Yesterday while driving out of the Home Depot parking lot, I began to tear up. Our 16 year old son's words kept me going.
See, I had checked my facebook before heading into the store. I discovered two CL friends are homeless. The boiler in their apartment building in Manhattan's financial district blew up as Hurricane Sandy plowed through. They are scrambling for a warm place to sleep. (They have temporary lodging in New Jersey).
Then, as we walked into the store, I was puzzled by rows of people sitting in cloth folding chairs by the customer service counter. Some were reading books; one woman was asleep. Why were they sitting there? And then it struck me: they have no heat in their homes thanks to Hurricane Sandy.
It's easy to lull myself into thinking life is back to normal. Our home now has heat, electricity, cable TV, phone and internet service. But life is anything but normal for millions in our region. Our children are old enough that their sense of optimism has kept me going in moments when I am tempted to sink into despair.
When our boys were young and Sept. 11 happened, I kept going because of my children. I had no choice. They needed to be fed. Gabriel needed to be walked to his kindergarten bus stop. Lucas needed to be nursed and diapered.
Hurricane Sandy is a minor inconvenience for our family but it is similar to the attacks in that my husband has been thrown into hour upon hour of recovery work, thanks to his job. Also, the hurricane, like the attacks, hit this region hard and caused great suffering.
But more than a decade has passed since that trauma and I see how Mystery keeps putting beauty in front ofus. Our boys are such resilient souls. Gabriel asked me to buy him a fire pit for the backyard and that is why we were in Home Depot. He and his friends set up the pit in our backyard and, coupled with benches they crafted from fallen trees, it has become a gathering spot for teenaged boys, many of whose families still are waiting for power and heat to return. They are having a blast.
Years ago, Elizabeth Foss wrote a powerful piece about the value of hospitality. I carry these words in my heart.
Make hospitality your prayer. Seek to comfort and to minister. Look for ways to lighten someone else’s load. In every guest, no matter how cranky, no matter how demanding, see Christ. Open your heart wide; risk allowing people to see your weaknesses. For it is in that very weakness that his power is made perfect.
I feel inadequate. I know millions are suffering all around me and I wish I could do more. On our drive home yesterday, Gabriel reminded me that what I have managed to do to lend a hand, hosting dozens of friends without heat for hot meals and warm conversations in our home, and praying as much as I can, is enough for now. "You need to take a nap mom," he said with a smile. And so when we got home, I did.