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We Help More When We Feel Connected

We Help More When We Feel Connected to Tragedy.  Why That's Not Enough.  

Leon Wieseltier once wrote: “Ethical life is the transformation of there into here.”

Recently my congregation helped to ship much needed supplies to those in Houston devastated by Hurricane Harvey. We gathered water bottles, cleaning supplies, diapers and canned food. I was struck by the outpouring of support. We rented one truck, but soon realized that we required two. Strangers showed up at the synagogue with gifts in hand. They had heard that we were gathering supplies and wanted to contribute.

Although it was but a small token of what is required to rebuild and help Houston, and now Florida and the Caribbean islands, I was struck by how many wanted to help and how many jumped to participate. How did a once distant city become so near? For some it was obvious. They are from Houston and had family who was affected by the storm. For others, I imagine, it was their memories of Hurricane Sandy that impelled them to participate.

We still recall the flooded homes. We remember the weeks without power, or heat, or decent cellphone service. We still see the mountains of couches and appliances that waited to be carted away by trash companies. We hear the endless hum of chainsaws clearing downed trees and branches. We recall the parking lots converted into lumberyards filled with trees. There is a direct line between trauma and compassion. The wounds of yesterday make us more caring and even more giving.

If I can remember how it feels my hand might be opened to others....