It’s been quite a week. Waiting for a hurricane to arrive is like being stalked by a turtle. It seems to take forever, although it is mere days. Waiting for it to pass takes what feels like another decade, although it is mere hours.
Most of the members of my congregation in Sarasota, Florida fared well, with nothing more than minor inconveniences. But thousands of households less than 20 miles south experienced the nightmare of a horribly destructive storm. Lives and homes were destroyed and tragically lost.
Short of blaming God or the Fates or luck, there is no way to reconcile these two disparate experiences, so close and yet so very far apart. When the Unetane Tokef prayer asks, “Who will live and who will die? Who by fire and who by water?” we want to think that the question is theoretical. Suddenly, in the instant known as Hurricane Ian, it became all too real.
I find it impossible to believe in a God who would arbitrarily choose that my house would be untouched and another family’s completely destroyed, by the same storm, in the same hours, just a few miles apart.
Here is what I do believe: I believe the families who lost their homes and their possessions are connected to me by invisible lines of connection, by a common humanity that binds us one to another. As soon as the storm passed I sought out charities to help those strangers, helping make sure that my food bank was full and my Red Cross is stocked with blood.
I know my efforts are inadequate to making a meaningful difference. As Amos Oz taught, if you don’t have a bucket to bring to a house-fire, bring a glass, and if you don’t have a glass, bring a teaspoon. Everyone has a teaspoon, he wrote. Everyone can do one tiny thing, and combined with the teaspoon-sized efforts of thousands of others, maybe, just maybe, we can make a difference.
A blessing for after the storm:
Holy One of Blessing, give strength to the crews working night and day to restore power, the medical personnel helping the hurt and injured, the police and fire crews who keep people safe, the charitable organizations that are working tirelessly to help the helpless, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless.
Comfort those who lost family members, beloved pets, homes and possessions. Give strength and courage to all who serve, and inspire all of us to be our highest selves, serving the needs of those who are in pain.
May we be blessed to respect the awesome power of your creation, to understand that nature can be stronger than us. Bless us to remember that the planet depends on us to care for it, that life is both beautiful and precious. Remind us when we pray to you that it is in our hands to protect and care for one another, during good times and bad. Amen