I have been watching the water rise in Houston and other parts of Texas. Unless you have been in a major flood you really don’t understand what floods can do. I know we have all seen the terrible pictures of people walking on major highways, escaping their homes that are going under water. It breaks my heart to see the look on the faces of people of all ages suffering through loss of nearly everything but their lives and the clothes on their back.
I have some idea of the magnitude of what this is like to see your community go underwater before your very eyes. I grew up in the Red River Valley of the North, that winding river between North Dakota and Minnesota. Every spring, depending on how much snow you had that winter, the rain and the melting snow causes a flood. Some years were not so bad, but 1997 was terrible for thousands of folks who lived along its banks and even farther away. Towns like Grand Forks, Fargo, Breckenridge and many small communities were either under water or abandoned because of the flood waters.
Certainly the flood that inundated the Red River Valley was not on the same scale that we see in Texas. The number of people is a big difference, but the individual stories are all very much the same. The loss of your home, fleeing to higher ground, watching the water rise as it goes over sandbags or levees, possessions lost and one’s entire life uprooted.
But the flip side in such a disaster are the heroes that don’t want to be called heroes. They just want to be a helpful neighbor. Whether they are from down the street, across town, across the state or across the nation, whether these folks wear a uniform or blue jeans: these are our neighbors.
Disasters tend to break down the walls that can separate us. The people who come to the aid of those in need don’t ask who you voted for, don’t care about your religion, if you are rich or poor, or the color of your skin, because to them you are their neighbor. I heard many a volunteer who came to help say, “That it is what neighbors do” or “That is how God wants us to care for our neighbor.”
Then there is “Mattress Max” who opened up his two furniture stores to all who came seeking help. He offered them food to eat from the restaurants he has at each of his stores. He even sent out his furniture trucks to rescue people. When asked why he said, “Well that is what Christ would want me to do!”
After the water has gone down, there will be so much clean-up needed to be done. The folks in Texas will still need the help of neighbors from all over the country. That is what the folks in the Red River Valley found out. They also found they had neighbors they didn’t even know about from all over the country. I am sure the folks in New Orleans could say the same.
Our country has been facing political and cultural storms that have wounded and divided us as a nation. How strange that a storm created by nature can bring people together to help and heal one another as neighbors. God may not have caused the storm, but I believe he used the storm to show how his love, shared from one neighbor to another, can bind us as one.