Watching shopkeepers and volunteers clean up the damage from the recent rioting and looting, I have seen something reminiscent of what tornado survivors do: Scavenging. Returning to normal starts with sifting through the wreckage to find what might be valuable or critical.
If I want to salvage anything or anyone, scavenging is a necessary skill and attitude. Another down-and-dirty element of life, scavenging involves trudging through what seems utterly destroyed, looking for what’s still whole and useful. In many cases, what comes from this rummaging is a surprise—a family heirloom or especially valuable person who has survived mayhem or disaster. With the surprise comes delight and reverence for what/who has been retrieved from the tangled clutter.
During the continuing national calamities, “foraging around in the mess” describes my emotional life. I’m trying to find in the gradual destruction of civil society those qualities of life that I hold dear. In news reports, I’m looking for examples of grace, generosity or gratitude. In needs-filled conversations, I’m straining to hear stories of perseverance. I’m sharpening my spiritual vision to pick hopeful themes out of what seems fruitless anxiety. At worship, I’m listening for evidence—metaphors, maxims, liturgical phrases, hymn verses—that my spiritual forebears have endured circumstances similar to those presently bedeviling this nation.
If I want to be a salvager, I’ll have to be a scavenger first. Seeing what others might miss, examining closely what seems destroyed, finding something good in what otherwise seems bleak. Naming the assets—useful gifts—that can regain their relevance and utility.
Like salvaging, scavenging is hard work. Still, I can anticipate that today’s trash-times also have great portent for the future. I can see God’s creating hand still at work. I think I can do this scavenger thing!
This seems surprisingly, delightfully possible…