Bone-chilling blizzards, record-breaking deep freezes, ferocious winds, devastating floods, ice storms downing trees and power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands without heat and light.
Nothing gets our attention like the fury unleashed by nature across this country over the last six months. But we might as well get used to it. Scientists predict that climate trends will only get stranger in the future. It is the ultimate irony in our modern age, that with all the advanced technology and scientific knowledge supposed to give us safety and comfort, all we can do is wait and watch while the elements of nature interrupt our lives for a period of time.
If it weren’t so disruptive, it would be amusing as our meteorologists dramatically show us their clever weather maps, complete with wind currents, jet streams and, yes, now the “polar vortex,” so that we can anticipate, if not completely prepare for, the worst. And we trust that our sometimes crumbling infrastructure will deliver what we need despite the fury of the onslaught.
But our hopes crumble as roads and schools are closed, and our workplaces are shuttered for lack of heat.
We had faith in a system that often fails us, despite its claims of preparedness, and we wonder what our taxes are doing for us. That’s, of course, in our worst moments.
But wait, there is a silver lining for us Christians. “Giving thanks in all circumstances” can bring us blessings in disguise. You have a snow blower and your neighbour doesn’t. This is the opportunity to be the Good Samaritan to those struggling with shovels and to carry on a conversation comprised of much more than “hi.” A certain community bonding occurs.
You are forced to spend time with your family, instead of being the work-ethic-driven person who seldom finds time to gather round and listen to your children’s stories or your spouse’s aspirations. Your forced “sabbath” opens up a world you might have missed. You slow down and play games, listen to good music—experiencing not only the warmth of hearth but of home.
The nasty weather outside raises your awareness of the homeless in your community, forcing you to think about the “least of these” wandering the streets these cold nights seeking warmth and a bed. You think about your church/community’s involvement in programs like Out of the Cold, and renew your commitment to look at this social ill with new eyes, taking a longer-term view of perhaps helping these persons find a job or seek treatment for mental health issues.
You read in the local newspaper that the Out of the Cold program, growing in the Kitchener-Waterloo area from one site to 11 in 15 years and seeing its numbers soar by 40 percent, had one of its sites forced to close its doors due to the high cost of meeting building code requirements for a shelter: things like a sprinkler system, more exits and fireproof materials.
You know your own church, along with many others in an ecumenical effort, is part of the program, but you agonize with CEO Harry Whyte when he says, “The solution is not another church agreeing to shelter people one night a week, but governments and the community taking homelessness seriously.”
You wonder if you couldn’t do more to rally local politicians and other charities to put their collective shoulders to the wheel and save this site.
New appreciation grows for Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) and its dedicated volunteers, some 250 of whom came to High River, Alta., this summer to clean up after a flood devastated the city of 13,000 and, with the frequency of disasters occurring, you resonate with MDS transitioning “from emergency-response mode to long-term recovery, seeking individuals and groups to volunteer for a week at a time as rebuilding begins.”
You wonder if this isn’t a new calling to “bring the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.” This “calling” intensifies as you read Jim Wallis’s new book, On God’s Side, and squirm with his declaration that, “yes, the kingdom has come, and, yes, it has yet to be fulfilled in history. It is therefore ‘already’ and ‘not yet,’ meant to be lived now by those who follow Jesus as a sign and community and catalyst for the new order.”
Yes, nature’s fury has brought more than disruption, also blessing and new instruction.
--Posted Jan. 15, 2013