In an article for the Sunday New York Times, Jon Mooallem describes how people in Anchorage Alaska responded to the 1964 earthquake that devastated their city.
Despite fears of looting and other anti-social behavior, what people on the ground actually found was a community “meeting the situation with a staggering amount of collaboration and compassion.” Mooallem goes on to say that “something surprising had been shaken loose in Anchorage: a dormant capacity—even an impulse—for people to come together and care for one another that felt largely inaccessible in ordinary life.”
Apparently the same pattern of generous, caring, compassionate behavior emerges in virtually every natural disaster that has been studied. In a crisis, people are inclined to help each other. Mooallem doesn’t get theological in his article, but I would say that God’s grace flows in the midst of disasters, often through our family, friends, and neighbors. The result is unusually authentic Christian action.
The covid-19 crisis differs from a natural disaster in a couple of obvious ways. It happens more slowly than an earthquake—the Alaska earthquake lasted just four and a half minutes! And in this crisis, safety requires us to isolate ourselves rather than coming together.
Still, I found this article very heartening. When the chips are down, people are good, God’s grace flows, and we, however briefly, do right. I think about some of the stories I have heard from the Great Depression, and the formative impact it and World War Two had on what we have come to call the “greatest generation.” Perhaps we will emerge from this crisis with a clearer sense that we are all in it together, that more unites us than divides us, and that we can do great things when we cooperate. May God make it so!
 Jon Mooallem, “This Is How You Live When the World Falls Apart,” New York Times Sunday Review, March 15, 2020, page 4-5.
Fr. Harvey Hill
This blog is my occasional reflections on life, God, Christian faith, and the Church. I hope you find it helpful!