Faces on Faith: After the storm
Not far from my home there is an apartment complex with a tall flag pole in front of its entrance. Atop the pole after the storm there was an American flag that had been literally torn in two by the winds of Hurricane Irma. And so it flaps in the breeze, a sad symbol of so much that we’ve seen over the last year, or two in our beloved homeland. For often we seem to have been torn in two by all manner of issues. We have been divided, sometimes right down the middle, by various political, moral and societal concerns. How do we deal with race relations? How do we address varying understandings of sexual orientation and gender identity? How do we handle climate change? And what about undocumented immigrants? The list goes on and on and on. And like that tattered flag, we seem to just flap in the wind.
But Hurricane Irma, and Harvey before it, has also provided other symbols of America, other reminders that there is something deeper, truer, more profound in our national character and makeup. Something that can, and does, and will, hold us together. For we have seen stories, heard stories, been part of stories, of folks reaching out to one another regardless of divisions and fractures.
Personally, I had a neighbor come and spend 2 and a half hours helping me clean up our tree branch strewn yard in the midday heat. We don’t really know each other that well. Or we didn’t. But that didn’t matter. And after we’d sweat together, we knew far more about one another than before. For we shared stories about our children and grandchildren’s struggles in school, about our mutual love of the Boston Celtics, and our hopes for the future.
I’ve heard stories of folks being offered places to stay by complete strangers. Businesses and other establishments opening their doors, giving away essentials, not engaging in price gouging. And so, so much more. When a hurricane – or any other disaster – strips away so much of what divides us, we are all exposed as mere mortals, with far, far more in common than that which separates us. And we realize anew that we are truly one.
One of the great joys and strengths of being human is that we do have many diverse characteristics and understandings. And one of the great joys and strengths of being an American is that we are allowed to express those differences. But the differences will and do divide us, like that storm torn flag, if we fail to remember that underneath the differences we are all the same. We are one.
In the end I have a simple hope here, and it is this. I hope and pray that we really, really learn a lesson in all of this. I pray that we learn to see one another as those bonded together in the love we proclaim comes from God and is shown in Christ. I pray that we be open to the fact that that love is indeed stronger and greater and more real than anything that divides us. And out of that sense of unity I pray that we as Floridians, as Americans, as human beings, rise to the challenges of the day. I pray that we unite as one nation, one world-secure enough in our unity to be comfortable with our differences.
In the wake of Irma, love has been exposed. I pray we recognize that reality.