I’ve been corresponding with a close friend whose New Jersey shoreline house was hit by Hurricane Sandy. He and his wife were lucky in that they only lost a car while sustaining substantial water and yard damage. Less fortunate were the barrier islands, which were devastated, while the 130-year-old church that they attended was swept out to sea. They are living with their son and his family until their house is repaired, which may not occur until February or March.
John regularly reads this blog, even though, as a Republican, he has frequently winced at my left-leaning posts. I mention this only because of the way, at the height of election-year craziness, the hurricane reminded us of what was important. Governor Chris Christie worked with President Obama to do what could be done, and the fact that Christie is now taking heat from some in his party for his collaboration is shameful. Maybe he can take his experience and steer the GOP in a more moderate direction.
It’s a sad commentary that it takes cataclysmic disaster to bring us together. As I say this, a disturbing Flannery O’Connor story comes to mind. I give a brief plot synopsis in order to communicate the important message that the story has for us.
A family of six goes on a trip but, thanks to the grandmother, gets lost and has an accident. The grandmother is a smug, self-absorbed, bigoted and thoroughly aggravating woman. To cap off their disaster, they are discovered by a serial killer, “the Misfit,” and his gang.
The parents and the children are shot but the killer engages in a conversation with the grandmother. At a key moment, she somehow sees through the horror to the frightened little boy within the killer. It comes after they have been talking about Jesus and the resurrection:
His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother’s head cleared for an instant. She saw the man’s face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children !” She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. Then he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and began to clean them.
Given how lost in her narcissism the grandmother has been, her reaching out represents a moment of grace–maybe the only such moment in her entire life. The Misfit, twisted though he is, recognizes this and delivers the story’s most memorable line:
“She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
That’s one thing I take away from Sandy: We would be a good country if a hurricane were to shoot us every minute of our lives.
Of course, it shouldn’t take a hurricane or a 9-11 attack or any other disaster to bring us together. We should come together because we believe in making our country work. Shame on us.