The WORD – 9/8/11. For just a few moments earlier today, a ray of sunlight shone through the window of my office and spread across the floor. After a hurricane and the seemingly endless days of rain, it was certainly a welcome sight. I don’t expect to see another one very soon.
Some members of our community are still dealing with the damage from Hurricane Irene, and yet it seems as if we have several more days of rain coming our way. I know that I am not the only one ready to scream, “ENOUGH!” at the top of my lungs. The truth, though, is that we have absolutely no control over the weather. Meteorologists can barely predict it. The only thing that we CAN control is our response to it.
There were many stories in the aftermath of Irene about the damage done to people’s homes. We all know people who lost power, whose homes were flooded, who lost water, who had huge trees fall on their property or who experienced all of the above. It will take some people a very long time to recover from this natural disaster.
To me, however, the real story of this horrible weather has been the way that people have reached out to others in our community. I have heard wonderful stories of people going to their neighbors’ houses to help them bail out water even though they had water in their own homes. People have opened their homes to those whose houses were uninhabitable. Still others have lent equipment or shared ice and potable water with those who needed.
It is these acts of kindness among people in difficult circumstances that ultimately define the kind of community in which we want to live. It’s not always easy to go out of our way to help someone else when we are worried about our own homes and our own families.
Jodi and I were in a tent in Acadia National Park when the outer band of Irene came to Maine. We had been led to believe that it would be okay to stay one more night, but in the middle of the night, it became clear that we would have to evacuate. As we were getting ready to leave our campsite, a college-age young man approached me and asked me if I had jumper cables. After I finished silently cursing my brother-in-law for giving me some jumper cables, my gut instinct was to say that I had four kids with me and I didn’t have time to jump-start this guy’s car. But then, I thought about how I would explain to those four kids why I didn’t help these people who clearly needed some help.
So, once all of our kids were safely in the car, we tried to jump-start that car. No luck, though. Either it wasn’t the battery or the battery was too far gone. We couldn’t get their car started. It took all of 20 minutes to try and then we were on our way. We notified the rangers of the situation on our way out of the park. It was the best we could do.
The Torah doesn’t talk specifically about hurricanes, flooded basements or stalled cars. However, this week’s Torah portion does say the following: “If you see your fellow’s ass or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it; you must help him raise it (Deut. 22:4).” The message is pretty clear.
It’s not always easy and it’s not always convenient. And sometimes, it seems as if the rain will never stop. However, the way that we treat our fellow human beings under trying circumstances is one of the ways in which make the place in which we a live a community and not just a collection of houses.