by Betty L. Gannon
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Entering into the neighborhood in Staten Island NY where I was going to be spending the day cleaning up was like something out of the Twilight Zone. The houses from the outside looked fine, but it was so silent. Utility companies on the street working and dump trucks created some noise but it did not cut the silence. Walking into the houses the silence got even louder. Houses that must have been the dreams of many people where covered in mud, water stained and molding. The stories of the people who lived in here in this neighborhood molding away, as the mud leached up the walls as well. But the mud was truly the one hallmark that covered everything it was everywhere. On the street itself, in the front yards, on the floors, on the people working to restore there lives.
Thinking of most of the pictures of the Nativity that come to my mind, I can’t help but to think just how clean they are. Mary without a sweat drop on her brow, the shepherds in clean tunics, and the animals looking in from clean straw underfoot. Now I did not grow up on a farm but I spent enough time around animals to know that animals in general are not always the picture perfect image we have in our Christmas cards. Same thing about human birth, that’s messy too, without going into to details.
Life is messy. But the mess is central to our lives as Christians. God proves that to us by coming to dwell with us. Making sure to make a grand entrance in the world in the muck, the dirt, and the mud of the earth and of our lives. Not exactly the Hollywood version of a savior.
The group of people I was working with was tasked to demo a house. It’s messy and yucky and potentially very dangerous. Whacking down dry wall that has been soaked through makes it twice as hard to clean up then regular dry wall. The mold spots black and fuzzy serve as a very real reminder of just what we are doing.
Plaster dust that is bad enough on its own has become crusted to our pants and to the bottom of our boots because of the dampness. It is a mess. But here’s the thing, the houses in Staten Island and other storm-damaged areas from Sandy are going to be a mess for a long time. But think of the lives of the people affected by Sandy let alone the other storms that where in their lives before the storm. Imagine the mud left in their lives right now. Covered like the roads and the stoops.
Life is messy; we as humans are created from the mud, formed into the images of God. Most of us reading this where unlikely born into mud, but plenty of people still are born into mud today. But we, unlike God, can’t always shape the mud into something good.
But there are opportunities for us to make the mud go away, to shape it into something. I encourage everyone who is United Methodist to go get an ERT (early responder training) badge, so that you can be among the second wave of people to go to a disaster site and help clean up. You can also donate money and flood buckets to United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), make it a project for your youth group, ladies group, get the entire community involved maybe hold a drive at your local grocery store to get the items.
Additionally if you have people going to help commission them for the important work of Christian presence that they are providing. But most importantly continue to pray for the survivors of the storm, the utility workers, the police, the EMTs, the linemen, the Red Cross workers, the construction managers, and the volunteers that are on the ground working to try and create something out of the mud.
For more information about Hurricane Sandy Disaster Response, visit the New York Annual Conference's website.
Betty L. Gannon is a third year seminarian at Drew Theological School in
Madison NJ. She is in the ordination process in the New York Annual Conference of The UMC, her interests include disability theology,
social work, pastoral counseling and care, and working to meet people
‘where they are’ to help them meet the goals they have for themselves.
When she is not hitting the books she knits, reads, and watches Law and
Order SVU just a little too much! She blogs at Itinerant Camper.