The Lens of Disaster

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Transitional Leader of the
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy

choward@glpby.org


My first career out of college was as a claims adjuster. As part of that work I learned how to build a house from the ground up. This lead me to work on a national CAT team, where I would be called to respond to catastrophes anywhere in the United States. While doing CAT duty, I saw the power of hurricanes and tornadoes. I witnessed large scale destruction of communities. I encountered people who had lost everything. To my surprise, these people extended hospitality and kindness toward me and my fellow workers. I was invited to more community pot-lucks, barbeques, and shrimp feast (This was in Galveston Texas) than I could attend.

Oftentimes disaster brings out our generous, compassionate, and supportive nature. Our churches organize mission trips and create disaster kits in the face of calamity. In the book, A Paradise Built In Hell: extraordinary Communities That Arise In Disaster, Rebecca Solnit makes this argument. Solnit challenges us to rethink the worst-case scenario of life, after society and our beloved institutions collapse. She writes, “If paradise now arises in hell, it’s because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.”

The Parkland school shooting is an example of a disaster that is creating a new system and new order. Some argue that the teenagers are using the disaster for political means. I believe the disaster is creating a new way for the students to be citizens, comrades, and members of their learning community. The system broke down and failed them. The walkout planned for March 14th is symbolic of walking away from a failed institution. As a response they are recreating and re-envisioning what society and education can be like, and how they should act toward one another. Solnit writes, “The prevalent human nature in disaster is resilient, resourceful, generous, empathic, and brave.”

I am not trying to get into a gun debate, especially in Missouri! That is not what this article is about. I really think we should look at what these kids are doing, and how it resonates with our human nature, and a positive hope that is made alive through disaster.

The disaster in Parkland is delivering a group of students who are bold, brave, and inspiring. They are appealing to a deeper nature in all of us. A nature that goes beyond constitutional rights, cultural norms, and governance. The students are challenging all of us to rise up and put human life first, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Then all else will fall in line.

For more on the National School Walkout planned for March 14th, go to: https://twitter.com/hashtag/NationalSchoolWalkout?src=hash

Rev. Craig M. Howard

2 Responses to “The Lens of Disaster”

  1. Helen Imes on

    Craig, consequently I have not had or taken the opportunity to chat with you in person, but as I read and enjoy your blogs, which are always full of information about your life before your work with the Presbytery, I am getting to know you better and hearing your unique voice and how you approach so many interesting subjects with great depth. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Craig Howard on

    Helen,
    Thank you for your kind words. I’ve had a full life and several careers, and I’m not done yet! Let’s talk the next time at Second.

    Reply

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