Friday, September 10, 2021

Contemplating The Deluge

The island has been feeling the brunt of some storm or other - steady rain since last night, drizzle at times, a teasing promise of breaking clouds, a pale bit of sunlight and then another steady downpour.  Traffic is backed up at 5 Corners, notorious for its easy flooding.  Main roads are a bit narrow as streams of water rush to find their own level.  Navigating the wet roads is more challenging than usual, but I am mindful that as soon as the rain stops, the water will recede into the sandy soil and within the space of a day any signs of the deluge will have pretty much disappeared.   

This is not a Louisiana parish by any stretch of the imagination and yet the presence of so much rain definitely leads my thoughts to the suffering occurring in so many places in the south due to heavy and relentless rains and high winds.  

I try to imagine losing everything in a storm.  I can’t.  The best I can do is watch the TV news footage to try and grasp the enormity of loss - - homes, treasured possessions, irreplaceable memories, beloved pets.  And yet I hear time after time “Yes, we have lost everything but we are grateful to be alive.” 

Time after time I see people who have lost everything helping their neighbors who may be even worse off.  A greater humanity seems to kick into action during the crisis.

Tonight the news is filled with the remembering of  the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers.  Time after time, witnesses, survivors, victims of the attacks recall how the country came together in the aftermath; how we were kinder to each other; how much more we treasured our all too vulnerable lives, how we were more likely to tell our loved ones how much they meant to us.

It didn’t last long.  Revenge for the attacks seemed to bring with it division and rancor. It continues today with all the pros and cons about the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.  The sorrow and bitterness and confusion fracture our political minds.

Nearly 20 years later, COVID has created another national crisis, another opportunity for the country to come together to support and care for one another through all the sickness and death, the terrible vulnerability and uncertainty that rides on the coattails of the virus.  We have named our community heroes, our frontline medical workers, all the essential workers like supermarket personnel and caregivers, police and firefighters, EMTs and on and on.

But in short order, blaming and shaming became part of the response to COVID.  In so many places personal rights became paramount and superceded responsibility for each other and for the health of our communities.  To mask or not to mask - - to vaccinate or not to vaccinate - - to trust the science or disregard it - - issues that have divided friends and families and communities across the country.  Curiously, all of this happens against the backdrop of a worldwide crisis: Not enough vaccines to care for the poorest countries while controversy grows about the distribution of booster shots to those in wealthier countries who have already been vaccinated.

As a  species, we seem unable to sustain a long term and consistently loving and compassionate response through the fall-out from a major crisis.  We need to blame someone.  We need to hold someone accountable.  We need to claim our own personal rights and sense of wellbeing whether this is damaging to someone else’s rights and well being or not.

Once again, I contemplate the heavy downpour.  An ancient story tells of a straight 40 days of rain - flooding the entire earth - destroying all but a handful of lives and a boatload of animals of every kind.  A meta-cleansing of earth’s people gone awry.  That story ends with hope - a rainbow and a steadfast promise that the Creator will not destroy creation in that way again.

Next time - we will be the ones held accountable.

And yet - as someone penned: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”  This Sunday we will witness a baptism - the initiation of a young child’s life into the fellowship of the church.  The child to be baptized has a powerful name.  It means “He who progresses and helps others to progress.”  His middle name means “He who wins the struggle.”  Perhaps a name we could all embrace in the service of a more loving and harmonious world where we move together toward the elusive goal of a more fully human, more fully divine way of doing life  - noticing one another - bringing one another along in the great struggle for life in all its abundance - - winning the struggle together.

Vicky Hanjian

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