I was part of a meeting with regional and national denominational officials yesterday to discuss our response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Naturally, much of our conversation focused around our immediate area here in Southwest Florida and our own experiences of Hurricane Irma. Stories were shared, statistics analyzed, offers of help made, preliminary plans discussed for actions to be taken, and so on.
One of the issues that got raised was the connection between charity and justice. How do we see the impact of underlying systemic issues on disaster situations? I've been giving that some thought over the last twenty-four hours. And as I drove to work this morning, and rode down the main drag (let's face it, the only drag) through the island, I couldn't help but be impressed by how much progress has been made in cleaning up the mounds and mounds of vegetative debris that lined the street just last week. It's not all gone, but it is so much better!
But of course that's happened quickly. This is an island of means. We are fortunate to have the resources, both human and financial, to do such things quickly and well. But there are other places, not so many miles from here, where such clean up will take months and months. In part because of greater damage to begin with (for many homes in such places are made of substandard materials or are poorly constructed mobile homes), and in part because of a lack of resources.
And here's the irony: most of the folks doing the actual clean-up work here on the island, live in those places that will still be buried in debris in the months ahead.
Hurricane Katrina brought up many of these issues over a decade ago. But I am afraid we still haven't taken it all to heart. As Harvey and Irma and most especially Maria, are showing us once again.