Friday morning I took my coffee cup and settled in the Lazy Boy in my grandmother’s front room on her peanut farm just outside of Floresville, Texas, south of San Antonio. I heard the local weather man describe Rita as the third most powerful storm ever to enter the Gulf of Mexico. At that time she was a Category Five with sustained winds of 165 MPH. The catastrophic damage she was capable of was incomprehensible. And she was headed on a trip up I-45.
I sipped my coffee and pondered what the future might hold. I recalled a conversation with Frank, a Katrina evacuee eating lunch at Clear Lake Baptist Church just a few days earlier. I’m guessing he was in his late fifty’s, a blue-collar worker from a Zatarain’s factory in New Orleans. He stood with his hands in his Levi pockets, looking down, rocking back and forth on his heels. “Last Friday,” he said quietly, “I had a job and a house. Now I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
I thought about something I said several times in reply to Katrina’s victims who expressed their gratitude for the way they were being cared for: “Well, but for a matter of miles, it could have been us. In fact, it could still be us. The hurricane season isn’t over yet.”
Now I sense a kind of guilty gratitude. I am definitely grateful to have been able to return to my home. But I do not think that God balanced the prayers of the people of Houston against those of the people of East Texas or Louisiana and decided to spare us.
A few weeks ago I shared this prayer at the close of the sermon. It seems appropriate now. This is the kind of gratitude I want to learn.
I do not thank thee, Lord,
That I have bread to eat while others starve;
Nor yet for work to do
While empty hands solicit heaven;
Nor for a body strong
While other bodies flatten beds of pain.
No, not for these do I give thanks;
But I am grateful, Lord,
Because my meager loaf I may divide;
For that my busy hands
May move to meet another's need;
Because my doubled strength
I may expend to steady one who faints.
Yes, for all these do I give thanks!
For heart to share, desire to bear,
And will to live,
Flamed into one by deathless Love—
Thanks be to God for this!