Floods and Humans
On September 12, 2013, the town in which I live, Lyons, Colorado, experienced a devastating flood (pictured below) from which we still, four years later, have not fully recovered. Over 125 houses were destroyed and two bridges I regularly used were obliterated. Neither has yet been rebuilt. It will be a decade before the effects of the flood are erased. Because of the lack of basic utilities, Cathy and I were out of our undamaged home for two months. As difficult as the experience was, the overall memories are not negative.
On Friday, the day after the flood, I received a phone call from a FEMA representative offering to meet me in the Longmont Walmart at 10:00 AM on Saturday. There I received a $1,000 check to cover hotel expenses for the next seven days. I don’t even know how FEMA knew to contact us. All told we received over $4,000 in help for housing and repairs, which covered about half of our costs. FEMA and the Salvation Army were amazing. Individual citizens, churches, non-profits and governmental agencies were extraordinarily caring. Major corporations were less so.
The apartment complex in which we temporarily located, Camden Interlocken, was tone deaf to the needs of their many temporary residents, refusing to break leases when people were finally free to return to their homes. Mortgage companies refused to waive late fees when people had no ability to get to their checkbooks in their inaccessible homes. Unfortunately, too much of corporate America behaved exactly as you would imagine, soulless.
The people of Texas are in the midst of devastation that is unprecedented, yet I have no doubt their experience will be similar to ours. There will be a minority of carpetbaggers, but those negative experiences will be overwhelmed by the kindness of thousands who will arrive with hands and hearts full of love. It will give the weary residents hope that in spite of their extraordinary trials, most humans are, in fact, altruistic.
America needs that message. The mood in our nation is exactly as I expected it to be when the election turned out as it did. We are more divided than we have ever been. Our president is without moral authority. From his unacceptable comments about Charlottesville to his disappointing exclusion of transgender individuals from military service, this one human has done more damage in seven months than most could accomplish in a lifetime.
And yet, as the tragedy in Texas tells us, most Americans, even those who support 45, are far better people than this president whose time shall soon pass. The resilience the residents of Texas have shown and will continue to show will not only take them through this time of tragedy, it will serve as a reminder that our nation is more than what we see in Washington. It will not be the politicians who bring comfort to Texas. It will be the American people.
As frightened as I am of losing more rights than I have already lost, and as weary as I am from the attacks that continue from the religious right, I am not losing hope, because everywhere I turn I see good people who, in spite of the mayhem, are loving well.
Last weekend I gave the keynote speech at the leadership retreat of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boulder Valley. I was impressed by the compassion, love and commitment to the rights of all people exhibited by these leaders who, incidentally, are considered lost by their evangelical neighbors. They welcomed my knowledge and wisdom that had once been welcomed by the megachurches a stone’s throw away, churches that would no longer allow me through their doors, let alone instruct their leaders.
Jesus was right. By their fruit you will know them. The leaders at the Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Church; the Salvation Army workers who stayed for months after our flood until the last person needing a meal had been served; the thousands of rescue workers and everyday citizens who will rise to meet the needs of the residents of Texas; these are the real followers of Jesus. The pretenders, whether corporate or political or religious, are just pretenders.
And so it goes.