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The best and worst. In Nature. And in human nature. I’m seeing it all around me.

The best…as in the people who are going to extraordinary lengths to help, to care, to do what needs to be done; the breathtaking empathies-turned-to-action. The small, hopeless, delightful baggage of human nature that could see bright hope in a double rainbow at the edge of the devastation—a freak of Nature that was a symbol of the hard-wired human drive to discover the faith that all would be well, that hope would continue.

The worst…in the disaster-tourists who drove into the devastation just to say they’d seen it…the people who’ve come for more sinister reasons…the outsiders who turn the indescribable horror into opportunities to make jokes or to glean attention for themselves.

The woodwork spawns all sorts of ugliness in tragedies. The recent catastrophes in Japan, and a so-called comedian (whose name will not soil this space, but whose talents were better suited to being the voice of a duck than to an open mic to the public ear) who made jokes about it. No. No. And more: Tweets that forgot that self-glorification was not the appropriate response either for the space or the moment. No. No. The United Airlines ad at Ground Zero that declared “You’ll like where our planes land.” No. No.

All of these, people who should know better. People with whom I have no patience. Acquaintances with whom I’ll have a hard time speaking, knowing what I know. No-brainers are exactly that—or should be. Political correctness is not political. It is just correctness; the good sense to understand that words have the power to wound already hurting hearts.

These are the times that amaze. And appall. That give hope and rob it. To care: Our capacity to feel should be the most immediate and overwhelming instinct of all of us. Indifference is the thing that rips our souls from their foundations and tosses them to the winds.

Joplin, my heart is still with you.

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The sky is beautiful this morning, just 60 miles from where lives are in ruin. The cloud are bleached white, tipped with silver.

It doesn’t seem fair, somehow.

The people of devastated Joplin, MO, couldn’t catch a break yesterday. Rain and lightning all day, to add misery to chaos. The forecast today predicts more of the same, a chance of all forms of severe weather later on, a contradiction to the morning’s lying sky.

The knowledge weighs heavily here. I can see it in the wan, stunned faces of the TV newspeople. I see it in the language of bodies, hearts, struggling to find some small good amidst the hopelessness, the outward emotional expressions of their gleanings through the rubble piles.

Things are not what they were, here. Physical objects are no longer recognizable as what they once were. Lives are not. And, for many, there are no lives left at all.

I think, too, of those victims of a more muted, stealthy disaster. The ruin that no longer shows up much on the news—the less camera ready one. These are the lives rearranged by creeping water. Mile upon mile of flood victims whose houses are left standing—for now—but whose existences are tossed on the crest of unstill waters. We have forgotten them.

Life is filled with challenges. Fortunately, for most of us, those challenges are not compacted into a deadly few
minutes of black-sky destruction. Empathy is not help. Sympathy is not solution. But we must feel—and do—what we can. Under this sky of unfair and deceitful blue.

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