It has been interesting to see the different reactions to a catastrophe of this magnitude. I know someone who had over four feet of water in her home, and calmly waited her turn for boat-rescue, having changed into her swimsuit. I know someone who did not get water in her home, and was so overcome with anxiety that she was vomiting from the stress. (No, neither one of those is me. For my own part, during the worst of it, I was blissfully asleep. If worse came to worst, I'd rather start well-rested. Though the second night, once it became clear what we were up against and the roads were already impassably flooded, I'd packed a "just in case" bag with a couple of changes of clothing, and placed it on top of a chair where it would stay dry longer.)
It has been interesting to see different reactions to all the work that needs to be done. Some see an opportunity to remodel, some see an opportunity to help, some see an opportunity to make a quick dollar flipping flooded houses. And some are just quietly grateful that it wasn't them. Almost all of the people working at the shelters, distribution centers, and meal prep centers have a genuine compassion for those who were badly flooded. I have only met one person at a city-run distribution center who had an attitude other than compassion: the attitude was fear that we would be unable to help some people, leading to anger at those who tried to take more than the very modest limit. Fear and anger can make it tricky to enforce limits humanely and with respect.
Through it all, the genuine, down-to-earth value of virtue has become clear to me:
- Hope is not merely shallow wishful thinking. Those who work from hope instead of fear behave in more rational ways, and less self-destructive ways, during a crisis.
- Compassion is the most motivating force in a time of need. Compassion has moved an incredible number of people here locally to stand beside each other in our time of need.
- Kindness makes a difference. When the need is great, it becomes plain that even the simplest actions can help. Almost everyone has it in them to be a hero, when the opportunity presents itself.
- Fellowship is indispensable. None of us gets through this alone. Community also forms naturally when people get together.