Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Surviving disaster

(photo by Jay Janner, Austin American Statesman via AP)
Among the most dramatic tales of survival from Hurricane Ike’s arrival in Galveston is the lion who took shelter in a church with some local residents.

No doubt, the living is stressful along the Texas Gulf Coast. But they are hearty souls, mostly. More than a century before Hurricane Ike, the 1900 “Galveston Hurricane” (before they had cute names) took 6,000 lives. It remains the worst weather disaster in U.S. history, and spurred the construction of the sea wall.

Ike was not so deadly, but still traumatic, leveling entire neighborhoods, and knocking out power to much of the nation’s fourth largest metro area-Houston-for weeks.

But they’re dealing with it. NPR reported that some locals resented the growing “nanny state” mentality of local government. Many are carpenters and know how to rebuild, and survive in the process. “We ate all the good steaks last night,” said restaurateur Tommy LaCroy.

My perspective gets righted by the current PBS “Nova” series “Disaster.” Earthquakes, genuine cataclysms like Mt. Vesuvius in the year 79, Peru’s 1970 earthquake, or the Indian Ocean tsunamis of Christmas 2004.

Glen Beck’s radio conversation on the outpouring of compassion for the Texas Gulf Coast (September 23, hour three) didn’t take very long at all. No celebrity fundraisers. No MTV specials. No national outpouring of grief and anger. Not much to talk about, except pick up trucks, chain saws and pup tents – people scraping together what’s left of their material lives, and deciding if their love of the Gulf Coast lifestyle is that strong after all.

If only Wall Street was as stout as the carpenters on Galveston. While the big money cats are asking for a handout, government officials who manage our (taxpayers) money, are determined to bail out the really high rollers.

We’ve grown too accustomed to help from on high. Help is more reliable closer to home. Proverbs 27:10 reminds us that “better is a friend nearby than a brother far away.”

I don’t begrudge folks who accept help from the Salvation Army or Red Cross. Not at all. With every disaster, Americans get to prove their generosity. But let’s be clear. My hope is in God, and the two hands he gave me, and the people that I can see.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and pitch in for each other. Quick, before the guy shows up and says, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”