The grace of generosity

This last week the fires in Cape Town have dominated our screens and our hearts. Sometimes we forget that we are still at the mercy of nature. Our control over most of our environment can seem complete and then a natural disaster strikes and we are reminded again of how vulnerable we are.

As this fire has raged it has affected many people; those whose homes have been damaged or burnt, those who have been injured, the fire fighters who are working to limit the blaze and the many volunteers who have offered food, water and money to aid in the work.

Under stress and in times of crisis there is an innate human response to be more generous, to give more and to reach out to each other. In the wake of a disaster, such as this one, many people are responding with great generosity. The news stories of volunteers assisting in various ways seems to reach into our deepest desires as human beings.

On the other hand, we know that those who respond generously are always only a portion of the population. Many will do little more than download pictures or read stories. Others will do nothing and, in the furthest extreme there will be those who seek to take advantage of people who are more vulnerable than usual.

As I have watched this drama play out I have been reminded of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. That story always seems to tell me that while prayer and living a religious life are good, there must also be concrete action that flows from my life. The Good Samaritan steps out of his comfort zone. He does not just walk past and pray for the person injured on the road, he acts.

There is something freeing about a natural disaster. Its scale, its immediacy, its power remind us of our dependence on one another. Reading the tweets on social media I am struck by how different in tone the tweets about this fire are, compared to many of the other tweets I have read in the last few months. Here is a sense of solidarity. Here are ordinary citizens praising the fire fighters (rather than moaning about poor service delivery). Here are people offering aid, asking how they can help.

Just over two weeks ago in Cape Town, we witnessed what a divided country we are at SONA. This week, also in Cape Town, we see the opposite, what a united country we can be. As I ponder this difference the Godly grace that seems to be present now in abundance is that of generosity: the generosity of those battling the fires, the generosity of the volunteers and the generosity of the wider public. How differently might our SONA have played out had our politicians met each other with generosity? How different might our country be if all of our lives bore witness to the same generosity of spirit, time and resources that we see battling the Cape fires this week?

Mrs Frances Correia

Frances Correia has worked as a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition for the last 20 years. She is a lay Catholic, married with children.

f.correia@jesuitinstitute.org.za @francescorrreia
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