by Jenna Olson Popp
Another disaster has struck the continental United States, displacing thousands of people, leaving some trapped in their homes or cars with no way to escape, and destroying neighborhoods in the fourth-biggest city in the U.S. This storm has been compared to Hurricane Katrina, and the pictures are jaw-dropping. And what’s worse than all of this? The storm is expected to head back to the Gulf of Mexico, just to come back and dump some more rain on this already weakened area.
It’s honestly hard for me to comprehend events like these. The only thing that can help me vaguely grasp the reality these people are facing is by picturing my apartment flooded, or thinking about getting rescued in a stranger’s boat and floating down O Street to find more people.
Events like these are powerful moments that get at the heart of the human experience. It’s the reason we crave to see pictures of strangers using their boats to rescue neighbors or the National Guard carrying two young children out of their flooded home. It’s the hope we yearn for. It’s the humanity we seek to find in these incomprehensible times.
But I’m in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I’m writing this on a very beautiful sunny day and have no natural threat to me now that tornado season has passed. So what can I do? I’ve prayed, I’ve listened to the news, I’ve actively sought out the truth so I can at least empathize with these people. All the newspapers tell me to do is give to this, this, or this; give money, not goods. I have this yearning in me to be generous, and I feel a sense of call to aid my brothers and sisters in Houston. I’m just stuck discerning how best to do that right now.
And then it hit me.
Why don’t I feel this yearning, or more accurately this need, to be generous every day?
Why does it take such a large-scale disaster to get me to act?
Why am I so emotionally exhausted thinking about Texans suffering but immune to the suffering in my own community and neighborhood?
These disasters always lead me to reflect, and today I’m wondering how I channel this call of generosity to the lives nearest to me. What if I always gave to my local Food Bank so the people in my community would always be fed? What if I partnered with Lutheran Family Services and helped to welcome a refugee family into the community? What if I wrote more thank you notes to my friends and mentors? What if I truly lived a life of generosity? How beautiful would that be?
Now don’t get me wrong, Texas and Louisiana need our financial and physical support. And we need people to act on this yearning to give for the sake of our brothers and sisters whose lives have been upended. That’s real.
But I also think we need people here in Lincoln, Nebraska, who recognize the power simple acts of generosity could have on their own community. Because the 30,000 displaced persons in Houston and the 10 homeless people on downtown P Street are both crises to me.
So may we seek this yearning to be generous every day.
May we be made aware of the suffering of others around us, in our own communities, and be lead to act in generous ways. And may this life of generosity transform us and continually lead us to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
Creator God, we lift up all those affected by Hurricane Harvey today. Provide them their daily bread, and comfort their hearts as they seek to find hope and peace in the midst of their current chaos. Continue to give strength to those helping with relief efforts, that they might provide a touch of humanity for the lost, scared, and hopeless. Amen.