pumping capacity is at 100 percent. We will close gates as necessary, but most importantly, it’s important that citizens clean their catch basins, clean their drains” (http://www.munciefreepress.com/node/24341).

We might ask: what can a few drains really do in the face of such fury? But, when one adds the collective impact of more than 1 million people each doing this ‘little’ thing well, we get the massive results of community at work.

Nothing can shock the system of a community as the power of a hurricane blasting through a city. Nothing can do more to gravitate those that are threatened in this way into galvanized action. Moreover, nothing can do more to generate compassion; service; help; support; finances; love and prayer. The Internet is packed with accounts of billions of dollars of resources poured into such situations. The figures are staggering despite the failed promises to meet the minimum 0.7% of GNP by some of the wealthiest nations as the two Official Development Aid charts below show:

Charts courtesy: Globalissues.org - +-125B$ spent by nations in 2010

And yet, it is not the billions given by nations, and their organizations, that are making the greatest impact in the disaster zones of the world, but the collective sum of the little individual acts of kindness done daily by those who care: from businesspeople turned philanthropists; to individual people; to representatives; to young teenagers giving up weeks or months of their lives to involve themselves in the restoration process; to loving family members, et cetera! One might call these all, whether they represent an organization or themselves, the modern-day Samaritans. It is their faces that the broken and the lost will remember!

Heroic acts, given opportunity by, at times frightening adversity, usually rise above the tides of pain and despair to redeem; restore; recover; refresh, and to rescue. More so, to comfort; to heal, and to bring hope again!

At six years of age on the 28th February 1960, I experienced what a cyclone could do that was about 100 kilometers in width; moving south at 25 km/h, and spinning at speeds in excess of 250 km/h. I still remember an entire roof fly by our house 100 feet off the ground. Then the eye of the cyclone came over the island casting an eerie suffocating yellow glow over us for four horrible hours. I remember my father, who was manager of La Baraque sugar mill, racing about madly throughout the villages where his employees lived with their families, and warning them that the worst was to come. When the tail of Cyclone Carol hit the island, the impact came in the reverse direction (still turning clockwise). This was what caused most of the devastation.

The graphic picture of the inside wall of my bedroom swelling; water two-feet deep; trees uprooted, and debris flying through the air is still fresh. However, then as now, it was the character of compassion; love; service; sacrifice, and caring of others that still shines above it all in my heart.

What humans discover at such difficult times is the power of community.

Imagine if you will, a placid mountain scene, with vacationers cooking their meat over camp fires; sounds of lighthearted activity and of children running around laughing excitedly, and then a shout is heard from somewhere, “MY CHILD IS LOST!” There will be no questions asked; no further explanations needed. Everyone understands exactly what needs to be done; everyone scatters in the hunt for the lost child. Carried in every mother and father’s heart is a love for all children, and of the burdens that other parents bear in such a situation. Empathy gushes out involuntarily. This is not shallow idealism, but realistic compassion in community at work!

All it takes is a disaster to remind us that we are indeed all members of the same human race; and when push comes to shove, we will care and protect each other no matter what.

John Donne in his Devotions, rightly said, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”.

The possibility of a unified world fills me with joy! Will there always be dissenters? No doubt, yes, but the scriptures do say that when Jesus appears every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord (Philippians 2) (not indicating universal salvation). Peter also writes that God is not willing that anyone perish, but that everyone comes to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Yes, some will say no to eternity with God, but we should not fail to appreciate the powerful love of God at work among us!


Keep on. Loys