I daresay that if one were to check the Nielsen ratings for the past two weeks, The Weather Channel might have been the highest rated station. While I don’t think of myself as a gawker, I found myself transfixed to the reporting of both Hurricane Harvey and Irma. The clarity and depth of information certainly made for great television. The reporters standing outside absorbing hurricane-force winds might make me question their sanity, but the stories of rescue and assistance were compelling. The devastating floods in southeastern Texas and the massive destruction caused by winds in the Florida Keys defy any of our personal experiences. I have witnessed firsthand the destructive power of a derecho, Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, but have also experienced the goodness in people.
A derecho is a violent storm with tornado-like winds that travel in a straight burst as opposed to the traditional circular motion. We had settled in for the night on a Friday evening after services, also having some Shabbat company. A severe thunderstorm moved in, which woke everyone, especially when my daughter came running to say that my car alarm was sounding. I assumed that the winds had jostled the car, causing the alarm to sound. Imagine my surprise when during an extended set of lightning flashes, I saw that an old-growth, one hundred foot tall oak on my front lawn had been snapped like a toothpick, taking out my car and careening through the windshield of my guest’s car across the street. In retrospect I remain so very grateful that the tree fell to the east and took out my car, instead of falling the west, taking out my house. The fallen tree took out power on my street and beyond. Fast forward to later that morning, when a kind neighbor from around the corner brought his chain saw, and cut up this massive tree (we stopped counting rings after we reached 80) into larger pieces that several neighbors were able to move to the side of the road with great effort, clearing the street.
It is this kind of generosity of time that has been so rewarding to observe over the past few weeks – strangers helping strangers. That is not to minimize the bravery of trained rescue personal, all of whom have risked their lives, and do so daily, to keep us safe. Despite these catastrophic events, the goodness in people has pushed aside the hate that had become so prevalent. How sad that it must take events of this magnitude to overshadow the hate. I would like to hope that goodness would continue to make hate unwelcome, as citizens of our country recognize that this is the type of place we all want to live in – one filled with goodness, compassion and deeds of lovingkindness.
May the One who makes peace in the heavens, make peace upon the entire world. Amen.