The lingering sadness in our hearts for
those affected by Hurricanes Katrina
and Rita hardly evokes a feeling of
Christmas. In the darkest hours of the
Gulf Coasts annihilation, the rising
waters forced the living onto roofs and
paraded the floating dead through the
streets in gruesome display.
New Orleans felt the brunt of the
damage. A city known for its spirit and
its spirits, its flash and its flair, became
a waterlogged ghost town of devastation.
More natural disasters continued in
October, when Hurricane Stan unleashed
a fury upon Mexicos Gulf
Coast and caused torrential flooding
over much of El Salvador. The resulting
mudslides in Guatemala killed as many
as 1,400 people.
Just a few days later, northern
Pakistan and India suffered a 7.6-
magnitude earthquake which left
more than two million people homeless
and as many as 80,000 dead.
In late October, Hurricane Wilma
pounded the Florida Keys with 125-
mph winds, resulting in massive flooding.
The hurricane killed three people
in Mexico and 13 in Jamaica and Haiti
before arriving in Florida.
It seemed that the grace of Christmas
was absent during these catastrophes.
Though these tragedies might tempt
some to blame God, our faith teaches us
that tragedy often begets goodness from
others. Indeed, the spirit of Christmas
took the shape of relief workerswingless
angels in hard hatswho risked
their own lives in efforts to save others.
The Angel Network
When Stacey and Harold Bruno, along
with their two young children and
three other relatives, fled New Orleans
for drier land and a new life, they were
jobless, penniless and without hope.
Reaching Minnesota, the Brunos
found unexpected salvation in the
kindness of local businessman Greg
Lawrence, who offered his newly renovated
second home rent-free for a year
to the beleaguered family.
Hundreds of similar stories have surfaced.
Billy Rhodes, an 18-year-old
Texas senior, joined relief efforts on
August 30 in New Orleans.
Surveying the flooded city with other
volunteers, Rhodes witnessed Katrinas
unsettling aftermath firsthand. On one
occasion, a woman handed him a pillowcase
with her stillborn child inside.
After escaping to her roof to evade rising
waters, she had given birth alone
while waiting to be saved.
Demonstrating courage beyond his
years, Rhodes journeyed into a desolate
landscape and brought with him a
spirit of caring and generosity.
The Gulf Coast was not the only
scene of natural disaster in recent
months, nor was it the only recipient
of human kindness and goodwill.
Just after northern Pakistan and
India endured the biggest earthquake in
a century, airplanes filled with food
and supplies arrived from the United
States, Britain, Japan, Turkey and the
United Arab Emirates. Scores of other
nations offered additional assistance.
On the ground, altruism was widespread.
Rescue workers labored tirelessly,
pulling the living from the rubble
of flattened buildings and listening for
further signs of life.
In rescuing the living and recovering
the dead, these saviors were the very
personification of the Christmas spirit.
They alone whispered words of hope
into the ears of the wounded.
'Tis the Season
Its always a humbling task to count
your blessings. And in the wake of these
recent tragedies, our own blessings
seem all the more evident.
Think back to the images of the New
Orleans Superdomefilled to maximum
capacity with stunned, sick, saddened
evacuees. That alone is enough
to shake us from our holiday gripes.
It hardly seems fair for those of us
unaffected by these disasters to
down another glass of eggnog while
moaning about holiday traffic and
overpriced gift items.
Instead, think of Emani Scott, a 13-
year-old girl from New Orleans who
lost her belongings and was separated
from her mother and baby sister. Aside
from finding her family, her wish was
to go back to school.
Or think of survivor George Griffith
of Biloxi, Mississippi, who held on to
power lines on the side of his apartment
complex for nearly four hours,
frantically trying to keep his head
above rising waters.
In light of these stories, its easy to
remember and appreciate what we
have. In the anguished faces of these
survivors, it would be criminal to take
any of it for granted.
Joy to the World
Our Christmas wish lists should include
hope for many of the worlds citizens of
a life better than what they have
endured these last few months.
This seasonespecially after the
tragedies in our country and abroad
we should remind ourselves of the true
meaning of Christmas: the giving of
ourselves, the sacrifice of our time, the
sharing of peace. Above all, we should
be reminded of Christs birththe
promise of salvation and hope that was
born into this world with his arrival.
Throughout the year, but certainly
during this noble time, we owe our fellow
world citizensthe sick, the displaced,
the dyingour compassion and
This season, for the people of our fractured
world, those whose lives have been
broken by disaster, perhaps the words of
a hope-filled, sickly little boy who lives
deep within our Christmas tradition are
the truest words we could ever say: God
bless us, every one.—C.H.