In Pitt County and other North Carolina counties it almost has been a tale of two worlds this past week. Many residents got to crawl into their own beds each night without worry that their floors, walls, and appliances would be destroyed by rising flood waters. Others had to seek refuge in shelters, hotels or in the homes of family or friends while dealing with the anxiety of how bad the damage from Hurricane Matthew would be and if they had insurance to cover what could result. Some were looking at the prospect of their businesses being put out of commission for quite a while and having to pay for major repairs. In Farmville on Sunday there were neighborhoods partially under water while just a few streets away things seemed like normal other than extra yard debris. The sun was shining and it was a cool, beautiful day.
The dichotomy that has been so obvious this past week exists, possibly below the surface, on a regular basis. On any given day it is likely that we bump into people at the grocery store, at work or at school who are under the weight of tremendous burdens. We ourselves might be going through such a season of stress or pain. Sometimes we are aware of neighbors or fellow church members facing health struggles, financial upheaval, marital strains, or other emotionally challenging times, but often we are not. Conversely, they might not know what is going on with us.
In showing empathy, Christians make an effort to offer kindness to those who are walking through a valley or a storm. We do not have to be made privy to the details but should attempt to be understanding and compassionate. Instead of having a knee-jerk reaction when someone seems a bit testy we should consider that we do not know what difficulties that person might be facing.
Paul exhorts us to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) He also writes “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)
As always seems to be the case, good-hearted people have stepped up to fill sandbags, cook meals, donate, collect and distribute supplies and food, host displaced friends, and clean up in the aftermath of the hurricane. We often see the best in people when circumstances are the worst. Even when Hurricane Matthew is a distant memory there still will be those in need of a listening ear, a helping hand or an encouraging word.