By Dr. David McKalip.
Hurricane Irma struck Florida over the weekend, killing at least 16 in Florida, causing property damage and leaving millions with out electricity. Traffic lights are out, gasoline is scare, small businesses and restaurants are struggling to open and a hot meal is hard to come by. There is certainly much to lament about the devastation of the storm. But, surprisingly, there is much for which to be grateful. Neighbors have come together. Families are spending time focusing on the most basic things in life. Communities are assessing what is most important for social vitality. People just seem to be nicer.
Living without electricity is of course inconvenient. No lights at night, no reliable way to cook food or have a hot shower. The muggy Florida nights make sleeping a little more difficult. But if one stops to reflect, we realize how truly blessed we are. There are places in the world that have never known such conveniences – but we all know we will enjoy them again within a week or two. We know that we can have the life-giving energy these conveniences provide so we can be the most productive at work, perhaps focus on arts, leisure and fine cooking. How truly blessed we are, especially when we consider the devastation of Harvey in Texas and the catastrophes in the Caribbean. Irma has reminded us to count our blessings and remember they came from our God-given liberty and were enabled by a society based on a free market where rule of law prevails. In many places around the world, people live hand to mouth, without reliable meals, without clean, warm water and certainly without constant electricity so they can focus on improving themselves and their lives rather than just getting through the day. Even when they have such conveniences, they are often subject to wars, tyrants, thugs or oppressive governing structures. Not in America.
People seem more patient in the streets. People are actually driving cars, machines still powered with gas to move to electrically-powered areas. A week ago on our city streets, the prevailing standard of behavior was impatient rushing. Inconsiderate drivers unwilling to lose a microsecond of their precious time as they went to see a movie, eat at a restaurant, go to work out, the beach or make a make a meaningless car-trip to get the unique brand of soda pop missing from their well-stocked pantry. But that is different this week. After Irma, people are patiently waiting at intersections with non-functioning lights. They wave each other through as they wait patiently – even when they likely have had little sleep, perhaps a cold shower and a cobbled together cold meal. Yes,there is much good in people – God has blessed us all with a conscience that serves our fellow man – when we decide that we don’t always have to put ourselves first.
The day after the storm, neighbors were out in the street. They were raking each other’s yards. They were sharing storm supplies. They were checking up on each other – knocking on doors of people they would seldom nod at as they drove by on their way to some mundane destination. Families were brought together to ride out the storms in the areas with high ground. Then they stayed together as they moved to other family homes with power. Family connections were re-established, perhaps even among those somewhat estranged. Friends, neighbors and families were truly blessed by the good will God has placed in their hearts – hopefully sowing seeds that will flourish for years to come.
It was also a blessing to withdraw from the daily pummeling in the news of the latest political controversy. No longer being accosted by the pet agendas of others has provided a serenity as we move about our lives and focus on our families and our most basic needs. Perhaps this respite will allow us to put common sense back on its seat and place a low priority on enabling the political goals of others who seem to have forgotten common sense.
The good will seen after Irma is truly a blessing and as Americans we should move forward in that spirit. Let’s never take for granted the amazing society we have built. Let’s remember how we built it and keep those systems in place that create the conditions that allow us to excel from a daily survival mode to one of immense productivity. Let’s remember those who are less fortunate and live in the streets or around the world where they have not enjoyed the benefits of freedom, free markets, limited government that allows them to meet their own potential. Let’s keep the patient spirit that puts even strangers before ourselves – as Jesus taught, let’s treat the other as another self (‘love your neighbor as you love yourself’). Let’s embrace the neighborly fellowship that serves as social glue that can keep us together. Let’s keep families together and have just that much more patience with each other – forgiving those who trespass against us as we hope they will forgive us for our trespasses. Let’s put politics in the back seat and place common sense, fellowship and brotherly love as our guideposts – then most things will work themselves out well. People who have this love in their heart for these neighbors will create the best society, it can never be imposed by the political plans of others. It has taken an act of God to remind us of the love, goodwill and charity that God has always placed in our hearts. Let’s all pray together to keep God’s love in our hearts when society returns to normal – then we will see how many lives and communities that Irma actually Saved.