Grace and peace to you.
Everything is slow today. Trees are down, roads are impassable, bridges are flooded, businesses are closed, power is out. But everybody knows and is patient with it all. A big tree came down in our yard, taking out power lines, phone, the works. (I’m writing from church.) The tree crew came and happily cut up and removed the tree and moved on to the neighbors.
It’s not so bad, living by candlelight. We’ll be without power for a few days, I bet. But how can I complain? Others have been flooded out, homes destroyed, livelihoods damaged. We all have different lives. For some people today means no work; for others, more work. For some people yesterday was a frightening disaster; for others, a lovely, calm evening. In many places people will greet each other this morning with a casual “Hi.” But in some places, even with strangers, they’ll ask, “Are you OK? Do you have what you need?” There will be offers of food and water, extra rooms and showers.
In trying times what is usually secret is exposed: we are all vulnerable and needy and anyone you meet is likely to be facing challenges that you don’t know about. The only way to go through life is the way we go through disasters: with compassion, patience and mindfulness. Imagine if we always asked “How are you?” with the same concern we have after a disaster. Imagine if we always treated people as if they deserved the respect and sensitivity of someone recovering from a difficulty—or, for that matter, someone celebrating a great joy. We wouldn’t baby each other, but we wouldn’t ignore each other, either.
In all our lives, as different as they are, it turns out that the one universal thing that is always needed, and always powerful, is simple kindness. You may not be walking through visible wreckage, but never doubt that others are. Just be mindful.