The last week or so has not been pleasant. Hard necessary decisions for this parish were made by those in authority that always prove to be less than popular and whose consequences are still unknown. On a personal note, while given a clean bill of health from my cardiologist (there is always a “yes, but.. ”), I have been instructed to begin a physical therapy regime which, while perhaps a bit intimidating for a man in the twilight of his “middle age,” also raises the specter that in terms of health, I will never return to that person I was “when I wore a younger man’s clothes” to quote the great Billy Joel.
While I haven’t ever even seen any of the “traditional” (“Housewives of ___”) reality TV programs, I have found a few scripted “reality” programs that are at times uplifting and at times heart wrenching. Two summers ago, a program entitled A Vet’s Life began to unfold the lives of three African-American (classmates) veterinarians who opened a clinic in Houston. There have been the usual array of stories of life and death: animal lives saved and lost. You cheer. You feel badly for those who have lost a beloved pet.
This new season dramatically began with the struggles to reopen their clinic in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey from last summer! Do you remember the first of the apocalyptic storms that hammered us last year?
For one hour, I was mesmerized at the close-up, cell phone, non-scripted images as well as professionally shot footage of the destructive power of wind, rain and water that caused so much death, heartbreak and destruction. I watched a clinic staff try to reconnect lost animals with owners, treat sick, scared and confused pets (and their owners as well) while dealing with loss of power, loss of potable water, lack of medicine, lack of dry “anything,” washed out (just .. gone!) roads, houses flooded, houses washed away (and just gone), all the while also and primarily trying to help out their human community members in need. Their story was inspiring. I watched the staff of a clinic seek out each other to make sure they had all survived – with all the attention and perseverance that one should expect from a family.
In effect I was reminded that we who were really spared from the intensity of last summer’s storms have so much to be grateful about, and need to be aware that so, so many are still without life’s basics. Whenever I am emotionally down about the conditions of life for us here in this region and this parish under the circumstances we live, I need to remind myself of just how fortunate we are. “There but for the grace of God go I” – as the prayer states.
Feelings aside, even the feelings of regret and sadness, we remain as a community yet untouched by some of the harshest treatment that life in its unpredictability can impact upon us. Our prayer ought to be first and foremost one of gratitude. Then secondly our prayer should be for those who suffer – those distant victims of war, disease and natural disaster, but also those in our own community who sometimes endure pain and sadness that we simply do not know. Finally it impels us as a church to reach out to each other and to those outside our orbit to be the instruments of caring and hope. If you can do something, then do something. Don’t wait to be told or to receive approval. Any life you can impact positively, even if in the slightest way, please do so. “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did to me.”
– Fr. Joe