I don’t like disasters, but I do enjoy seeing people work together. When the Arkansas River waters first began to rise a few weeks ago, I was watching the local and national news and it was full of “us versus them” stories. Republicans v. Democrats, Americans v. Russians, whites v. blacks, liberals v. conservatives – – I could go on, but you get the picture. And then came a crisis. When the flood waters rise, all the land loving creatures from ants and spiders to humans rich and poor flock to the dry side of the line.
I was in an area north of my town several days ago helping reporters find their stories, and I came across some dismal scenes. People made their best efforts to save their houses, and then some worked while others did not.
As sad – heartbreaking – as this is, here is the bright spot: these people. In a break from dealing with social media and tv stations, I had the privilege of working with people affected directly, and alongside people who gave their time. Not because they were paid to, or because they would receive good will votes from the voters at an upcoming election, but because they gave a crap about their fellow man. I didn’t hear anyone asking whether the sandbags would be going to a muslim, or a black man, or someone who had a different favorite sin, or a member of their political party. I saw people with dark skin, light skin and inked skin all working together. Why? They gave a crap. In some languages, that’s called “love.” It’s not the warm, fuzzy, comfortable love – it’s the sweaty, sacrificial, difficult kind. It’s the kind of love that’s missing in so many religious and political circles, yet is so readily found where no one is talking of such things.
But here’s another thing I found: there were plenty of christians and elected officials out proving that they gave a crap. As chunks of our levee on the southwest side of Conway and Faulkner County were breaking off into the river, some of our elected officials were there, day and night, doing everything they could to bring resources in to save local residents from floodwaters. I’ve done this long enough to know the difference between a politician’s “photo op” and an elected official’s “giving a crap,” and what I saw from Jim Baker, Bart Castleberry, Jason Rapert, several quorum court members and then numerous county and city employees was not just “doing the job,” or getting publicity. It was love. Love of the people they work for. Love of public service. I saw Chief Mike Winters, Mark Ledbetter and Tom Anderson supervising the effort to hold back the water despite an eroding levee.
I saw Bobby Kelly working his rear off to make sure that Conway residents were aware of the risks and hazards but weren’t incited to panic. I saw Shelia Belott spending every waking hour coordinating with state and federal government to make sure the general situation was managed correctly. Say what you want about any of these individuals, but I know that these people do what they do out of “giving a crap” (love – for you mushy people) more than money or prestige.
While we may be flooded with water, and critics, and cynicism, and jadedness, and maybe even anger for some, I hope we can remember to look past our differences to meet our common needs even when they are less obvious. Because most of our crises are invisible to others. Because we are never flooded with time. We always seem to have a little less than we want. And honestly, we never have so much that we should waste it by refusing to “give a crap.”