As I write, it’s been just a few days since electricity was restored to our church and to our home. Three-quarter of a million Chicago area households lost power, some for nearly a week. Most of us were fortunate to regain electricity before the temperature rose too high on the weekend, and the experience wasn’t all bad. While some businesses were challenged by the loss of power and nearly everyone was at the very least inconvenienced, most of the people I talked with were not particularly upset.
Aware of this year’s tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri, I heard people expressing gratitude. We all know that the weather can do much, much worse, and if anything our compassion for those who had suffered in those places grew deeper.
Many people experienced a sense of community that often eludes us in our suburban housing tracts. Neighbors helped neighbors clear debris – including those who could not take care of their own damage due to age or infirmity. Impromptu block parties were held as people grilled food that was about to be spoiled. We met neighbors we didn’t know. Those who had generators shared power with those who didn’t.
For many, the experience connected us to one another in a way we hadn’t felt before. I was reminded of Barbara Brown Taylor’s observation that when Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 talks about how we are “the body of Christ… when one suffers, all suffer…when one rejoices, all rejoice,” it is not just a symbol, but a statement of fact that is true whether we recognize it or not.
In our homes, without power, we relied on candlelight in the darkness, uniting us to every man and woman before Edison. There is something elemental about receiving light from fire alone, something that connects us to who we are as human beings on this good earth. Similarly, the darkness brought silence, the absence of the background noise of television and CD and YouTube that so clutters our lives. Before the hum of the generators took over late in the week, you could almost hear the sound of your own soul. The darkness and the quiet. as with the sense of community, were a spiritual experience in their own way.
Most often, we find the Holy when we take the time to look for it…