The series of natural disasters that impacted Texas, Mexico, Florida and the Leeward Caribbean islands have raised some interesting questions about how we think and feel about other human beings.
How Should We Think About the Residents of Barbuda, Florida, Mexico, Puerto Rico, St. Croix, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Texas? How should we feel about them?
Definitely, there are residents of Wheaton in many personal circumstances different than my own, but let me share my own personal profile as a reference point to bring my questions into clearer relief.
I live in Wheaton. I was born in Chicago. I grew up in Batavia, IL and Gulfport, MS. I have visited Antigua, Houston, Mexico City, Miami, St. Croix, and St. Maarten; and I have changed planes in San Juan. I have a close friend in Wheaton who is Mexican and has brothers and sisters living in Mexico City, I have a niece living in Naples, FL. I have friends and a former roommate living in Southeast Texas. And I have enjoyed the hospitality of Puerto Ricans.
So when I think about the people affected by this recent series of storms, floods and earthquakes, how should I feel about them? How should you feel about them?
How anxious are we that they should receive assistance and be able to rebuild their homes and lives? Should I feel differently if I have visited these places or know people who are currently living there? Should we feel differently if the residents are American citizens? Permanent residents? Refugees? If they bear allegiance to other flags?
Should we feel differently if they are family? Should I feel differently if we don’t speak the same language? Should my feelings be affected by the economic status of the people in the affected areas? Should I think differently about them if they have accepted Christ as their personal savior? If they are Muslims? Jews? Raised in some other faith tradition? Should I feel differently if I am a Christian? Or I am a Muslim? Agnostic, humanist, or atheist?
If I believe in the core of my being that the earth is really ONE country and all humanity the citizens of that one country, how might that affect my feelings about the people in the affected areas? Are not the labels and identities that divide us—Americans or Mexicans, Christians or Jews, citizens or refugees, wealthy or impoverished—identities that humans created? If I believe they are all my brothers and sisters—children of the same Father, how should that affect my feelings?
What if we were in their shoes? How would we want them to think and feel about us? Natural disasters bring these questions into sharp relief, but really these are questions about how we feel about our fellow human beings always. Period.