With November 1 just around the corner, I’ve spent the past few days preparing a post on the communion of Saints. But, as with many of this week’s best-laid plans, recent weather events forced me to reconsider my original plan. And although my thoughts on Hurricane Sandy are a bit scattered and inchoate, it seems rather silly of me on a site called Daily Theology to ignore the obvious epochal event howling outside. Of course, sitting here at my computer, warm, dry, and safe, enjoying the convenience of electricity and Internet (at least for now!), my reflections seem a bit trite, but I offer them with the hope that others will chime in with their own experiences and reflections on the storm.
Based on the posts I’ve seen on Facebook, my east coast friends and I are sheltered and safe, and yet still quite distracted, understandably, by the sheer force of Mother Nature wailing outside. As we’ve scurried about hoarding flashlights and batteries, stocking up on food and water, Hurricane Sandy has made us ask questions we usually don’t think about: do I have enough food? Water? Basic supplies? Can loved ones get a hold of me? It has compelled us to notice so many of the things that we take for granted like access to safe shelter, clean, running water, waste management, electricity, and relatively safe roads. And as she continues to pass over, Sandy is reminding us that no matter how much we try to control things in our lives, we are ultimately not immune to external, uncontrollable forces.
Sandy seems to be offering us a glimpse—albeit faint and passing–into the vulnerability and uncertainty many of our brothers and sisters all over the world experience on a daily basis. They live their lives day to day, hour to hour, unsure of where their next meal will come from, whether enough or too much rain will fall on their crops, or if a bomb will be dropped on their home. People in our own country survive in a sort of liminal space, one crisis—an injury or a lost job–away from personal or financial ruin. So many human beings live in constant fear and uncertainty, vulnerable to storms of violence, poverty, addiction, sickness, hunger and pain and often completely dependent on the decisions made by people in power halfway across the world.
As a faith educator, I’ve spent a lot of time advocating Catholic Social Teaching, preaching to people that Christ calls us to enter the suffering of others and to tend to the needs of the poor and vulnerable. But if I’m really honest, Sandy is forcing me to recognize just how wrapped up I am in my own affairs. If anyone else out there is feeling the uncomfortable anxiety I’m feeling every time the lights flicker, perhaps you also understand how much easier it seems to spend time and energy keeping the suffering experienced in this world at a distance and focus instead on alleviating our own pains, serving our own needs, and satiating own our desires. I’m sympathetic to the disciples out in the middle of the storm on the Sea of Galilee when they indignantly ask Jesus: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing??” or James and John when they ask “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
I know as Sandy continues to pass over, we all continue to pray for those grievously impacted by the Hurricane and for those who are putting their lives on the line to help others. As I continue to enjoy the comfort and safety of my home, I thank God for the many blessings in my life, most of which I know I take for granted. And in the long run, I pray for the grace to be less concerned about my own comfort and for the desire to open myself more willingly to the unnoticed storms and hurricanes that ravage peoples’ lives on a daily basis.