“With the exception of the 9/11 disaster, the top ten most costly catastrophes in U.S. history have all been natural disasters–five of them hurricanes–and all have occurred since 1989.” – Ted Steinberg
New York City woke up Tuesday to a double rainbow, signaling the end of Superstorm Sandy and the beginning of recovery. The stories and pictures are flooding the Internet, and we are all simultaneously fascinated and floored by nature’s display of power.
Sitting safe in California, I reflected on the fragility of life and the priceless comfort of having loved ones safe and sound.
Safe, sound, and alive. Who needs more than this?
The gravity and grandeur of catastrophe is that it touches all of us even when we’re across the world and out of harm’s way. In one swift blow it reduces life to its simplest form, relieves us of our need to control the world, and brings us all to our senses.
What is really important? What is really worthwhile? What really matters?
The global concern and outpouring of prayers and community that naturally springs forth in times like this reminds us what we’re capable of as individuals, communities, and as a nation. At our core we are all humans with the same hopes and fears.
We may be powerless against Acts of God, but we are empowered by remembering our true values, reconnecting with our loved ones, and rising to the occasion of our lives.
An especially amazing facet of natural disasters is what it teaches us about healing and recovery. Not just on a human level, as we saw demonstrated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but on a planetary level. Watching how our planet earth naturally recovers with time and begins to grow and thrive again, even after being devastated by fire or floods, teaches us how innate and natural healing is to all living things. With time, our bodies naturally heal and our earth naturally heals, despite repeated trauma.
These take-aways are easy to embrace when in the midst of natural disasters or personal disasters, but it’s easy to forget them as they start to fade and life gets back to “normal.”
As jobs and money and politics retake center stage, may we continue to embrace and honor our loved ones, our communities, and the common ground we all walk on, our planet earth.
Photo credit: Kurt Wilberding