The lives of hurricane Katrina's survivors have been dramatically changed; so many dwellings have been ruined and futures put on hold. Putting aside for a moment the legitimate questions and concerns swirling in the storm's aftermath, what the survivors desperately need is to feel God's love - and to feel the compassion and care for suffering humanity that spiritual instinct impels in each of us.
We are grateful to see the outpouring of affection and aid for the people of the Gulf Coast, from Americans and from people worldwide. In some cases, people who themselves have little are giving much to others who now have nothing. Such compassion fulfills the hopes of Puritan John Winthrop, whose words were quoted in Wednesday's editorial in this paper: "Every man must afford his help to another in every want and distress." Ultimately, evil's enormity is no match for the immensity of humanity's spiritual resources.
The challenges ahead are many, though. Prominent among them will be sustaining the flow of love - of care, prayers, and helping-hand aid - as Gulf Coast residents find their own vision for a "new normal."
The Bible's book of Nehemiah offers a luminous example of a city's restoration accomplished against all odds. At one point, Jerusalem's enemies conspired to intimidate the workers into giving up the task as impossible. "For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done." Nehemiah's response was to continue praying: "Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands."
The mission was completed and everyone recognized that divine energy had spurred and guided the rebuilding.
There is a need for honest and thoughtful evaluation of what can and should be done better to prevent, prepare, and respond in times of widespread human tragedy. But this assessment can and should be a healing process.
As Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, "The way to extract error from mortal mind is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 201).
The water and the fearful memories will recede. Love's beneficent flood tides will not.