I was jerked awake this morning in the early hours by a weather alert on our phones. The emergency signal had me jumping up, grabbing my glasses, ready to go gather kids into the basement. I was sure it was a tornado warning as the news had been telling everyone to stay alert for that kind of weather. My husband rolled over, grabbed his phone, and told me it was a flood warning. Not a tornado. I sat on the edge of the bed, heart pounding, totally confused. Ok. I don’t need to jump up. Lay back down. We don’t live in a flood zone, the only thing that’s going to happen to our house is for the unfinished basement to get flooded, which it does regularly during heavy rain. I laid back down, but now my heart was still thumping loudly and it took me a long time to get sleepy again. Instead I lay there and listened to the rain and the thunder and lightning and I thought how wonderful it is to hear these things from the comfort of my warm cozy bed.
Lightning is an issue for our property. We have a large lot, almost half an acre, and during our almost fourteen years of living here, we’ve had three large trees struck and killed by lightning. We’ve also had another tree blow over onto our house. And we’ve had a chimney get blown over.
I lay in bed and remembered these things, but also remembered that no one got hurt. Insurance helped cover the costs of repairs. And we only have two large trees left. In my constant optimism, I was sure they would be fine.
Surprisingly, no children ran down to shelter in our room. I’ve got several kids who are not fond of thunderstorms.
Of course, while I was happily weathering the storm in my cozy bed, there were other people dealing with flooded houses, blown over trees, and other weather-related disasters.
We have a tendency to do this. As long as we are happy, we can forget about other people’s suffering.
I read an interesting article yesterday in The Atlantic about the barge that is stuck in the Suez Canal, affecting the world’s shipping industry. The article was talking about how everyone is suddenly becoming aware of the shipping industry and how our goods get one from one place to another. And how this awareness is something that the large companies don’t want us to have. The stores want us to see goods and products that we like and then buy them. They don’t want us to think about underpaid factory workers in poor countries who labored to make those products. They don’t want us to think about this system we all participate in, where the poorest people in the world are taken advantage of so that we can have all the cheap things we want, whenever we want them. If we all actually thought about this when we were shopping, we might make different decisions about what we buy.
Same theme. I’m fine. I’ve got what I need. I don’t need to think about what other people are going through.
I’m reading a good book called The Guardians by John Grisham. In the book, a small organization works at helping inmates who have been incarcerated unjustly. People who are innocent. They spend years on each case. It’s a nonprofit. They don’t get paid. They eek by with donations and fundraising. The story is essentially about people who are purposefully looking at someone else’s problems and turning their own lives upside down in order to help those people. I don’t think it’s an accident that the main character is an Episcopal Priest. It’s a very Jesus thing to do.
Love your neighbor as yourself. It sounds so simple. Sure, I can be nice to people. But, can we look past our own contentment and ease, and purposefully try to see the problems of people around us? Can we turn our own lives upside down in order to help people in need? Can we lay in our warm comfortable beds, listen to the rain, and pray for those whose homes are being flooded? Can we check on family and friends and acquaintances who we know might not be in as safe a position as ourselves? Can we offer our own warm residences as a place of shelter for those who are out in the storm? Can we take our eyes off ourselves and see the people around us? That is, after all, the Jesus thing to do.