In the storms and after: Familiarity, imperfection, kindness

They say a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, and a depression is when you lose yours. Natural disasters seem to work the same way, eliciting empathy in proportion to their proximity.

Why?

Maybe it’s seeing your own city’s name in the corner of the screen, while the weatherman points to a map where a red mass is rubbing against a green mass. And that rubbing and the nine-point-five on the BTI (what’s a BTI?) means tornadoes. And the whole thing is moving toward that corner of the screen at…60 miles an hour. And that corner of the screen is…60 miles away. And that means it’s here in…60 minutes. Or will it turn?

Maybe it’s those other city names on the screen, some you’ve seen on a city limits sign, some you’ve seen on an interstate sign, some that sound so far-fetched (there’s a Margaret in Alabama? I mean, a place named Margaret?) they might not appear on any signs. Some have stronger associations in your mind, like the guys from Euharlee and Taylorsville who worked with you at Boy Scout camp, and that troop from Lindale that spent a week there every summer. Or the Alabama football game you saw in Tuscaloosa, or the prep games you watched at Ringgold High School’s stadium.

AP Photo/The Tuscaloosa News, Dusty Compton

AP Photo/The Tuscaloosa News, Dusty Compton

Maybe it’s the familiarity of the cities on the screen when the images of the unfolding disaster, caught on video, appear. Not that you’ve spent any more time in Forestdale, Ala., than in Fukushima, Japan. But in the images from these cities — those buildings cowering before the towering gray funnel, those convenience stores and burger joints flattened like trod-upon matchboxes, those people sifting through wreckage or reduced to sitting and staring at all the something turned to nothing — you see your buildings, your people.

Why? It just is.

It’s just different when it’s your own.

Is that an awful realization? I mean, the realization that — even if all your loved ones are safe and sound, mere miles (but miles enough) away from the darkened path — you might care about the losses of nearby strangers more than far-flung ones?

Maybe it is. But then there’s this: In proximity there can be not only empathy, but action.

If there but for the grace of God went you, if the names of those cities had some meaning for you, if the devastated look like your own — if so, then the urge to give what you can, to do what you can, is all the harder to shake.

If all this sounds like imperfect empathy and charity, well, we are an imperfect people living in an imperfect world.

Those who look for more reason amid wreckage will rarely be satisfied. And so they often will ask another “why” question, directed to those who lean instead on faith — and there are many who do in the part of the world that includes Margaret and Euharlee and Taylorsville and Lindale and Tuscaloosa and Ringgold and Forestdale.

That question is: Why did your God let so much pain come to so many people? Where was He?

If you lean on faith and believe that, as the psalmist wrote, “the fear [read: reverence and respect] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” you’ll refrain from definitive answers.

AJC photo, John Spink

AJC photo, John Spink

But you may suggest that, to some people, God spoke during the storm. And, to others, He speaks afterward — in the imperfect but loving kindness of those who clothe and shelter them, who console them and help them rebuild.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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64 comments Add your comment

fair and imbalanced

April 29th, 2011
6:42 pm

I think Jesus was too busy answering the prayers of the Hawks.

catlady

April 29th, 2011
7:01 pm

I am thankful for all the kindness shown those who are suffering, and those who immediately sprung into action. Those who have lost loved ones, and all their possessions, will deal with this for years. May God comfort them.

However, I am watching for those counties (heavily R and TP) to start calling for FEMA help/payments. I have seen that here in my county. They say, “Less government.” and “Keep your hands out of my pocket!” yet will line up for the money quickly. My county is expressing a great deal of anguish because it cannot qualify for FEMA funds because the county did not suffer enough loss in the storms a few weeks ago.

Evelyn B.

April 29th, 2011
7:17 pm

I have paid hundreds of thousands in taxes over my life time, and I am pleased my contributions to our governments’s operations are being used to help Americans, in these circumstances. God Bless the United States of America and all those blessed to live here.
It is okay, that charity begins here, in our home.

Michael H. Smith

April 29th, 2011
7:34 pm

Hiss, hiss, kittie, kittie… Do you ever watch what people who are members or people aligned with R and TP have to say about what are the “acceptable reasons for running deficits”?

Does war and natural disasters sound familiar?

Now go get your money folks in those heavily R and TP counties, just nudge those life-long BIG GUB’MENT trough-feeders to the side if they get in your way and get the relief you need.

Otherwise, kittie, kittie, “GIVE ME A BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION, LESS GUB’MENT EMPLOYEES AND KEEP YOUR BIG SOCIALIST GUB’MENT HANDS OUT OF MY LIFE AND POCKETS” hiss, hiss.

@@

April 29th, 2011
8:02 pm

The Henry County BoC is asking for volunteers to help clean up nearby Sunnyside, just north of Griffin. My husband and I will be there. Come one, come all.

@@

April 29th, 2011
8:03 pm

Or go where your heart leads. I doubt Sunnyside will be getting help from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Too small.

Buzz G

April 30th, 2011
7:35 am

Charity is when I reach into my pocket and spend my money to help out. It is not charity when I reach into someone else’s pocket to help out. Let’s see Obama give up some golf and trips and use some of his own money to help these unfortunate people in Alabama.

carlosgvv

April 30th, 2011
8:25 am

Kyle, that reasoning about God and why this happened is the usual convoluted mental gymnastics of the true believers. They will say God made everything and is Lord of the Universe. Then, when a disaster happens that this “God of Love” could have easily prevented, they shrug their shoulders and talk about God’s will. If God really made everything and is Lord of the Universe, then He is ultimately responsible for everything that happens. If over 300 people getting killed in tornados is your idea of a “God of Love”, I can only look at you in utter disbelief.

Michael H. Smith

April 30th, 2011
8:58 am

A great deal of convoluted mental gymnastics is necessary for the true believers in religion or science to blame or credit either deity or evolution for the conformation of many events that take place in life beyond the laws of nature which points to the existence of both in an unfathomable universe.

Sister Sarah

April 30th, 2011
9:01 am

@Buzz
Screw YOU. I want the President reachinginto MY pocket to give YOUR PERCEIVED “charity” to Alabamans. SCREW THEM TOO. The storms didn’t affect me. They can dig themselves out without the help of the “government”!! Furthermore, Obama owes them and you NOTHING from his own pocket. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. **sigh** I feel so much better now. How do you feel?

Mary

April 30th, 2011
9:04 am

….our “own” Katrina if you will.
and folks like Donald Trump running here & there
to venues ranting and raving like a mad dog. Remind you of someone
lately ie: C Sheen perhaps…..Money destroys the minds of these
people that have it. It is the quiet, peaceful civic minded souls
donating to Red Cross… a few dollars at a time. Small as we all may seem, in huge numbers we do get the work done–without venues and realizing the greater purpose. God Bless each of you.

fair and imbalanced

April 30th, 2011
10:31 am

Alabama hates the fed. Now they are crying for Fed help? God does have a sense of irony. I say let the Tea Party take care of it.

carlosgvv

April 30th, 2011
10:40 am

Michael H. Smith

Evolution is not a theory. It is a fact. I really happened. However, evolution is a subject of Biology, not the weather. If someones blames evolution for what happened in Alabama, they know nothing about science.

One Nation Under educated

April 30th, 2011
11:41 am

if this doesn’t remind you that we’re All In This Together…

well, then they don’t make a bus that short

Hillbilly Deluxe

April 30th, 2011
11:56 am

Times are tough for a lot of people but I’d encourage everybody to give whatever help they can.

Michael H. Smith

April 30th, 2011
12:17 pm

carlosgvv

April 30th, 2011
10:40 am

God is fact so is evolution. Both take a great deal of faith at some point to explain or accept.

If someones blames evolution for what happened in Alabama, they know nothing about science.

If you choose to think this, then you certainly can, as others can certainly think differently and say that you know nothing without any proof beyond their declarative statement.

Michael H. Smith

April 30th, 2011
12:19 pm

fair and imbalanced

April 30th, 2011
10:31 am

Definitely imbalanced.

old timer

April 30th, 2011
12:30 pm

People in GA and AL paid their share of taxes, they should receive the help as much as anyone.

old timer

April 30th, 2011
12:30 pm

And Kyle…well written

carlosgvv

April 30th, 2011
12:34 pm

Michael H. Smith

Did you attend one of those Christian schools where creationism is taught as fact? If not, your science teachers must have been under the control of a fundamentalist school board and parents as you obviously know nothing about science.

Michael H. Smith

April 30th, 2011
12:42 pm

“What’s amazing is when something like this happens folks forget all their petty differences.”

~ Obama

Well, lil barry, we may not forget all of our petty differences but we do remember our common humanity when something like this happens and that is truly amazing.

Michael H. Smith

April 30th, 2011
1:11 pm

carlosgvv

April 30th, 2011
12:34 pm

No, I was compelled by mom, dad and the police powers of the State into attending one of those GUB’MENT institutions of lesser learning where creationism (and far too much of everything else) was never actually taught and God seldom received any acknowledgment. Fortunately, education as I learned by some great miracle doesn’t begin or end with public schools.

If you think evolution is a subject of Biology that does not encompass the subject of things like weather then you greatly lack the knowledge to speak of science, period.

shep

April 30th, 2011
2:45 pm

Funny how all these repub tea party “let’s gut the fed gov” folks up in N Ga are now getting a nice fat big gov handout from the feds to help them with their recovery efforts. Don’t you think that you should hire a private company and pay for it yourself? Why should my tax dollars pay to clean up your mess?

shep

April 30th, 2011
2:50 pm

Perhaps you can get Trump and Palin to write you a check and share some of there wealth to help you out but wait, that would be income redistribution.

Linda

April 30th, 2011
3:36 pm

The world is a wicked & dangerous place to live. We suffer personal tragedies & great global catastrophies. Christians believe that the only perfect place is Heaven. Life is no more than a test.
The main reason for prayer is to thank God, not to ask for favors. The second reason for prayer is to pray for each other. We trust God to know what is best. It’s His will, not ours.
Weather caused destruction this week, again. It is part of the natural cycle of our planet. It was here before we were. The sun rises & sets, & the rain pours down on all of us, whether we have been good or bad.
We do not know why diasters happen but we do know that we will all die.
There are always good things that come from bad things. After a personal tradegy in my family, I told my mother that had this not happened, we might not have ever known how so many people loved us so much in so many ways. We learn new perspectives, repriotize our lives, learn who the heroes are & appreciate all the responders from the first to the fifteenth.
God creates rainbows at the end of a storm & shines His light for us. We will always have opportunities to be someone’s rainbow or to brighten someone’s life.

Real American

April 30th, 2011
3:59 pm

Perhaps we shouldn’t want the big overreaching federal government to come in and help huh Kyle? Shouldn’t you be opining over how the people really want to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and do it all of their own? What happened to your “free market, we dont need government in our lives” philosophy?

Linda

April 30th, 2011
4:46 pm

The path of destruction was in the Bible Belt. At times like this, some people question God & their faith. I have seen dozens of people interviewed on TV who lost all their possessions who have publically thanked God for their blessings. Amazing!

M

April 30th, 2011
5:21 pm

Everyone knows that all the dead people didn’t pray.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: Thee Magnificent!!! mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

April 30th, 2011
7:08 pm

He also advocates lifting regulatory and tax burdens on business. “I fundamentally don’t understand the logic of corporate income taxes,” he tells me. “If I have a 35% tax, all I do is take that 35% tax and I transfer it into the price of bacon and the price of pork chops.”

Meanwhile, the idiot liberals think they can tax “big oil.”

Do they have any sense at all?

Harvey Updyke

April 30th, 2011
8:25 pm

Everything will be ok. The people of New Orleans, Japan, Indonesia, and Hati will come to our rescue, right? Certainly they will donate and send missionaries to help with the clean up and rebuilding efforts. What’s that you say? Oh, that’s right, white people in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee don’t get the handouts that everyone else gets. Glad to see the Obama’s could swing through on the way to the family vacation to see the shuttle launch and fake a little compassion.

@@

April 30th, 2011
8:29 pm

Alright, I was in Sunnyside, GA and didn’t see any of you there. What’s up?

Just kidding. If I’d seen you, I wouldn’t have known it was you, or you, or you, or…..

Michael H. Smith

April 30th, 2011
9:51 pm

Peace be with you, Linda.

“…he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” ~ Matthew 5:45

It truly is HIS will, as the followers of Judeo-Christianity “view” it: Whether it falls within, the perfect, the conditional or the permissive will of God.

Rae

April 30th, 2011
10:19 pm

Who can take a sunrise
Sprinkle it with dew
Cover it in choc’late and a miracle or two
The Candy Man
Oh the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can
‘Cause he mixes it with love
And makes the world taste good

Who can take a rainbow
Wrap it in a sigh
Soak it in the sun and make strawb’ry lemon pie
The Candy Man
Oh the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can
‘Cause he mixes it with love
And makes the world taste good

Michael H. Smith

April 30th, 2011
11:11 pm

Speaking of sweet things…

Barack Obama, Mr. Deregulation? ~ Cato

If the FDA deems saccharin safe enough for coffee, then the EPA should not treat it as hazardous waste. ~ WSJ

The burden of regulation on Americans increased at an alarming rate in fiscal year 2010. Based on data from the Government Accountability Office, an unprecedented 43 major new regulations were imposed by Washington. And based on reports from government regulators themselves, the total cost of these rules topped $26.5 billion, far more than any other year for which records are available. These costs will affect Americans in many ways, raising the price of the cars they buy and the food they eat, while destroying an untold number of jobs. With the enactment of new health care laws, financial regulations, and plans for rulemaking in other areas, the regulatory burden on Americans is set to increase even further in the coming year. ~ Heritage

…Had the President’s speechwriters been looking for an example of a hazardous-substance rule that would actually get people talking about regulatory overreach, they might have picked EPA’s dairy-spill regulations, which (in the words of one report) “treat spilled milk like oil, requiring farmers to build extra storage tanks and form emergency spill plans….”

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/barack-obama-mr-deregulation/

~ With all the full throttle regulatory power the federal government has over everything (excluding tornadoes) it cries over “spilled milk”?

Good thing private citizens and private organizations can step up to help people effected by these recent storms without the over-reaching federal government regulating them too.

Rae

April 30th, 2011
11:36 pm

The god of the Bible also allows slavery, including selling your own daughter as a sex slave (Exodus 21:1-11), child abuse (Judges 11:29-40 and Isaiah 13:16), and bashing babies against rocks (Hosea 13:16 & Psalms 137:9).
there are no gods, no god is coming back and the bible is full of atrocities….

Michael H. Smith

April 30th, 2011
11:57 pm

Evolution allows all of that and far worse… there are no sciences, no evolution is coming back? :lol:

killerj

May 1st, 2011
9:02 am

You need to take the same attitude toward the political system in this country,different method of depression but the same effect mentally,those who prosper on the down trodden and hide behind the mask of religion to further their gains make me more determined to stop the bleeding. Go Tea Party.

@@

May 1st, 2011
9:49 am

“…he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” ~ Matthew 5:45

Very good!

Mixed blessings.

His blessings are with us everyday…for both the just and the unjust. Don’t take them for granted. If the sun shone on your house but the rain, tornado, deluge destroyed someone else’s house, share in His blessings regardless.

Being human, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people who were not just, were partaking of the blessings (supplies) being handed out in Sunnyside yesterday. There’s no way of knowing because there were no questions asked. The “gift of discernment” wasn’t present among the volunteers there.

“For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity.” Isaiah 61:8

I’ll leave the justice to Him.

M

May 1st, 2011
9:53 am

Mental gymnastics should be an Olympic sport.

Michael H. Smith

May 1st, 2011
10:20 am

My attitude is fine, as are my beliefs, for I have chosen them and I alone, as a free-moral agent with no concern of what others may think of my expressed choosing.

I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.

- Thomas Jefferson

Rae

May 1st, 2011
10:24 am

“Where ye are, death will find you, even if ye are in towers, built up strong and tall” Quran

Rae

May 1st, 2011
10:45 am

“And the Lord spake, saying, “First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.”
Monty Python quote

@@

May 1st, 2011
11:15 am

Could it be anymore obvious that the federal government is ALSO lacking in the “gift of discernment”?

Fraud and Abuse in Federal Programs

It’s not THEIR money so why should they care? They DON’T!!!!

Michael H. Smith

May 1st, 2011
11:20 am

@@ – All the more reason not to submit to the fear tactics that will be used to raise the debt ceiling.

Michael H. Smith

May 1st, 2011
11:23 am

There are only two acceptable reasons for this country to ever run a deficit: War and natural disasters.

Michael H. Smith

May 1st, 2011
11:32 am

It is quite remarkable that in Castor’s communist Cuba one million GUB’MENT employees will be fired, howbeit, here in the so-called regulated capitalist U.S.A., while millions of private sector workers have lost their jobs, our federal government in reality has not fire one GUB’MENT employee because it has actually added many more GUB’MENT workers to the federal payroll, at our private sector expense.

Michael H. Smith

May 1st, 2011
11:35 am

What is even more astounding, is that nowhere in the Ryan budget proposal is there one federal government employee eliminated from the federal payroll, as it has been reported.

Michael H. Smith

May 1st, 2011
11:45 am

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”

– Thomas Jefferson

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”

- Mother Teresa

cam

May 1st, 2011
11:46 am

I live in the Ringgold area, and we are truly and terribly hurting. We do need help from the Federal Government. Ironically, this area is a hotbed of anti-government sentiment and Obama haters. Now we have an example of why government is not bad. If we leave it up to Republicans and the Ryan budget, there will be no money to help the hurting in this country. Sadly attitudes like those of Buzz are rampant in the Republican Party and are decidedly un-Christian.

Michael H. Smith

May 1st, 2011
11:55 am

One small correction cam: This area is a hotbed of limited-government sentiment and those who find Obama obumer unacceptable as a President.

Add to this my, April 29th, 2011 7:34 pm comment.