I’ve been thinking about this storm and the stories we are telling. What’s striking is that I can almost guarantee that my experience of Irene and someone else’s experience right around the block from me are going to be wildly different. Instead of widespread paths of destruction it seems as though we have pockets of wreckage; so clearly marked that you can see where things begin and end and begin again.
Trees that have fallen through houses, cars and trailer homes. Root balls the size of houses. Creeks and streams flowing over roads. Power lines tangled and suspended overhead even though the bottom 10 feet of some poles are missing. And then you turn the corner and see a block of houses untouched.
Remarkably, at our house we rode out the storm and never lost power. Three days after Irene and I know of many who have been told that it will be days more before power is restored. About all we had to deal with was the cable going out – so insignificant that I feel guilty mentioning it in light of what others are dealing with.
The stories I’m enjoying hearing are the way neighbors have pulled together and helped remove downed trees and limbs. People who had power restored opening their homes to neighbors who need a place to stay. The church in Dundalk who is feeding over 80 residents of a senior apartment complex that is without power. Irene is uncovering a goodness in people that we often gloss over. Its there, we usually just see the dross that’s caked over it.
In times of crisis like this most people pull together and they remember something thought long forgotten – community. Not just people living in proximity to one another, but people doing life together. That’s what we mean in the church when we talk about being part of a fellowship. Deep, abiding, lasting community. Fellowship like that has little or nothing to do with coffee and donuts.
At its core, its something far deeper. It means life lived together. Its living into the idea that my life’s wreckage can flow into those places where your life has been relatively untouched and together we can put the pieces back together again. It’s the believe that your broken places can meet the grace I have to offer and you can find healing. All of this because we believe that God wants us to be whole. That God wants us to experience shalom; a word that means so much more than simply “peace.” It more properly means something like “well-being” or “completeness.” And we believe that God wants that for us.
Typically, after an event like Hurricane Irene, some time will pass and then we will all go back to our routines and retreat back inside our houses. The connections that we made this week with neighbors will become moments we look back on with fondness and say, “Remember after the hurricane when …” but we won’t do much to maintain the community we’ve started to rekindle.
More’s the shame for us; especially for the Church. This is an opportunity for us to do the thing we’re supposed to be really good at – community. Doing life together not because of a storm, but because of a Story – “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” I don’t care whether your church is big or small, real community is something you can do. Should do. But will you?
Don’t let this be another woulda-shoulda-coulda moment. We’ve stirred up something. Something good. What can you do to make sure it lingers?