Water, water everywhere

Published 3:55 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote this line in his epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “Water, Water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” I wonder if North Carolinians are feeling that way this week. We’ve had our share of floods along the Flint River, but I cannot conceptualize getting over 30 inches of rain in just a few days.

We watch the television footage of the devastation and thank God that we are not in the path of that sort of storm. At the same time we are thanking God, we should be praying for all those who will lose maybe everything, including lives. The death toll will be in the scores and anyone who saw the reports of the one-year old who slipped from his mother’s hands can only try to imagine the mother’s heartbreak.

Most of the time our media overreacts to these natural disasters, but I don’t believe there could be such in the case of Florence and the North Carolina. They call it a “500 Year Flood” and we can only hope that there will not be another for 500 years. Even then, it would be too soon.

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As usual, these situations bring out the best and the worst of people. The best can be seen in the collective rescue operations. One of my favorites is the Cajun Navy.

The Cajun Navy is a group of Louisiana men and women who answered the call of their state senator Nick Gautreaux. During the infamous 2005 Hurricane Katrina, Gautreaux sent out the call to “anybody who wants to help the people of New Orleans.” Between 350 and 400 boats and people showed up and formed a flotilla that is credited with rescuing more than 10,000 people from the neighborhoods and rooftops of New Orleans.

For all of you with any remembrance of World War II, the Cajun Navy is a smaller version of the British volunteer navy that rescued over 300,00 from the French shores of Dunkirk.

The Cajun Navy is just one aspect of the tremendous American tradition of neighbor helping neighbor. It’s easy, these days, to categorize our people as conservative or progressive or other kinds of identities, but let some negative force hit our states or cities and it’s like a magnet pulling America’s “everyman” into the fray.

If the volunteerism of America in situations like Florence brings out the best, it also brings out the worst. Many people want to stay and ride out the storm. In this case, that was a bad decision and there were plenty of indications that staying would not be a good decision.

Some will come behind the storm and try to take advantage of the unfortunate circumstances. There are always those few who will see a disaster as a chance to scam or steal. I hope they get caught and punished appropriately.

The good news, though, is that for every person who tries to do the wrong thing there are hundreds who are doing the right. We have to remember that and celebrate the goodness of America.

The goodness and courage of America can be seen in the reactions of those who respond to these disasters. Those who are actually affected, most of the time, are accepting of their fate and determined to make it back somehow. They are not blind to their situations. They are suffering great losses, but they are thankful for their lives and hopeful that, in a little while, things will be better.

I appreciate that attitude and can only hope that I would have it because there but for the grace of God go all of us.