Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Hurricane Harvey: Mobilizing Hearts and Hands

     
    Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.   --Reinhold Niebuhr


One of my favorite pictures of my husband. He is taking out some stitches from our little neighbor's head. Who would have thought the Mormon and the Muslim neighbors would be dear friends? But we are. It was worth moving to Qatar to meet them.

Watching my friends and family from across the world suffer in the deluge of Harvey brings me to my knees in prayer. But watching from afar has made my hope barometer rise up too. To see and hear of all the rescues, assistance, and outpouring of love shows not only what Texans are made of. It is what all of us humans can do in our everyday lives. When we let our hearts grow and our hands reach out, ordinary people become extraordinary.

Since it is Eid this week for Muslims all over the world, these kids came to bear gifts at the hospital to my husband and friend.

Just like a hurricane that can wash away huge structures of cement and brick, we can allow misunderstandings to wash away in our hearts. As terrifying as the climbing waters have proved to be in Houston, the pictures of helping neighbors and strangers heartens me.  As I watch many areas of the world struggle with racism and even genocide, these scenes from Houston remind us of the immense powers we hold in our hearts and hands. We can shoulder others' burdens--even when we don't know them. We can choose to act with compassion. We can cast off preconceived misconceptions about a culture or race. And we can even be friends. Maybe even good friends.

Meeting the Coptic bishop in Egypt was a wonderful event.

My husband and daughter at the Normandy beaches on June 6, 2016, a place and time when people from all over the world gather together to remember and honor the men and women who died there on the battlefields 73 years ago. My husband's father lost his sight six weeks after he landed on Omaha Beach when he was 22 years old. But on that beach now all the hate and bigotry is gone. There is only love, and it is manifested in the lantern toss every year on June 5 on Utah Beach. 

A team of Egyptian, Indian, Qatari, Lebanese, Jordanian, Sudanese, and Syrian doctors ready to go to work.
Recently I read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. Cahill's last paragraph has been ringing in my mind for the last week--about how we humans are always divided in every civilization. For clarification, the word "catholic" in this quote is denoting "humanist, or universalist," which includes Christian, Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, and other faiths that value equally all lives.

"Perhaps history is always divided into Romans and ... catholics (humanists). The Romans (from the Roman Empire) are the rich and powerful who run things their way and must always accrue more because they instinctively believe that there will never be enough to go around; the catholics, as their name implies are universalists who instinctively believe that all humanity makes one family, that every human being is an equal child of God, and that God will provide.  . . . If we are to be saved, it will not be by Romans, but by saints."

One of my husband's good friends from Istanbul, Turkey who loves boundlessly....

Cahill is speaking of the 21st century Romans who jockey in aggressive or subtle ways to be superior--who refuse to wear down racism and age-old misunderstandings. The saints, I propose, are ordinary people who choose to love with borderless hearts. Why does history curiously repeats itself generation after generation? If only the 21st century Romans could see the rewards of casting away old walls and misconceptions. The gift of loving is so much better than trying to be superior to another person.

The gifts of true friendship, with all residues washed away, are the reward when we live with love.