On September 28, 2022, history was made when the catastrophic onslaught of hurricane Ian ravaged my county and brought immense devastation to the cherished community in which I live. Since the day this unwelcomed visitor disrupted our area, the difficult aftermath has brought forth not only uplifting stories of celebration for what was saved, but also crushing stories of sorrow for that which was lost.
Thankfully, numerous lives were spared; but sadly, many livelihoods were taken. Countless vehicles were swept away, houses gutted, immeasurable possessions ruined, families displaced, and local businesses wiped out. Hurricane Ian halted life as we know it for Southwest Floridians; yet the destructive aftermath of this raging storm has been surpassed by the outpouring of benevolence shared with our fractured community, thus reminding us of the timely value of compassion. The immediate response of those within our community, and even outside our area, prioritized caring for one another, which has created the opportunity to grow stronger as a region. Working together rather than fighting against one another has proven significant to begin the challenging but critical process of rebuilding broken homes and restoring heartbroken lives. Though Southwest Florida residents prepared for the hurricane but could not prevent the hurricane’s assault, in the aftermath, we have been presented with the occasion to care for the urgent needs of others, even as we face similar struggles. Suffering is the great equalizer. Yet, how we respond to adversity has the potential to encourage others enduring identical circumstances as our own.
The cost of cleanup will undoubtedly be expensive when surveying all the damage; but the priceless investment of personally caring for people can demonstrate the strength of a community’s resolve and their commitment to support one another during a mutual trial. When affected by a widespread crisis, the choice to care for others as a conduit of compassion is a decision that frequently confronts each of us. Will we seek to assist a neighbor or aid a family member regardless of our differences or preferences? Common calamity affords the option to come together, not drift apart, to heroically help the afflicted move forward amid hardship rather than hinder them from recovery. We should never underestimate the long-term effect of patient kindness and sacrificial generosity for the welfare of someone else experiencing a difficult season.
Tangible disaster relief can start with you, or with me, by reaching out to another person who has a noticeable need that we may have the ability to meet by putting compassion into action. Let us share our burdens rather than shun fellow citizens and extend calming comfort in the midst of turmoil. In 1 John 3:17-18, the Bible asks, “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?…Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” Christ the Savior went beyond speaking about God’s love and tangibly demonstrated His love and compassion for sinners like us by sacrificially giving His life so that we could be saved for eternity.
Storms could care less who or what they destroy, but as people, we can respond differently by caring for residents within our cities, especially for weary individuals who might be drowning in despair or sinking in sorrow and doubting God’s goodness. We can offer them a ray of hope displayed in the form of courageous compassion. In a culture that seeks to divide rather than unite, denying compassion to each other is more costly in the long run. Hurricanes may endure for a night, but God’s grace and mercy prevails in the morning to reestablish a vital connection among diverse community members as we choose to care for one another instead of exercising indifference.
For all the time and resources our culture spends in finding ways to exert their right to choose for matters that seek to prioritize self, we have been given a remarkable choice to respond to natural disaster in an unnatural way by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. How might calamitous circumstances result in another’s wellbeing if we made the conscious choice to replace criticizing with caring, exchange slandering with serving, or swap loathing with loving? Could this produce enriching gratitude rather than consuming grief for one who has been wounded by severe weather? The choice is ours.