Earlier this week I caught on the evening news a delightful story. A motorist had hit a squirrel and apparently the little critter had glanced off of the tire rather than run underneath it (thankfully!) The coverage was from a policeman’s body cam video of the driver giving chest compression CPR to the squirrel, and we watched as it eventually revived and ran off into the woods. Listening to the young man discuss his feelings of wanting to help the squirrel, and the police officers moved by such a sight, reminded me of all that is good in this world. The juxtaposition of this story with the seemingly endless reports at that time on the Supreme Court nomination process helped to calm my soul. No matter where we stand on the choice of new Supreme Court justice, the poor process and the additional polarization of our country are challenging realities. Being reminded of the preciousness of all creations, and that there are still people who care about such things, including those in uniform, was a much needed and refreshing glimpse of our Abba at work in our lives.
The image of the good Samaritan compressing the teeny chest of the squirrel lying feet up and lifeless and then scurrying away has stayed with me for days now. I can’t help but smile and be warmed by such love. So how to reconcile this beauty with news of devastating Hurricane Michael?
Clearly we have no control over the weather, and horrific natural disasters are becoming more commonplace. As we read of and see coverage of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wild fires, hurricanes, storm surges, flooding, we can’t help but feel a bit fearful, not only for those directly impacted, but also, by the thoughts that such unpredictable events can happen anywhere. And they are happening frequently. We feel powerless, and empathetic toward those whose homes and lives, and whose loved ones’ lives, are dramatically changed.
When the frightening event occurs, we feel it as something happening to us in addition to those directly impacted. This is true for other difficult events we learn of – shootings, accidents, drownings, other violence – all part of the challenging world in which we live, such tragedies unfortunately comprising the majority of mainstream news. So the story of the driver giving CPR to the squirrel was such a vivid reminder of goodness that is also in this world. It was of a type of news not typically reported, or if so, thrown in at the end of the news hour as an interesting human interest story rather than the focus of the days’ reporting. Yet another major difference in the story was that it emphasized what a person did in a bad situation rather than the scary event itself. I’m sure when the driver thought he had killed the squirrel (the typical story), he was fearful and felt as if something terrible had happened. So he jumped out of the car and ran to the victim to see if there was anything he could do. As impossible as it must have seemed at the time, he chose to do something. As unlikely for success as it must have seemed he began to administer CPR. And he did not give up. After 20 minutes (!), the squirrel came back from near death nd not only it, but the young man too, were redeemed.
The ability to live with hope arises from the opportunities we are given to interact with the times in our lives that are out of control, the situations that do provoke fear, and sometimes the actual catastrophes. Those events are often overwhelming, and it is encouraging when the news reports the many actions individuals take to transform such times into amazing opportunities for acts of love. After the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, the extraordinary number of stories of survival and restoration were awe inspiring. After each mass shooting, the vignettes of love and forgiveness have been astounding. Out of the pain and loss have come an endless number of random and deliberate acts of lovingkindness, for it is in these that are HaShem’s hands on earth to bring good. This is not HaOlam HaBa, the World to Come, so disaster strikes. But we are each given the capacity to bring light and love into those dark times. In the individual acts of love we undertake we are given the blessing of feeling the restorative power of love. Of His love.
If Hurricane Michael follows the pattern of other catastrophic weather events, we will learn of the many heroic acts to save others, including risking one’s own life to save a drowning pet, tireless volunteering to rebuild homes, working countless hours to restore utilities, opening homes to others, sending and providing money and resources, loving and caring for those in need. We have no control over the catastrophes but we have the ability to choose how to respond. In these times, I encourage you to reach out to help, and to focus on reports of the loving acts of others, such as the squirrel CPR hero, for the power of such redemptive love is truly life giving.
And why not create a whole batch of worthy news stories, the kind we love to read and hear about, even when there is no catastrophe? If each of us went out of our way to act lovingly toward each other, down to the smallest living being, now that would be a news hour!