Many of us are seeing the images of the catastrophic flooding coming out of our nation’s fourth largest city, Houston, Texas at this time. When you look closely at the images and the faces, what do you see? When you listen to those on the news pleading to be rescued or discussing the loss that they have suffered, what do you hear? What do you feel? Do you see and/or hear their pain, their suffering, their fear, their anxiety, and their uncertainty?
Some of you are experiencing this horrendous flooding personally. Some of you are there right now in it’s midst. Some of you are our family and friends. One of our family members is no longer in his home and is staying elsewhere with his family. Another of our family members is in his home with his family, but they are surrounded by water. There is no way to drive out. One of our friends and his family are watching a river that is projected to get to 59 feet by Thursday which is bad news for their home. Some of you have lost your homes and/or your businesses. Some of you are grieving those who have died in this devastation. All of you who are there in the midst of this tragedy, we want you to know that we send you our love and prayers.
We hear the stories of devastation, of deaths, of loss of homes and businesses, and of so much trauma. But are we listening? Are we taking time out of our busy days to see how we can help? Are we stopping to pray for the needs that countless people in Texas and Louisiana currently have? Who are we in the midst of tragedy and trauma?
Are we the ones who try to turn our heads when there is trauma and tragedy? Do we try to avoid those situations when others are in need because we feel unsure of what to do or say? Do we turn our heads and try to pretend like we didn’t see or hear someone who is in need? Does our concern of what to say paralyze us and isolate us from those in need? Do our own feelings of helplessness and/or inadequacy cause us to avoid those who are experiencing trauma and tragedy? Who are we in the midst of tragedy and trauma?
Are we the ones who stand in judgment when there is trauma and tragedy? Do we judge situations and people based on our own experiences? Are we quick to judge those that we think caused the tragedy and trauma? Are we judging those who are experiencing tragedy and trauma because we think that we know what they should have done or what they should be doing? Do we think that we are an expert in a situation that we are not even experiencing ourselves? Who are we in the midst of tragedy and trauma?
There are so many needs that daily surround us. Some of us are quick to help and do what we can to be of service. I look at this picture of this Houston Police SWAT officer Daryl Hudeck (AP Photo/David J. Phillip), and I have so many thoughts and feelings as I look at it. He is carrying Catherine Pham and her son Aiden after rescuing them from their home that is surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey.(AP). Daryl, like so many in service professions, is there doing whatever he can to rescue others and to provide help and support. We cannot sufficiently provide enough gratitude or adequately express our thankfulness to all those who serve our country and our citizens. Whether it is our firefighters, military, EMTs and medical workers, law enforcement personnel, and all those who daily serve our country and our fellow citizens, you are our true heroes. You walk into tragedy and trauma and do what you can to help others. Thank you to all those in service during this current devastation, and those who provide service every day of the year. We thank you for how you give to us and meet needs every day. You are our true heroes. Thank you.
Who do we want to be in the midst of tragedy and trauma? Looking back on this picture, Catherine’s expression can be interpreted in many different ways. What do you see? Do you see anxiety, concern, pain, or even some relief? Her adorable son Aiden is nestled in and is taking comfort in his mother’s loving embrace. He most likely has no idea of the devastation that he is surrounded with. He just knows that he is with his mom where he knows he can find safety and comfort. His mom is finding safety in the arms of this Houston Police SWAT officer as her baby finds safety in her arms. Are we those type of people? Will we come along and meet the needs of others while they are experiencing tragedy and trauma? Will others be able to find safety and comfort in us? Will we allow ourselves to step out of the comfort zone of our own lives in order to meet the needs of others who are suffering? Who do we want to be in the midst of tragedy and trauma?
Recently when I was talking to my nephew, he had recently seen the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi which is as follows:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is dying that we are born to eternal life.”
My nephew was in awe of the beauty of these precious words. He saw it on a doctor’s door. When he talked to me about it, then I shared how much I loved the words and their beautiful meaning. It is truly one of my favorites!! How wonderful if this could be our focus- to sow love, pardon, faith, hope, light, and joy. How incredible if our thoughts and our actions could reach outside of our own personal trauma and tragedy, and if we would seek to console, understand, love, give, and pardon others!! What an incredible place this would be. These words are my prayer. I do not want to turn my head from others who are in the midst of trauma and tragedy. I do not want to judge anyone and especially those who are experiencing trauma and tragedy. It is my prayer that I may live by the words of this beautiful prayer. That is who I want to be in the midst of tragedy and trauma.
If you are currently experiencing trauma and tragedy personally, then during this time, it is most likely extremely difficult to look outside of your own pain and trauma and to think of trying to help someone with their own pain and trauma. I will share that after the death of my husband in August 2011 and the death of my only 18 year old son in June 2013, then there were plenty of moments that I did not know how to look beyond my own pain. I could not see past it because I felt so devastated by my own pain and loss. This can happen to us as we are personally experiencing tragedy and trauma. Sometimes, we are too overcome by our feelings and by our own grief. Sometimes, we are just trying to figure out how to live through our pain and to get through a day. Unfortunately, we have seasons in our lives where we may feel this way. I know that I sure have. As we travel our grief journey and/or our season of tragedy and trauma, then hopefully, somehow, we will still be able to find hope and peace. Even if we can’t understand the events that are occurring, may we still find hope and peace. I know that I do not understand the why of the deaths of my husband and my son. That is why I seek the peace that passes understanding. I pray for that peace for others who are suffering unexplainable trauma and tragedy in their lives. Just as in this devastation in Houston… may all those affected be able to still find hope and peace in the midst of their pain and suffering that they are currently experiencing. That is what I hope for all those currently in the midst of tragedy and trauma.
I love the true beauty of sunrises and sunsets. I also love the countless symbolic meanings behind them. When we look back on our lives, then perhaps we feel saddened by who we have been in the midst of tragedy and trauma. Perhaps, we have turned our heads from those suffering. Perhaps, we have judged those who are experiencing tragedy and trauma. Just like the sunset symbolizes the end of the day that has passed, then let us look at those actions that we wish to change as gone with the previous day and symbolized in the sunset. Let us now look to the beauty of a new sunrise… of a new beginning where we live by the words of Saint Francis. Let us sow love, pardon, faith, hope, light, and joy. Let us seek to console, understand, love, give, and pardon others!! In the midst of tragedy and trauma and in every day of our lives that we have in our future, let us live these words. Thank you Saint Francis. This is who I hope we will all be in the midst of tragedy and trauma.
Thank you to all those who are serving those in need every day. May we be people who others can find safety and comfort in. May they not find judgment or disregard of their pain and suffering in us. May they find love and comfort. Let us all be those people in the midst of tragedy and trauma.