In the matter of a month, Baton Rouge, LA – the place where I grew up – went from a city divided, to a city, quite literally, under water.
Heavy rains pushed the murky waters of nearby rivers over their banks, and into the homes of tens of thousands of people. The flood did not discriminate – people of every age, gender, race, economic standing and religious leaning were thrust into the same deep end of a sea of destruction.
Catastrophe has but one job: to destroy everything and everyone in its path. But, after watching and reading hundreds of reports and social media posts, I was reminded of the huge chink in Catastrophe’s armor … it always seems to bring people of all ages, races, economic standing and religious leanings together.
Among the myriad images of this city underwater were dozens of videos of rescues. Amid the paramedics, police and other official rescue workers were countless regular people putting themselves at risk to save another.
Some of the civilian heroes made sure their neighbors were safe, rescuing them from the roofs of their homes. Some of those heroes, like the self-named “Cajun Navy” loaded up their swamp boats and rushed into the hardest hit areas, literally diving into the dangerous waters to save people – and their pets – from sinking cars.
People rescued pets and created make-shift shelters, in the hopes of facilitating happy reunions once the waters receded, and life returned to whatever the “new normal” might be.
I watched the videos, sometimes more than once or twice. In not one of the daring rescue scenes did I hear anyone question the race, religion, or political party of anyone either throwing out or receiving a helping hand, being saved by a stronger swimmer or complete stranger. None of that mattered.
A mere month earlier, this same town had plunged into the deepest depths of a sea of racial and social chaos. Amazingly, it would take the worst flood in Baton Rouge history to usher humanity back to the surface.
The city names may vary, but Baton Rouge is no different than any other town in America. No matter how impassioned our hatred of (fill-in-your-prejudice here), our love for our fellow beings always seems to take over when Catastrophe comes to town.
Why do we need devastation and despair to remind us that we are all really in this thing together? Maybe it is for the same reason so many of us find ourselves reaching out to that one person we vowed we would never speak to, forgive or have dinner with when they – or we – are gravely ill. Sometimes, our change of heart comes too late, leaving us with deeper damage than four feet of dirty, Amite River floodwater could ever do.
You don’t have to be in the Cajun Navy to know that it is never too soon to let go of hate or anger, whether it is directed at an entire race, religion or political party, or that sibling who let you down. It is much easier to rescue humanity – or even one person – on firm, dry ground.