Sunday, September 11, 2011

but for the grace of God...

If you enjoy hearing a good story...or telling one...this has been a good month for you, especially if you live in southcentral Pennsylvania. First there was the spin-off from hurricane Irene, people struggling with power outages and property damage.

Then for a little levity, we joked about the devastating effects of the East Coast earthquake

Then the Susquehanna River and its tributaries flooded with tropical Storm Lee.

Today we're listening to the stories that emerged from the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center, the crash of Flight 93, and the assault on the Pentagon that took place on September 11, ten years ago.

For weeks now we've been listening as people tell their stories...chronicles of devastation, tragedy, and grief. Innocent lives have been lost, homes destroyed, and businesses ruined.

We've heard stories of courage, self-sacrifice, and heroism. Emergency responders have worked tirelessly, and friends and neighbors have pitched in to help.

We have been touched by acts of kindness and compassion. Food and water have been shared. Even lost and homeless pets have been rescued and sheltered.

And we have revisited 9/11 in the words of the survivors.

But for the grace of God, any of us could be telling these stories. They serve to remind us that we are all vulnerable, that life is fragile, that everything can change in a heartbeat. Likewise, they attest to our strength, resilience, and generosity.

It has been a very good month for storytelling, indeed.

But if you are thinking, "Enough already. I can't bear to hear another word about fires or floods, about devastation and despair. I've had all I can take of  9/11," then you should turn off your TV, and sign out of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Instead, take a walk outdoors and reflect on the fact that your house is still standing, that your children are safe, that the power is on, and your toilets still flush. Or, pick up a good book to read, a story you enjoy...

...because the stories we hear, the stories we read, and the ones we tell connect us, heart and soul, with all who suffer, all who labor, and all who triumph. Through them we are all part of the great story arc we call "life".

What is your story?
"I think that these difficult times
have helped me understand better than before
how infinitely rich and beautiful
life is in every way
and that many of the things one goes around
worrying about are of
no importance whatsoever."
--Isak dinesen--
Barring any further earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes, next week at this time we'll be settling in at the beach for a week of reading, writing, and reflection. Wish us luck!


  1. The past few weeks certainly have reminded us all as to the fragility of civilization.

  2. Dennis--We are at the mercy of the universe. Scary thought!

  3. Great job, jan! Are you sure you weren't a newspaper editor in some previous life? all the best, meg

  4. How true this is Jan. One of the most important aspects of any of our family get-togethers are the stories we share. There's the "do you remember's" and the "remember when we told mom we were gong to this and really went to that"...or maybe just what is happening that ties us together more surely than any claim of bloodline. It's the same with my friends. The most important part of any friend outings are the stories we remember of our times together and the new stories we are creating together!

  5. Thanks Meg. Thanks Nancy. It's good to hear from both of you!