By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY | Published February 6, 2014
There have been many references to the weather as “acts of God” this season throughout the U.S. This particular winter has brought brutally cold weather across the nation on a couple of occasions, and we have all probably learned a new term—polar vortex—which provides a meteorological explanation for the harsher than usual winter conditions that have prevailed in January. Many school districts have long since surpassed their quota for snow days and officials now worry about meeting local regulations that govern the number of school sessions that a district requires for academic accreditation.
Even ordinarily good-natured Atlanta suffered a terrible winter episode last week as everyone knows. We were shut down and endured traffic gridlock of catastrophic proportions. These conditions are now being reviewed, and the community outcry has become a real headache for many of our public officials.
If we choose to refer to “acts of God” this January to describe our unusually cold climate, then we might also want to focus some attention on the “acts of humanity” that also have occurred throughout our region. In short, the finest of our humanity was clearly visible in its very best light last week. We saw people going out of their way to assist neighbors, the elderly, perfect strangers in need. Folks pushed the cars belonging to other people, offered water to thirsty strangers, walked with stranded people to a place of safety, and otherwise showed tremendous gentility and charity in the face of human need.
The “acts of God” brought about some wonderful “acts of humanity.”
Our Catholic schools provided overnight hospitality to dozens of our kids whose parents could not get to them and whose school buses were also stranded. I received a number of photographs of some of our blurry-eyed kids and teachers who managed to turn misfortune into adventure. The awful weather event managed to bring about an additional display of the dedication of our teachers and staff to our kids’ care. An “act of God” became the opportunity to display the depth of commitment that our teachers have for the children entrusted to their care.
Catholic schools were certainly not the only local schools that helped stranded students, but we do need to applaud the faculties and administrations of our institutions as we did publicly at the Catholic schools banquet last Saturday. Last week was Catholic Schools Week, and this event provided yet another occasion for us to praise God for the gift of Catholic schools and the wonderful ministry that they offer to children and families.
A number of our local media outlets highlighted the positive contributions that people made in the face of this disaster. It was refreshing to see the public acknowledgment of the great-heartedness of so many of our people. We are so often subjected to the negative messages that fill cyberspace and media broadcasts. It was refreshing indeed to see the frequent charitable dimensions of our society given some public recognition.
Again, “an act of God” was juxtaposed with many “acts of humanity”—a very welcomed and balanced presentation in the face of last week’s event. This most recent worst event seemed to have brought out the very best in so many of our people here in the Atlanta community. We should all be grateful and proud.