If I don’t get some shelter
Oh, yeah, I’m gonna fade away
Gimme Shelter - Rolling Stones
The island of Puerto Rico once sent us Maria, the heart throb of West Side Story. That Maria suffered unspeakable loss as her brother Bernardo and her lover Tony lay mortally wounded on a dark, grimy New York street. A different Maria, one not caring to feel particularly pretty, recently stormed back with a vengeance. This Maria inflicted loss of biblical proportions and laid waste to an entire island. After she blew by, Puerto Rico barely registered a heartbeat as the once beautiful island almost sunk back into the ocean.
In addition to Americans ravaged in Puerto Rico today, far across the globe it’s the Rohingyas in Myanmar. Yesterday it was those afflicted by quakes in Mexico, Irma in Houston and Florida, and since 2011internal warfare consuming virtually all of Syria. Whether by the awesome destructive forces of nature, or by the cruelty and brutality of fellow man, tragedies left tens of millions of men, women, and children homeless and searching for shelter. Believe what you will but none of us is immune from similarly having our lives abruptly turned upside down and desperately needing to seek safe haven. In essence, all manner of shelter regardless how solidly perceived or built, is temporary.
You may dismiss this thesis, thinking optimistically ‘that can’t happen here.’ But devastation resulting from frigid temperatures, snow & ice, forest fires, rain, flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and Nor’easters disrupt countless lives in the US yearly. Choose your region’s poison, it doesn’t matter, we’re all only a heartbeat away from losing the roofs over our heads …. and perhaps much more.
open to the sky
There is a reminder of this fragility which coincidentally arrives each autumn. The Jewish holiday of Sukkot recalls the temporary dwellings recently freed Israelites erected for shelter on their forty year trek from Egypt across the Sinai wilderness. After centuries of bondage the experience was formative for an emerging new generation and forged self reliance.
I gotta get out of bed and get a hammer and nail
Learn how to use my hands
Hammer and Nail - Indigo Girls
Sukkot observance is textured with messages other than fragility.
When summer crops are ready for fall harvest, it is time to appreciate a seasonal cornucopia of earth’s offerings. It’s also a time to pause and savor the permanence of bounties, such as the embrace of family each of us are fortunate to claim.
But as fields are gleaned and baskets filled to overflow, Sukkot reminds us that many do not share in the abundance. Accordingly it is customary for a portion of the harvest to be set aside for those who may not experience the riches more fortunate neighbors enjoy.
Now back to real time - those souls near and far afflicted by either violent acts of nature or by fellow man need space to dry their tears and mourn their losses. Soon after, with help from the family of man they’ll pick up hammers and nails to begin the painstaking work of rebuilding. Perhaps Sukkot’s themes of taking action, appreciation of inviolable personal riches, and the willing hands of neighbors can provide a measure of comfort and encouragement.
We'll find a new way of living,
Somewhere . . .
Hold my hand and we're halfway there.
West Side Story
Somewhere - Stephen Sondheim
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