Grace was 2 years old the first time she saw a large body of water. It was the North Sea of the Netherlands in the summer of 2003, and she could not believe her eyes. Squealing with delight as we got closer and closer to where the water touched the sand, she let go of my hand and began toddling around in circles, waving her hands and arms. “Big wawa! Big wawa!” she exclaimed, her unbridled joy and excitement mingling with the energy of the wind and the waves.
As I remember this moment in time, of my daughter’s first encounter with “big water”, other, quite different images, recently seared on all our minds, surface. Men and women wading in chest-high water. Families towing mattresses with whatever belongings they managed to salvage, sitting atop. Shell-shocked individuals, huddled together in the back of a truck. The asphalt and painted lines of an interstate barely visible amidst a sea of water. Someone cradling a soaked dog in his arms. Men, women, children, pets, all in search of dry land, firm footing and shelter, someplace simply to stand in safety.
I spoke with a man earlier this week, who was living in New Orleans with his wife and children in August 2005 when Katrina hit. They now live here in Baltimore. These images, for him and his family, are not just mere images of devastation, heartbreak and human suffering, taking place some 1200 miles away. They are living memories of his own devastation, suffering and heartbreak. His eyes conveyed what words could not.
“But you know,” he said, and he looked me straight in the eye. “Of course you know this, in your line of work,” he added. “People helping one another, supporting one another, reaching out, coming together. People saving each other. That was powerful.” He paused. “That was something, too.”
In her sermon last weekend on her experience at the Episcopal Youth Event held in Oklahoma City this past July, our youth preacher Grace Gary reflected on how difficult having faith in God can be. “It’s particularly difficult without ‘physical proof’ … but I can see God through people ….”
This moment in time, and moment by moment, may we be the people that God created us to be.