The Kindness of Strangers – musings of a hurricane evacuee

HurricaneIsabel-660x383

By: Jana Greene

Greetings from the great state of Georgia.

I just finished my breakfast of obligatory grits and cheese, and a cup of excellent coffee in the lobby of our Hampton Inn.

It is home to us right now, this Hampton Inn. Displaced from our home at the coast by Hurricane Florence a week ago, my husband, adult daughter, and three cats are on the lam from the floodwaters and the chaos that is post-hurricane Wilmington. We are lucky our home was spared, but there is no actual way to get into our city right now, much less our house.

We are in limbo, and it’s uncomfortable. So freaking uncomfortable.

So here we stay for now – building-mates with a passel of other evacuees, all of which have been amazing comrades in arms against Florence and her nasty disposition.

But it’s the native Georgians who have blown us out of the water with their southern hospitality, which the employ with such gusto, it makes you entertain the idea of packing up house and becoming a Georgian, too.

From the hotel staff, who has gone out of their way to learn all of our names, the names of our pets, and our general situation, to the check-out lady at the local Walmart who asked me where I was from and came around her register to embrace me in a comforting hug when I answered her. Everyone – and I mean EVERY PERSON – that we have met has been angelic to us. Genuinely compassionate.

On the network news, you will see stories of Charlatans and looters, price gougers and swindlers in our city right now. But I’m telling you, they are the exception.

That that God Particle that manifests in others as mercy, compassion, and love? God has imparted it to all of us. Even to the people we don’t know yet.

Especially to the people we may not know yet….those humans we call “strangers.”

There’s a line in the classic, old movie “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams. The slightly unhinged character of Blanche DuBois”says in her soft, southern drawl: “I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.”

I finally know what she meant now. I don’t think I’ve ever understood it before.

The kindness of strangers is thick here. It’s in the air; you can feel it. One good, bolstering hug from a stranger can hold you up for a full day. A day full of kind words and smiles can bolster you with enough energy to take on another new day full of uncertainties.

I’d much rather be on the side of giving and loving others than be in the position of having to receive it in so copious a manner. But I have to tell you, my worried heart is filled with gratitude for the people God has put directly in our path.

God bless us, EVERY ONE.

Faith and Florence – Riding out the “Storm of a Lifetime”

florence

By: Jana Greene

Good day, dear readers. I’m going to try to blog about this experience with Hurricane Florence a little each day. Maybe someone else will be able to relate to my fear, faith, and feelings…maybe it will just prove good therapy for me to get them all OUT! Be safe out there, friends.

I was thinking about “hurricane preparedness” this morning, and what a misnomer that phrase is. We feel we are prepared. We did all the cursory prep as most of my neighbors –  bringing in every porch / yard item that could become a missile in Cat 4 winds…shutting all of the interior doors before we left…evacuating two states away. Hurricane Florence, you see, is taking dead aim at our lovely little beach town.

You know that feeling you get when – first thing in the morning – you open your eyes and realize there is something very wrong? That sinking feeling? A giant monster storm coming straight for your city and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. “Preparedness” is important, but how do you prepare yourself for coming home to utter devastation? What if we lose everything we own? It’s a very real possibility. I’ve had several mini panic attacks over the past few days, like many of you, I’m sure.

OMG, this is happening.

This is the “big one.”

I might lose the things of my heart, like my kids’ baby books. The unity candle from our wedding.

The outfits my babies came home from the hospital so many years ago.

The more I think about all the things, the more I remember we could lose, and the more I have trouble breathing.

Then I remember I have lost nearly everything before, during the course of my 2004 divorce. I just left, took the kids and left with little more than we had on our backs. It was a horribly difficult time, but we survived it, and my daughters actually thrived.

Eventually, the sad sting of losing so many pictures and yearbooks lessened. But that was high school yearbooks and pressed homecoming mums; furniture and trinkets. Not a whole house.

Today, one of my kids is here in Atlanta with us, another is in Charlotte safely with her boyfriend (who is an absolute super hero…) and one on the way to VA.

Even our kitties are stuffed into this tiny hotel room – all three. It’s cozy.

So what we are going through is unbelievably stressful. I just consumed an entire bag of “extreme” sour gummy worms. Yes, I’m’ praying to Jesus but candy helps, too.

This hurricane is not an “act of God.” God is responsible for all that is good and lovely, pure and true. He is in our laughter and in our joy. He is not punishing anyone. He is always either blessing us with all the beauty around us, or he is hunkered down with us in the storms. He hasn’t left us.

File natural disasters under “sh*t happens,” and look around you. You will find some of the kindest, most loving people manifesting right now. I’ve lost count of how many friends I’ve seen post, “I have an extra bedroom; whoever needs a place, you are welcome here!” And “What do you need?” on public FB feeds. “I can run errands. I can help you pack. I can give you a ride.”

That’s where I’m seeing God at work – not in a swirling vortex of doom. I don’t know why bad things happen and I’m not going to yank your chain with useless platitudes.

It sucks. I’m scared.

This whole shebang is super stressful.

Can faith and fear occupy the same space? I used to think not. But anymore, I’m convinced that our Creator is grace-full about the overlap. He isn’t mad at our anxiety. We’re his kids, for crying out loud.

Right now, those same girls who went through the valley of having a single mom in the early 2000’s (and my Bonus Daughter, too) are out of North Carolina. Nobody knows what this thing will do, but stuff be darned, my family is safe.

We are just one family of the literal million who has left for higher ground. There’s nothing special or particularly unique about us. We are all going through this together.

For your family – whether you are riding it out or stuck in your car right now in a long, seemingly stationary line of traffic, I pray for you. I worry for you. I’m hopeful for you.

And I’m super glad to be a part of a community of people whose hearts are so loving and giving. You guys are – in the worst of circumstances – being the hands and feet of God. Thank you.

Harvey, Irma, and the One True “Act of God”

HurricaneIsabel-660x383
Photo Credit: National Geographic

 

I wrote this and posted it a few days ago, but took it down. I had not really made the point that I had intended, so I’m doing a little clarification edit and sending it back out to you, dear readers.

Stay safe out there!

By: Jana Greene

Remember when insurance companies and other risk management professionals referred to natural disasters as “Acts of God?” I do. What a terrifying picture such terminology paints of our God! At best, He would have to be an uncaring and vindictive deity. At worst, a sadistic almighty force who delights in doling out punishment.

(“I told you not to eat that entire box of Oreos, you hedonistic glutton. Here…have a category 5 hurricane!)

Last week, a friend posted to Facebook, “I just pray it doesn’t hit here. As long as Irma doesn’t come here, I don’t care where it goes…..”

I struggle with saying prayers like “Jesus, please don’t let us have hurricane landfall here. Direct it away from us.” I care very much where it goes and wish all hurricanes back out to sea.

To me, praying it will hit somewhere else it’s a little like praying that your sports team will win. Guess what? The OTHER side is praying for a win, too.

And at this juncture, I am tired of reading Facebook posts that infer (or downright state) that these natural disasters are the result of one REALLY pissed off deity. It is the wrath of God, they say. We are getting what we all deserve as a fallen society. God is angry with us and punishing us, and causing us to suffer!

Um, not MY God. I feel really bad that yours is so hateful and vengeful, though.

For those of you who take every word of the Bible literally and out of context, it’s there in black and white for you, too.

Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” – John 16:33 (MSG)

 

The word that keeps coming to mind is “Emmanuel”.  It means ‘God with us.” And no matter where landfall hits or what/who is effected, God is with us. I cannot find Bible  verses that promise we get spared all the storms. But I do find scripture in numerous places that say ‘fear not,’ and “I will never leave or forsake you.

Yes, we bring our petitions to God but he is sovereign and works all to the good. All things. Even the seemingly awful things. He doesn’t cause the storms, but He also doesn’t always stop them. Our puny human minds find that a tough pill to swallow.

My good friend Elaine Q. Potts said it much more eloquently than I:

“While Jesus spoke to one storm, He didn’t speak to every storm. Prayer is about His presence through all of life, about hearing His direction for a given situation. To think that God casts his love/mercy away because we choose the wrong wording or statement style is not true. At no are a point in the Christian walk is it about performance–our having control. Pray, prepare, and  learn to look for his presence that never forsakes.”

So make preparations, dear readers. With the hurricane models for Irma showing so many different possible tracks, this thing could go anywhere. One of the maps looks like someone plopped a giant cat hairball on a map of the United States. Another looks like my 2-year old granddaughter predicted its landfalls. With ALL of our vast knowledge and science and technology, nobody knows for certain.

But don’t for a minute, even as it is barreling down, entertain the thought that it is retribution from the Almighty.

He is Himself Love.

I do not have the credentials to explain what’s happening in super storm-dom. I do not have the answers why God does allows suffering to occur. Life ain’t fair; that’s for sure. And there is ample suffering for us all.

And, hey – a wise friend of mine posted about suffering:

We are always looking for a way to NOT have to suffer, when the Bible teaches the opposite…to rejoice,” noted my friend Alexandra. “Suffering is not a popular message…but it is truly where the rubber meets the road. There is just something so sacred about suffering. It’s where it’s at. I hate it, but it’s where it’s at. It’s really a gift. I for sure will try to outrun this hurricane, but if it hits us like it hit Texas, we will get the opportunity to suffer along with them. Pray it doesn’t, prepare like it will.”

I have the most insightful friends, I’m telling you.

But I do have the faith to lean into Him when chaos seems to reign supreme.

Remember, you are not abandoned. The Father is with you. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.

Signed, Jesus.

His love has been made manifest this past couple of weeks in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. So many, many hurting and homeless; and so many people flooding the city with every kind of help imaginable…some putting their own lives at risk. Human helping human. Strangers helping strangers. People of all colors and creeds loving on one another.

God IS responsible for THAT.

Love is not destructive. Love isn’t trying to trip you up.

Love is an “Act of God.”

At no are a point in the Christian walk is it about performance–our having control. Pray, prepare, and learn to look for his presence that never forsakes.

Amen, my sister. Amen.

Praying each of you readers is kept safe in the storms, and that each of you suffering under the weight of Harvey are given an extra measure of comfort today. I, myself, am a little scared, to be honest. I live one mile from the Atlantic Ocean as the crow flies. My town sticks out like a big toe and has been a magnet for hurricanes – some of them severe.

But…..Emmanuel.

God bless us, every one.

Save

Save