Thursday, May 9, 2013

What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

          It’s that time of year again. While we are enjoying the sunshine that spotlights  the beautiful azaleas and dogwoods, we are keeping an eye to the sky and remembering how quickly a springtime storm can devastate so many lives.

          Towns like Mena and Arkadelphia here in the Ouachita region remember all too well what it’s like to have to start from scratch, rebuilding after a few minutes of hell on earth.

          In the past month, two other towns in our nation have dealt with major tragedies. In Boston, the cause was an unthinkable attack during an event that is meant to signify victory, the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. In the small town of West, Texas, disaster came when a major source of prosperity for the townspeople suddenly became the catalyst for utter devastation.

          Events like these always leave us shaking our heads. How is it possible for so many to be hurting so badly?  It leaves us feeling helpless, confused, even angry. But, here in America, that feeling doesn’t last for long. It seems that the worse the disaster, the more we come together. First responders rush into the jaws of death, instinctively risking their own lives to save others. Trucks full of supplies are quickly sent on their way, overwhelming those in need with more help than they can handle.

          When the disaster is not natural, but planned by a terrorist, it is even harder for us to stomach. What gratification could these people possibly hope to get out of maiming and killing? Evidently, it is the feeling of power, a massive grab for attention to their twisted cause. Such a fleeting thing for them, compared to the strong response it elicits from the survivors, which only builds as the days go by.

          So how do we do it? What enables us to come together so quickly, so confidently when all seems hopeless? In part, it’s history. We remember other bad times, in all parts of the country, and how we’ve rallied before. When there’s a storm in New England, the power workers from the Southeast hit the road, repaying the help they received during their own time of trial. Firefighters from the mountains of Arkansas head West when flames threaten to engulf and overwhelm the locals. Teams of volunteer homebuilders travel to stricken areas to restore homes.         

          At times like these, we forget about “offending” someone by expressing our faith. Everyone from the guy on the street to the President of the United States calls for prayers for the victims. Patriotism reigns supreme, and the National Anthem is sung with new fervor and meaning.

Two young singers have similar songs about coming back after a devastating experience. Kelly Clarkson says “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stand a little taller, just me, myself and I.” There’s a powerful, empowering message here that has resonated with folks going through all sorts of difficulties. Another young lady named Mandisa strikes a similar chord when she reminds us that God is always with us: “When the waves are taking you under, hold on just a little bit longer, He knows that this is gonna make you stronger.”

When it comes down to it, these massive situations are just a large number of individual struggles that happen at the same time. The personal stories are something we can all identify with. We’ve all felt loss, experienced illnesses and injuries that seemed insurmountable at the time. We remember what it felt like to be prayed for, how the love and support of others helped us through our darkest hours.

With that kind of encouragement, recent amputees are already setting their sights on next year’s marathon, and we’ve not doubt they will make it.

Dark days can and will come, even in the most beautiful places. But, with our faith as our armor, we can be ready. When we’re fortunate not to be at the epicenter, we’ll respond in the best way we can. We’ll fill rented trucks with supplies, donate money to the organizations who know what to do with it, link arms and belt out songs about how our flag survived the rockets’ red glare. That’s what makes America the best country in the world. Let’s just try harder to keep this spirit going between disasters.

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