Natural disasters are pummeling our country. This past week alone saw continually raging wildfires on the West Coast, catastrophic hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, and the worst-ever torrential flooding on the East Coast…all with significant loss of human life and staggering amounts of property damage. Thousands upon thousands have been left without food, water, power, and sanitation facilities. Lamentably, a significant surge in the Delta variant of the Coronavirus pandemic forms a bleak and challenging backdrop for these overwhelming events.
As we watch the daily news coverage of these disasters, we can become numb to these tragedies’ repetitive and seemingly insurmountable consequences. Yet, we are all heartened by the heroism of first responders who put their lives on the line for the sake of their fellow man, be the medical professionals caring for Covid victims, firefighters battling towering flames, or pulling victims from flooded cars and homes. Not only they, but the entire country is rolling up its sleeves to bring relief and support to our neighbors in crisis. A recent newspaper article reported that some 25,000 utility workers from 38 states were descending on Louisiana to help restore power after the devastation of Hurricane Ida. Thousands of others are bringing in drinking water, food, and ice and are assisting victims in finding shelter and clothing. It is reassuring to know that our St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services Corporation is right in the thick of things, crisscrossing the country providing aid and assistance wherever possible. We are part of a national response worthy of our country’s motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” a Latin phrase meaning “Out of many, one.”
Natural disasters are sometimes called “acts of God.” When they occur, we may be tempted to assume that God is punishing us. As Vincentians, we can never let this view contaminate our thinking. It not only defies our Christian belief in a loving Creator, but it also violates another national maxim, “In God We Trust.” On the contrary, we must view these disasters as opportunities for grace on a grand scale. We are used to seeing the face of Christ in the individuals we serve during our home visits and other acts of charity. In the case of natural disasters, we must pull back, bring up our wide-angle lens and see the individual faces of Christ forming an enormous mosaic of that same face of Christ. Although this presents a daunting image pleading for help, we cannot be overcome by the proverbial question: What can I do? Any individual monetary response on our part may seem insignificant, but we all know that every little bit counts. Know that your contributions will go directly to the relief so desperately needed.
As the SVdP Society Council of Los Angeles, we made a significant contribution to help Haiti after another major earthquake recently struck it. We will do the same in answer to our national president’s plea for assistance in the wake of these latest disasters affecting so many of our fellow citizens. These heart-rending events are undoubtedly disastrous. They are also opportunities for grace. Let us seize them.