Hurricane Katrina shook us to the core. I've witnessed anger, sorrow, helplessness, frustration, and resignation in the eyes of many people I talk to about the effects of Katrina and our nation's response and lack of response to brothers and sisters living, and dying, in despair.
When I watch the news reports, my first emotional response is anger. I want to hold someone responsible for what happened. In our great nation - the country that responded with such swiftness and compassion to the people caught in the devastation of 9/11 - how could we possibly have let so many people suffer for so long after Katrina hit? What the heck happened? And why weren't those vulnerable levees shored-up before the storms?
I have shaken my head and wondered why more willing and able Americans weren't sent there immediately before and after the storm to help get people out, get food and water to them, and take care of our sick and dying. "Where is our leadership?" I wondered. "What has happened to the heart of our nation?" I asked.
It is my belief that when we are in our hearts and living on purpose, we engage life with compassion, energy, and clear-headed responsiveness, When we are emotionally lost or not in touch with our compassion, we don't know what to do in the face of such seemingly overwhelming challenges.
In the aftermath of Katrina, I find myself asking, "Is the heart of our government a reflection of the heart of its people?"
If the answer is "no" then perhaps I can absolve myself of any responsibility. I can say, "I would never have allowed such slow and inadequate response to have occurred."
But can I say "no" and wash my hands completely, if I am one of the members of a nation that responded so slowly. Am I so sure I am not part of the probelm? If I look deeply within myself, am I so sure - so absolutely sure - that I would have done better? If there is any possiblity I could answer, "Yes, I might have been slow to respond with what was truly needed," then I must ask myself, "Where is my heart?" "In what way am I a part of a national consciousness that would respond with so little - so late?"
I can't point a finger at my government, if I'm not willing to take responsibility for my own part. I know, in good conscience, I must hold myself accountable, before holding a standard for anyone else to meet.
"What could I be doing differently in my own life to demonstrate greater compassion - and more swiftly?" I finally ask myself.
"If I choose not to blame myself or anyone else, what can I learn and apply to my own life as a result of Katrina's impact?"
As I sit with these last two questions everything softens. My anger is gone, as I realize I too loose touch with my compassion. I too respond slowly to the needs of others. On many days, just like my national government, I neglect to make my purpose for being here my priority. Like local governments, I sometimes choose to close my eyes to potential problems, not take preventative measures, and instead assume everything will be ok. like it always has been. Sometimes I decide to put my resources and energy elsewhere and neglect to put it where it is most needed.
If I don't have my own act together, I'm in no position to critisize anyone else.
So, I ask myself one more question, "Where am I most needed?" The needs I know how to fill best - that's where my energy belongs. That is my best service. That should be my priorty. That is where I will be living the heart of my Soul Purpose.
I reach out in the ways I know how to the victims of Katrina's devastation. And I remind myself to remember what I am here to do. When I hold myself accountable for fulfilling my purpose, I am in a better positon to hold my government accountable in fulfilling its purpose.
Our government was established to serve. No doubt, it is a daunting task to determine exactly what "service" means each and every day. Since our government is supposed to reflect the will of the people, perhaps we need to ask our leaders to restore the heart of the nation. Perhaps it is appropriate to remind our elected officials that service, and the fulfillment of this government's purpose includes swift, rapid, and compassionate response to our citizens in time of natural disaster, when they are in their greatest need. And whenever possible, our citizens be protected from damage to our lives and homes.