Each of the past three weeks brought a Nor’easter snowstorm to New York City and unseasonal snow accumulation in southern states that are typically preparing for Spring Breakers. My Facebook feed includes daily photos from friends complaining about the inconvenience of wearing a warm coat while scraping the windshields of cars with heated seats and remote-controlled starters. I whine about having to layer my clothing to throw softball or walk to the gym. We’re generally joking about our “developed world problems” and don’t truly believe we are experiencing hardships anywhere near the levels of people in Puerto Rico or on the E train after 7 PM. I still remember the feeling of helplessness in 1997, as I watched the Ohio River rise near Louisville, indiscriminately destroying properties of rich, poor, old, young, male, female, black, white, and more. Perhaps we make stupid jokes because we wish we could do something to lessen the wrath of Mother Nature, who can seem like a vengeful god. Maybe we laugh to cover up our fear that we are contributing to her wrath.
Some say Mother Nature is angry because we are disrespecting and harming her with pollution, overuse, and waste of her resources. That would make sense to me, if she were a human mother like my own. My late mother’s wrath was greatest when she felt disrespected or threatened. Yet, like “Mother Nature”, she couldn’t help but shine like the sun, even on those who hurt her. She could be a little unpredictable and sometimes cause harm she later regretted.
I choose to think of Mother Nature like my own dear mother. Thus, I forgive her for the tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, avalanches, floods, droughts, and other natural disasters. Unfortunately, her children tend to require tragedy before we take action. Even then, we might just suffer through it, because it seems easier than being proactive. What if Mother is just horribly uncool and out of touch? What if she’s making up a lot of stories about climate change and being overly dramatic?
Regardless, it’s up to us to choose–whether to forgive her and what actions we want to take. We can choose to appreciate the last days of winter and the snowstorms that will soon disappear for several months. They give us some down time we might not otherwise take advantage of.
We can choose to help the people we believe are genuinely struggling–or even those we think might be scamming us. Our generosity can cause others to be more compassionate and generous, too.
We can choose to believe in human causes for climate change and become environmental activists, or we can choose to take small actions “just in case”. It is in these choices and actions that we learn about forgiveness, failure, and our greatest powers. There is no perfect choice that lasts forever. The world is constantly changing. You are constantly changing. Can you forgive the world for this, surrender to it, and prepare contingencies accordingly? Or do you want to spend your life trying to control something larger and more powerful than you? It’s painful and frightening when nature destroys your life, but often it is clearing the clutter from your path to something better…