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So far, Hurricane Harvey has claimed 60 lives and created almost $200 billion of damage.  In a few days, Irma, a much stronger storm, will be pummeling Caribbean islands and the Southeast U.S. with even stronger winds and a similar deluge.  Many families have lost everything.  Few have flood insurance.  Elected officials promise help, but nothing will be able to erase the anguish, fear, and loss that these two "acts of God" have created.  

What have been the human responses?  Some looting.  Widespread feelings of defeat and despair.  Some blaming and anger that "they" aren't doing enough or didn't do more.

The biggest story, though, headlined by news outlets as diverse as The Washington Times, cnsnews, and newstalkers is, as the daily puts it, "Hurricane Harvey Brings Out the Best in Americans." 

In this outlet's frequently-reprinted words,

"Pictures of destroyed homes and flooded neighborhoods are heartbreaking, but the inspiring images of neighbors helping neighbors and average citizens performing heroic acts has shown Texas, and America, at its best. . . .  

There is no telling how many lives have been saved because countless individuals took it upon themselves to wade through streets searching for family, friends, and strangers trapped by rising flood waters, using their personal boats, kayaks, and jet skis to reach people rescue workers could not, and opening up their homes to those who had nowhere to go. . . .

. . .Civil society, the little platoons that philosopher Edmund Burke referred to, while missing from most headlines and cable news, is still there."

As the photo records show, these acts of personal heroism, collaboration, and love happened without concern for age, gender, political, or racial differences.  Before offering aid, nobody was checking voting records, immigration status, or skin color.  Engagement, support, assistance, and comfort were offered person-to-person.  Whatever people had, they gave to others because the others needed it--a saving boat ride, bottles of water, a place to regroup or sleep, dinner, help filling out FEMA forms.  Person-to-person.

It's ironic and unfortunate that it often takes the worst "Acts of God" to bring out the best in us.  How can the fundamental human caring that this storm triggered be energized in our everyday lives?  How can this desire to help however I can, and to help whomever needs it replace our desire to shout down political enemies and marginalize people we think are different from us?  

Underlying all the magnificent, humane generosity is the recognition that all human beings are reflective choice-makers with emotions-spirit-personality, beings who can be mindful, and each of whom is unique.  Each generous, life-giving or life-saving gesture also embodies these same qualities of the person giving the gift.  He remembered back when his family was flooded.  She chooses to help even though it takes her away from work.  He felt his neighbors' pain and fear, even though he's black and they're white.  She was mindfully present to the flood refugees she comforted in the temporary shelter.  All this is what it means to communicate "as personally as possible."  Each of these events is an example of what can happen "when uniquenesses meet."

And when "the best of us" comes out in these ways, all over the hundreds of square miles affected by a storm like Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma, we come closer to living out our full potential as human beings.

The storms knock us out of the echo chambers where we've been living, listening to and talking with only those who agree with us.  It destroys the cardboard signs with their simplistic and hateful slogans that we carry as we protest the views of those with whom we disagree.  It shifts our priorities from "winning" to "collaborating," from watching and correcting to listening and connecting.

Might this be the real reason for and the greatest benefit from climate change?  So there'll be more storms that Bring Out The Best In Us?




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