“Viviendo en gratitud” (2nd Corinthians 4)
Have you heard this saying before? “Life isn’t fair.” I certainly have. I’ve even said it on occasion. My students were quick to remind me sometimes as well, particularly when I scheduled an English literature test for a Monday, or when I gave, what they judged to be, too much homework. (To be fair, sometimes it was, in fact, too much homework.) But lately, I’ve been reminded that life isn’t fair in other ways. I’ve been reminded when hearing of yet another school shooting, when authority figures abuse power and prey on those considered weak, when a woman is “catcalled” walking down the street, when the effects of unfair social systems long in place seem so hard to eradicate, when sudden floods or fire destroy entire towns, when a life crisis strikes, when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, or when a category five hurricane hits. Yes, in so many ways life isn’t fair, and when this unfairness manifests, we feel the weight of it all. And it is heavy, difficult, sometimes impossible, to bear.
On September 7, 2017, before the imminent passing of Hurricane Irma through Florida, our neighborhood was instructed to evacuate. Though my husband, José Manuel, and I have experienced hurricanes before, this would be the first time we had to leave our home behind because of a mandatory evacuation. As we packed, I felt a deep sadness mirrored by the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen. We left our apartment in The City of Miami towards safe haven at my sister-in-law’s home in the city of Tamarac. The hurricane came and went, and we stayed with our family until power was restored in our area. I look back at these events and, despite the uncertainty and destruction, I’m grateful for family willing to take us in, feed us and care for us, and for prayerful messages and calls. I’m also grateful for a presbytery family that responded in support and encouragement with a clear call to help those who were still hurting. A few days later, hurricane María hit the Caribbean islands, and among these, Puerto Rico. It is hard to describe the feelings while watching the news of this massive hurricane hitting my birth home. Unfair? Indeed. After two days of silence, I received a text message from my Mom; one phrase came to mind: “¡Gracias a Dios!” (More on this story to be continued in a future blog post.)
I think back to the days after hurricane Irma. When there is no electricity, in the dead of night, and the only sound is the murmur of a battery radio – or when crisis knocks on the door– it is very hard to see past the unfairness of it all. Yet, in the midst of this, the words of the Apostle Paul remind us that “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” (2nd Corinthians 4) For me, this is living a life in gratitude: looking back and considering the ways in which one has not been crushed, driven to despair, forsaken or destroyed by the vicissitudes of life, and pressing on making the life of Jesus visible to others.
Amid joys and sorrows, although it is not always easy, I choose to live looking at life through the lens of grace and gratitude, thanking God for small mercies along the way: a helping hand, the hug of a friend, the smile of a stranger, the long-awaited call, the surprise visit. In all its beauty or lack thereof, life is, most of all, an opportunity for grace. “Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” May we strive to live in gratitude and may we extend God’s grace in ways that invite and create fairness in the lives of others. So help us God. Amén.
(Blog entry picture: Sunset view from the balcony of our Miami apartment the day before the mandatory evacuation.)