The movement of Hurricane Matthew is more than a typical news story on my end. You know, the kind you read abstractly, thinking, “Oh, those poor people living in its path,” while being grateful you’re far from harm’s way. And, yes, living in New England, I am far from the storm’s current devastation, even though some forecasts suggest it will affect our weather within the coming week.
The mention of eastern Cuba is what first caught my attention, especially the possibility of landfall. Elizabeth O’Connor of the Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C., once wrote of the spiritual nourishment that can arise for Americans in relationships with Third World peoples, and I’ve seen that in the contacts in my Quaker circles. One in particular, the Puente de Amigos, has for 25 years encouraged relationships and visitation between the Quaker churches in Cuba and their New England colleagues. And that’s where the storm gets personal, since our sister congregation is in Holguin, the fourth largest city in Cuba – and somewhere in the path of Matthew. These are people I’ve met, spoken with, shared meals with, and respect and treasure.
And then, looking at Florida, I think of another Cuban Quaker who visited this summer’s annual sessions here in New England – a very delightful introduction who now ministers in Miami. Actually, I first met him here in Dover a few days earlier. Again, the concern gets personal.
We can add to that those folks we know living in the Carolinas and Virginia who may also soon be impacted. As for New England, we remember all too well the wreckage Irene inflicted on landlocked Vermont – and we just spent some time on Cape Cod, which is most likely to be hit.
At least we have warnings, unlike earlier times when these storms simply appeared out of nowhere. Just think about that and the accompanying tragedies. The news of the death and damage would arrive much later.