As we drove out to Oklahoma across the heartland, one cannot help but be awed by the beauty of Mother Nature. Baby calves followed their mothers in the fields, the Appalachian Mountains glistened in the morning fog, and the beauty of the mighty Mississippi River does not go unnoticed. Neither does the cycle of Mother Nature go unseen as we passed brown fields waiting for new buds to spring forth with another year of crops. Then there is the power of Mother Nature, the force with which wind and water can cause so much damage as we call Sandy’s aftermath and experience the aftermath of the tornadoes this past week in Oklahoma.
One also reflects on human nature when confronted with such tremendous loss. The beauty of that human nature was reflected in the generosity of the Mother Teresa Regional School community who with a moment’s notice donated over $2000 and a van filled with food, contractor bags, shovels, brooms, and work gloves. The spirit of hospitality shown to us in Oklahoma at St. James the Greater Catholic Church and by the Office of Catholic Schools in hosting us was tremendous. The teachers who sheltered children in the schools and the first responders who arrived to help those caught in the rubble are shining examples of the beauty of human nature. A family we met in Moore, who was related to one of our school families, commented that they were blessed that God had saved them all and they had a house to live in after their own was destroyed. The teenage daughter even commented she didn’t have to take finals, a good thing to come out of the storm and she was looking for the positive as her mom had told her to do in the face of tragedy. Of course there is the darker side of human nature as some came to loot those houses affected just hours after the storm had passed. It is the strength of the human spirit that will help rebuild Moore and will uphold those who are suffering at this time.
Each time I have responded to a disaster with supplies or assistance, I am always mindful of the lessons I can learn. What is it that God is teaching me in the moment? This was the first trip on which I took one of my children and I believe this time it was about passing on the spirit that calls to me. It was also a reminder to me that above all else, I am called to serve. Each of us is called to respond to those affected by disaster and tragedy. It doesn’t have to be on the scale of a F5 tornado or a Super Storm, each day there are many affected by tragedies, large and small. The death of a loved one, a change in family situation, addiction, bullying, are tragedies. All those things which keep us from living life to its fullness are a tragedy. Perhaps that is the lesson to be learned, how in my daily life can I respond to those who are suffering?
In his homily at St. James the Greater on Saturday evening, Fr. Bill Pruett talked about how we are called to be in relationship to others. The feast of the Holy Trinity reminds us that as we are made in God’s image and likeness, we are made to be relational. We feel the heartache of those in Oklahoma because we are in relationship with them. As we shared the Eucharist at Mass that evening, I couldn’t help but remember that we are a Eucharistic people, blessed, broken and shared for all. We are called to serve others in little ways, preaching the Gospel with our actions, and walking in the footsteps of Christ. This is the lesson in traveling across the country to be in relationship with all those we meet and to keep ourselves in right relationship with God. The power and awesomeness of Mother Nature in the beauty of God’s creation reminds us of the power within each one of us to be heroes of human nature.
Melissa Whelan Wisk
Mother Teresa Regional School
Atlantic Highlands, NJ