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How the small can move mountains: lessons from an earthquake


Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

It was Sunday evening here on American soil. About the time we were starting to think about going to bed, preparing tomorrow’s breakfast, loading the coffeepots, and kissing the kids goodnight, the shock wave hit.

For thousands of folks asleep in Turkey far away across the sea, the warning rumbles began. From 11 miles below the surface, tectonic plates shifted, and the earth trembled and roared. The crust holding it all together gave way. Roads caved with giant fissures, and buildings came falling down. It was as though the mouth of hell itself had opened up, and death, came falling from the sky, rolling up in waves from the ground.

So many buildings were destroyed; so many homes were wiped out; so many citizens were crushed as they slept. So very many, in fact, that according to one governor, it was not possible to give the number of the dead and injured because of the widespread destruction.

The early photos coming in on the wire were appalling. The debris field was wide and deep, and the words that sprang to mind were “overwhelming,” “hopeless,” and “impossible.”

It was, however, the cry of a survivor buried in the rubble that caught my ear and wrenched my heart. As the first citizens began to mobilize, stumbling about through hell’s leavings, from somewhere beneath the wreckage came this lament, “I don’t have the strength anymore!”

Trapped. Powerless. Helpless to save himself. Pinned in the darkness beneath that awful weight, and above the rubble, he heard the rescuers calling.

Some quakes that come crush buildings and shatter bones. Others cannot be measured by any seismograph in a sterile lab, yet the devastation is just as sure. When tectonic plates shift and a marriage implodes, a child dies, our finances collapse, or a terminal diagnosis is rendered, the fragile crust that holds us together falls apart. From beneath the rubble of broken hopes and dreams comes the cry, “I don’t have the strength anymore!”

When the debris field of life is wide and deep, the heart will whisper these words. “It’s overwhelming. It is hopeless. It’s impossible.” And those standing by feel it, too.

What can we do, you and I, to help those whose lives have collapsed? In the face of such need and in light of our own limitations, what can we do? How can we help?

We can begin as the rescuers in Turkey began–one rock, one beam at a time, and we start with the person beside us. With a smile, a kind word, a whispered prayer, one boulder and then another and yet another is lifted away. By such simple faith and honest love, mountains are moved, and Hope begins the rebuilding.

This is how the small can move mountains. This is how heaven touches earth.

May God aid and keep those suffering overseas. And always, may God bless our America.

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