In recent days, residents of Tupelo and the surrounding area have seen, experienced and in many cases demonstrated the best in humanity.
The eager willingness of so many people to help others in need after Monday’s destruction shows that in rallying to the aid of our neighbors – known to us and unknown – human beings can move a step or two closer to the relationship with one another that God has intended from the beginning.
If there is one great truth in the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is that God made us for himself and each other, and that it is in acts of love and service that we can get a glimpse of the Creator’s hand at work in the world.
But there is another element of this week’s community spirit that has been striking. It’s the gratitude that people are feeling and expressing.
Gratitude, first of all, that there weren’t many deaths, as there could easily have been given the strength and path of the storm through a heavily populated area. It is nothing short of miraculous that no one died in any structure as the tornado plowed through Tupelo, Lee County and into Itawamba County, and only one person died on the road.
We can and should be grateful to God, of course, that the loss of life was no greater, and as gratitude always does, it allows us to see things from a different perspective.
Many have sustained serious property losses, and we shouldn’t minimize the trauma of the loss of familiar surroundings – whether the home or the lovely environment surrounding it.
But Christian theology encourages us to be grateful in and for all things – even suffering and loss – because God is always with us, and what we had before the loss we would never have had in the first place without God.
An old hymn, “Ye Holy Angels Bright” summarizes the call to give thanks to God, no matter the circumstances, and allow that thankfulness to remind us of the strength of God’s constant presence with us:
Ye saints who toil below
adore your heavenly king
and onward as ye go
some joyful anthem sing;
take what he gives
and praise him still
through good or ill
The “joyful anthem” that people in Tupelo are singing after the trials of the last week are in those people coming together, in sheer generosity of spirit, to help one another and be helped. Thanks be to God.