Why are we better in the worst times?

Published 12:50 pm Saturday, August 27, 2016

I shared last week in this space about our need to focus our thoughts on the kinds of stories that will spur us to the kind of loving action that should mark people who follow Jesus. I shared about the stories I was seeing telling how people have been rallying together in the face of massive flooding in Louisiana to rescue and care for one another in amazing ways. Those stories have inspired me and encouraged me to see what true community can look like, but it has also made me wonder, “Why are we better in the worst times?”

Why is it that it takes a natural disaster for most of us to reach out to the people who live around us and see how they are doing? Why does it take floodwaters for us to say, “I want to make a meal for my neighbors and make sure they have both food and friends?” Why isn’t this the way we live every day in community? I was not in this community in 1999 during the massive flooding that followed Hurricane Floyd, but the stories I have heard about the ways we came together are inspiring. I know that we have that potential within us to truly be a community because we have done it before, but why is it that our best only comes out in the worst times?

My congregation at Courtland United Methodist Church has the largest proportion of first responders (both volunteer and professional) of any church I have ever encountered. It is a joy to have so many people who are committed to caring for people in need, even at personal risk. Every time I hear the sirens from a truck pulling out of the Courtland Volunteer Fire Department, I offer a prayer for those responding and those in need as well as a word of thanks for those who are giving their time and placing their lives on the line. I think about the people I know who might be on that truck — normal, caring people who have made a major commitment to be there when you or I need help. We know we can call them for fire, medical, auto, or similar emergencies and trust that they will show up and help.

However, we are not all part of a fire department or a rescue squad, and not every need is an emergency, and not every emergency is one that the fire department or rescue squad can respond to. Life is filled with struggle and pain and emergencies that range from financial need to broken relationships to depression. All of these needs call for neighbors who are caring for one another. Our basements may not be flooded, but we still need each other to share a meal and a conversation.

I know that the best of you will come out if there is a major disaster in Franklin or Southampton County, but my hope is that it won’t take that. My hope is that you will realize that there are ways you can be a blessing to your neighbors and community now simply by starting or building relationships with the people around you. Share a meal. Bring some flowers. Send a card. Make a phone call. Then do it again. There are always ways you can be growing your relationships with the people around you. I can promise that you will be blessed in the end as well!

This Sunday at Courtland United Methodist Church, we are welcoming Forrest White, who is the Long-Term Recovery Manager for United Methodists in Virginia. He is going to be sharing about the recovery work in Waverly in response to February’s tornado. This is another opportunity for all of us to be a blessing to the community. You are welcome to join us, to hear about the work and to sign up to help. Even if you never plan come to Courtland UMC again, you are welcome! Wherever you find yourself this coming week, ask the question, “How can I be a blessing to my community?” Once you figure out an answer, do it!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or andrew@courtlandumcva.org.