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It Could Have Been Me- But For The Grace Of God

By Barbara White

This week the world has reeled in shock at the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the southern Gulf States of America. Although other major events have also happened this week, people who live in North America, in particular, are still trying to come to terms with the reality and extent of this disaster in their own back yard. Thoughts and images of the affected area come to mind many times a day. With the highly developed technology available today, the media enables us to follow the tragic events as they unfold, and it feels as if it has happened closer to home, than the reality of thousands of miles away.

The Hurricane Katrina disaster, for me, and I'm sure many others, has evoked many questions and emotions. Although days have past since Hurricane Katrina took its toll, I still have strong feelings of shock and disbelief that this has actually happened! Feelings of empathy and sorrow for the millions of people who have lost so much overwhelm my heart, and then come flashes of anger at the looters and criminal element that are taking advantage the misfortunes of others. I understand how desperate people might resort to stealing to meet their urgent need for survival, but the violent and self centered behaviour that caused the police to have to stop rescuing those who are still stranded to maintain safety seems incomprehensible to me. Then comes into my mind many questions "Why didn't that 20% of the population of New Orleans evacuate? "Why did they choose to stay? There are so many questions of "Why and "What if that remain unanswered now, and may never be answered.

Could this disaster have been prevented? Looking with hindsight it is always possible to see things that might have prevented a disaster or accident, and as humans we have a strong desire to lay the blame somewhere in a desire to become reconciled with harsh reality. The sad truth is that no one knows when a disaster or accident might happen. Fatal accidents and tragedies can happen to any of us at any time, any where, and we could become an innocent victim. We just might happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. When I see those suffering people in such dire circumstances, I am so aware that, but by the grace of God, that could be me. I could have been visiting New Orleans, and been unable to get out in time. Perhaps you also have passed by a fatal car accident, and realized, as I have, that if you had left your home a few minutes earlier, you might have been the victim instead of that person. Although everyone is able to take reasonable precautions towards their personal safety, it is impossible to protect ourselves from every potential tragedy, unforeseen disaster or accident.

It is not healthy or realistic to live life in fear of disaster either. Human nature, however, can often go to the other extreme, and we find ourselves living with a sense of denial and feeling of "It won't happen to me". This could be true, but of course, we don't know that for sure. For example I live in an earthquake zone, with a major fault line in the ocean. Seismotologists record an average of 500 minor earthquake tremors everyday in our vicinity, but they are so small that they are not felt. Recently we have felt of two or three larger earthquake tremors. Everyone knows that the "Big One is due, and could happen at anytime. "The Big One would cause a tidal wave that would severely damage the areas that are below sea level near the ocean. Yet these areas are also known to be the fastest growing areas in terms of increased population and industrial development. No one really believes the "Big One will happen - surely if they did they would not move there.

When tragedy hits perspective of what is important changes. A common theme from interviewed victims of Hurricane Katrina, has been that they are grateful that their life has been spared. Homes and possessions can eventually be replaced, but life cannot. I wonder if the victims had known last week what their life would be like now, whether they would have lived their lives differently.

None of us know what the future holds, not even the events of the next hour of our life. If anything good can come from the Hurricane Katrina disaster perhaps it would be that people would stop and evaluate their life and review what is really important. For myself, I want to be more appreciative of what I have, live my life with the purpose of making a difference and live more fully each the moment. I would like to give more time to what is really important and valuable, and that will mean some priorities for me will change.

After all is said and done-but for the Grace of God it could have been me.

How about you?

About the author:
Barbara White is the President of Beyond Better Development. As a speaker and author, Barbara brings her passion and expertise in leadership development to work with people to help them grow towards excellence in their personal and professional life.

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