"He has the servant thing down." I was leaving Mass at Our Lady of the…
Signs of hope amid the storms
A couple of Friday nights before Christmas, my husband and I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the wind whipping outside. We checked the weather: high winds, a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado watch. Knowing that a strong weather system was moving across the country that night, I tuned into a Facebook Live event on my phone from a local news station to assess the risk and see if we needed to be proactive in any way.
The meteorologist reassured the 700(!) people watching at 2 a.m. that the risk of severe weather in our area was slight, but to make sure that our severe weather alerts were activated and the volume was up on our phones. I rolled over and went back to sleep, waking in the morning to a rain-soaked yard and a missing outdoor Christmas flag, but nothing worse.
We, of course, were the lucky ones. Elsewhere, those terrible storms on the weekend of Gaudete Sunday killed dozens of people across six states, and injured scores more. Homes and businesses were flattened, and, with two weeks to go until Christmas, families destroyed. At least a dozen children were killed in the storms, including a 3-year-old in Kentucky who died in his mother’s arms as she tried to shelter him and his baby brother in a bathroom closet. I couldn’t watch the news clip without breaking down.
The disaster was so significant that Pope Francis sent a telegram a couple of days later to Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressing his sadness and assuring his “heartfelt prayers that Almighty God will grant eternal peace to those who have died, comfort to those who mourn their loss, and strength to all those affected by this immense tragedy.”
As these tragedies tend to go, after a time, the world moves on, while those directly affected are left to clean up and rebuild — at least to rebuild what can be rebuilt. But there are the quiet things that happen during the worst times that are powerful witnesses of hope, and this event was no different.
Jordan Baize, from Kentucky, took a break from assessing the damage in his home to play the Gaither song “There’s Something About That Name” on his piano. “Everything around him was broken,” said his sister, Whitney Brown, who took a video of her brother, as reported by Aleteia. “The piano had water damage, it had missing keys, and he didn’t know I was filming, but still he used his gift to glorify his God the best way he knew how.”
NBC reported how neighbors and volunteers were helping those in need dig out from the disaster, even while the victims were still processing their devastated homes. “Time and time again, when we witness moments of great trauma, we see moments of teamwork,” Lester Holt narrated.
Others have donated clothing, food and money to help tornado victims — including 18,000 donations totaling more than $2.3 million in the first 24 hours alone. The funds first will be used for funeral expenses, the rest for rebuilding.
The U.S. bishops offered their prayers for all affected, and they encouraged donations through Catholic Charities USA.
Entering a new year is an opportunity to wipe the proverbial previous year’s slate clean and begin anew. But for so many affected by these unseasonable storms, their new year will begin while dealing with the miserable events of the past.
Let’s keep the hope going for them. Pray, donate, physically assist in the cleanup, if possible. At the dawn of a new year, let’s not forget our neighbors in need.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.