A journalist on our staff was a photographer for a Texas newspaper in the mid-1980s. While covering the earthquakes in Mexico City a police officer there told him: “Any disaster is only honest for the first 48 hours.”
Then, trouble begins. Price gouging. Looting. Scamming. And on the more personal level, tempers fray. Many remember back to May 1980 when Mount St. Helens blew and rained ash on Spokane. The first two days people were very good. By the third day, some suffering from cabin fever jumped in their cars and roared through the streets, scattering the dust everywhere.
We are now into day five of the Inland Northwest’s ice storm disaster. It’s getting old.
The rah-rah teamwork, let’s-help-each-other attitude is hard to sustain past 48 hours, let alone double or triple that amount of time. Our community is dividing into the have-power people and the have-no-power people. You can tell the “power-less” almost on sight. Their skin looks grayer, their hair not quite as clean. They have a bit of sadness and wildness around the eyes. When you ask them how they are, the answer is rarely “Fine!”
Those with power feel a little guilty even though many are sharing homes, showers and meals with the power-less. But that can grow old, too.
This, however, is the perfect time for true personal heroism to surface. It’s a trait that lurks in all of us but it must be called forth from deep inside. Another name for this is maturity. Writer M. Scott Peck once said that many men and women act like children again in old age because they never really matured. In their middle years, they assumed a “thin veneer” of adulthood. But the veneer can be easily stripped away as old age encroaches.
A disaster that lasts longer than 48 hours can also wear away at that thin veneer of adulthood. But it doesn’t have to. Maturity in the face of disaster means you monitor the complaining you do because it saps energy. You reach out to others, even though you feel needy yourself. You take care of yourself, despite the difficulties. And, you can pray.
Here’s one prayer by writer and priest Fr. Solanus Casey. It seems perfect for today, as the ice storm disaster continues.
Do not pray for easy lives.
Pray to be stronger.
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers.
Pray for powers equal to your tasks.
Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle.
But you shall be a miracle.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board