Singer and songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman made this observation: “When I go to Africa and spend more time there with people who are the least of the least, those in desperate situations, I am broken by it. But I also find people with so much more joy and freedom living with nothing than I see walking down the streets of my own community here in Tennessee.”
I have two trifolds posted on the wall in my office that remind me of a similar line of thought. The first one reads “Courage in Grief” and the second says “Love your neighbor as yourself.” One reminds me to have courage when my situation becomes desperate and the other helps me to remember that the resources I am blessed with prepare me to give to the least of the less fortunate.
No truer statements than these two phrases can be uttered by those of us who live in East Tennessee. Past catastrophic destruction of cities and towns and lives lost in faraway places have become so real to us with the horrific firestorm Monday, Nov. 28 that burned in the Great Smoky Mountains and fanned 80 mile per hour winds into the nearby towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Little did any of us know that by Tuesday morning our beloved city of Gatlinburg would be faced with the devastation of the loss of lives and destruction of businesses and homes. The lost lives can never be replaced.
A once vibrant city is now confronted with the challenges of rebuilding. There are certain times in our lives when we find ourselves in a desperate situation and we must be resolute in facing our challenges. It could be the need to save a relationship or your doctor telling you that your eating habits are affecting your health. It could be learning a child has a rare disease or the loss of a loved one. It is during those times that desperate situations motivate us to find a solution to our problem.
The devastation in Gatlinburg and surrounding areas affects many of us. It is our summer get-away place, but not just for locals. It is a treasured vacation spot enjoyed by millions of families across the globe. Now there is a great need for all of us to step up to the plate and reach out to the “least of the least” with love and compassion. And to give to those who have lost loved ones, homes and businesses hope as they try to find courage in the midst of the devastation to “keep on keeping-on.”
So, never give up! Never give up! Never give up!
By Chaplain Ghosten