Born of Tragedy

I don’t know why but I am very interested in disasters.  Whether natural or man-made, it matters not.  But reading about disasters is fascinating to me.  There is just something about Chernobyl or the 2004 tsunami – I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about them.

I think it started when I was ten.  I lived in north-central Illinois and there was a tornado warning.  A newcomer to the area, I was terrified.  We were in the basement watching television until the power went out.  Then we opened the windows and listened to the unmistakable roar of a tornado.  It didn’t sound like a freight train to me.  But the sound was burned into my brain.  It would be 33 years before I heard it again. and it was just as fresh in my mind as the first time I heard it.

We were in Corpus Christi when Hurricane Allen headed to town, so we evacuated to Austin.  That was where I first saw a tornado.  Meteorology became a hobby of mine from that point.  Not a career – too much physics!  And a fascination with disasters was born.

I have since read books and internet about these events.  The mechanics behind disasters, the Grandcamp explosion in Texas City for example, stir my mind.  But the stories of the wounded and survivors stir compassion in my soul.

It was the compassion that was first stirred when I heard about the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.  There was nothing I could do but donate money, and that likely never made it to the people who needed it.  That compassion continued to grow as I saw homeless people every day lining the streets in Houston asking for help.  In 2005, I volunteered at a church helping evacuees from Hurricane Katrina.  I could not believe the sheer numbers of people who needed food and clothing.

Disaster came close but never touched me until September, 2008.  Hurricane Ike struck Galveston and Houston, causing several million dollars in damage.  It wiped out much of Galveston Island.  As my neighbors reached out to help each other, I joined in as much as I could.  I was fortunate, my office was open and needed anybody who could get there.

But after the hurricane was over and the cleanup completed, there were still people on the street with no food.  There were still families living in run-down shacks that survived the hurricane.  With the economic crisis, many more were losing their homes.

There may be disasters overseas, but a far greater disaster is the slow creep of apathy right here in the prosperous United States. 

Today that compassion continues to grow.  I have learned that disaster is not necessarily an event.  It is a consumption of humanity.  The value of the dollar is greater than the value of people.  And the electorate demands that the government take care of people so we don’t have to.

That is why I support the heroes of today – heroes like The Blanket Project and Impact Houston Church of Christ.  These are selfless people who spend their time collecting items like food and blankets and coats to distribute to the poor and homeless.  The cold and hungry.  The forgotten.

Won’t you join me?  Please join me in supporting these and others who still see the value of people.  Find someone in your neck of the woods that supports those who need help.  Hey, it will help reduce your tax burden!  But better yet, if you actually spend time handing food or blankets to the people who need them, you will find a peace and joy that you have never known before.  Their smile will warm your heart like nothing else can.

Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40, The Message)

Thanks for listening.


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