It’s at times like this – with our neighbors on the Gulf Coast wind-blown and inundated – that many people’s thoughts turn to prayer. Government officials call for prayers for the victims. Victims look skyward with their own prayers. Families and friends safely located outside the disaster zone ask their Higher Power of choice for just a quick sign about the safety of their trapped kin. Over the coming months, as the rebuilding takes every ounce of strength from the victims, many will pray again for strength, or help, or money, or food, or above all, patience. Some will only pray to ask why.
Some of those prayers will be answered, at least in the eyes of those who offered them up. Many prayers will result in nothing. Some of those who prayed will lose hope and never pray again, while others will find the strength they so crave and take that as a sign that prayer is absolute and works.
It’s for times like this that Gods and religions exist. They are the life preservers that give buoyancy to the down-trodden. They are the last familiar shreds of humanity that people cling to when events become so monstrous that they can’t be fathomed by their everyday minds. At times like these, even the most cynical non-believers won’t begrudge the believers their hope. It wouldn’t be a humane thing to do.
Clearly, spirituality and religion are distinct concepts. One is a personal relationship, while the other is a belief system created and maintained by humans. Even the best and most well-intentioned religions can have flaws. Sometimes those flaws are quite large, allowing the underlying worst of humanity to seep out like so much contaminated water. Other times religions work as they should, with petty differences about beliefs and irrational canons about worldly matters taking a back seat to the common human condition. It is the same light and dark perspective that is already playing itself out in New Orleans and Biloxi as you read this. Some stoop to help their fellow men, wading hip-deep in filthy water to carry those who are weaker to higher ground. Others stoop a little lower to pick up a rock and toss it through a window so they can loot an abandoned home or business.
It’s at times like this that life becomes very clear in a way that it can’t on a “normal” day. You are either light or dark. You are either good or bad. It is our omnipotent hope that there are more good guys than bad, because those poor folks along the Gulf Coast will need all the help they can get for a long time to come. If you belief in prayer, now’s the time. If not, a kind thought will do. Right now, it’s all we can give them.