Boom! Whoosh! Clap! Crunch! Crash! These sounds were heard Saturday evening in Cookeville, Tennessee, where I live. Thousands of trees came down all over the county. Many of those trees landed on the tops of houses.
I woke up Sunday morning got out early and surveyed the damage. Many roads were still impassable. It looked like bombs had gone off and there was debris everywhere. If you looked right or left you could see the devastation. Power lines and trees were the biggest casualties. It will take our city a while to recover. It was a “hundred-year-old tree pulled up by the roots once in a lifetime” kind of storm.
When something like this happens to a town, people usually band together. For the last two days in Cookeville, there has been the constant sound of chainsaws buzzing. People are helping their neighbors and friends to recover. A person would have to have blinders on not to notice there was a need. When a huge tree is split three ways down the middle in the center of somebody’s yard it’s kind of hard to just believe that situation will go away. It needs to be addressed. The problem needs solving. It’s not beyond our capacity to solve it so we simply stop what we are doing and get to work.
While this seems so simple, I find it rather puzzling that when people are hurting in ways that don’t involve trees in their yard we often have a hard time noticing. We drive down the road of life, eyes straight ahead and, while people may be in our lives, we don’t look left or right into their lives enough to see that they have an issue. If we would just pay the slightest bit of attention we would see that people are hurting and they need our compassion and concern.
Or maybe the truth is that we CAN see that people are hurting. I recall Jesus telling a parable about a traveler that was robbed and beaten and left for dead on the road. He was passed by two men who claimed to be God’s children who saw his condition and did nothing. Maybe it was because they didn’t want the trouble. Maybe it was because they simply didn’t care. Maybe it was because they were too busy with their own business to pause in their day and lend a hand to a person that had fallen because he was broken by a terrible storm he hadn’t anticipated.
Hurting people are no different than fallen trees. Storms come. People bend until they break. The results are sometimes life-changing and devastating and there is a lot of debris.
Do we notice? Do we care? Will we offer to help? We define ourselves and our real purpose by how we answer these questions.
Because people are much more important than houses, yards, and trees.
“So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”
AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum
Photo background credit: Ash Kyd on Creative Commons