Picking up the pieces after Charley

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

One heartwarming story to come out of hurricane Charley involved a couple and their dog. According to a newspaper report, the couple credited the calm voice of a local radio announcer with keeping their dog calm during the storm. They said Rocky pressed his nose to the radio and didn't bark. And when the wife's parents showed up two days later with an air-conditioned camper, the wife quipped: "There is a God!"

After seeing the extensive damage on TV, it could be tempting to doubt God's existence, but His care was evident to me in the way people rushed to help with donations of food, money, and supplies, and shared their talents and skills so generously.

Which brings me to a family I know who live in Port Charlotte, Fla. They survived the hurricane, but are now dealing with rattlesnakes, mosquitoes, wandering alligators, unsafe drinking water, no street lights, missing signs, price-gouging, and other hardships. After I spoke with them, I knew I had to do something, but what?

I decided the best thing for me to do was first to pray for guidance, so I turned to the Bible. Remembering how the Psalmist so often felt overwhelmed by his own challenges, I turned to the 91st Psalm. As I read and pondered each of the verses, I applied their promises to my friend's concerns. For example:

• Thou shall not be afraid for ... the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday (looters, snakes, alligators).

• There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling (the threat of mosquitoes and disease, unsafe drinking water).

• For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone (intuition and wisdom to protect from accidents of all sorts).

These promises not only calmed me, but also reminded me of a time when I'd turned to God in an emergency. It wasn't a hurricane, but I remember feeling the same anxiety associated with any overwhelming event - extreme fear and vulnerability.

I was in my second year of teaching at a suburban high school on the East Coast in the early 1970s when a race riot broke out. Nothing had prepared me for dealing with something like this, and I felt overwhelmed with fear. As the situation turned ugly one day, I opened a book I kept in my desk, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper.

Flipping through the pages, I was unable to focus on anything until I found this statement: "No power can withstand divine Love" (page 224). As I pondered this message, I saw that nothing - no race riot, anger, violence, or lawless force could ever resist the power of divine Love. Love melts tensions, dissolves anger, and unifies hearts. It doesn't divide or cause strife. Love holds sway and fills all space. I couldn't argue with that.

With that crystal-clear realization, the mental turmoil ended, and I felt sure the situation would be resolved, so I went about my work in peace. Later, we heard that the principal had been able to corral the ringleaders, who finally made peace, and another student turned over a gun. No one was hurt, and the anarchy that had threatened to overthrow the school dissolved.

Remembering that experience gave me hope and assurance for the people in Florida who have witnessed a rampage of their own. I know God is helping them rebuild their lives.

When I talked to my friend a few days later, she'd received the brownies I'd sent and said that they were just the comfort food her family needed. Then she said the electricity was back on, the garbage collectors had just picked up the trash after 12 days, and her son was going back to school on Monday. When she told me how they'd tied a bucket onto a pole with a bungee cord for a temporary mailbox, I ordered her a new mailbox. I also sent her a set of rabbit ears for their TV set since the cable was out. Little things, yes, but I wanted her to feel love in a practical way. I also sent a check to a church we knew that had sustained damages.

It's important to let the people who experienced hurricane Charley know we continue to care in any way that comes to us - big or little.

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