As I look out the window watching the autumn leaves swirl to the ground, I can’t help thinking about my brother’s death last week. There is a parable of sorts in every bit of nature; the autumn leaves are no exception. I find nature’s lessons to be healing in a sad and troubled world.
The first thing that strikes me is that when all is calm, the leaves appear to fall one by one. You can sit by and appreciate their particular glory as they fall. Yet, when the wind blows harshly, the swirl becomes overwhelming and you lose the individuality of each as they become part of a massive array of color and texture so strong that it takes on a power all its own.
Hence the reality of the refugees who are suffering and dying as a group, as numbers in a tragic statistic. My brother could have been regulated to a statistic, but for those who knew and cared about him he was much more than that. Though my family is imperfect, our efforts to do right by him remain none-the-less. His life was personal, his death was personal and he is more than another sad statistic.
There are times for statistics. There are times to analyze the big picture. A large-scale framework allows us to take proper assessment of what is happening and take proper action. But if all we offer is large scale solutions, clean-up services for the yard, relief-services for the poor, money allotted to causes, we forget there are unique and poignant stories in every life and death. There are at this moment: hearts in grief, aged people suffering loneliness, frightened children, and hungry families.
When a leaf falls, it is a bittersweet beauty because though it is an end, it is also a beginning. Spring growth will rise from the death of the leaf. But when a heart falls, when a person’s soul despairs, there is no new growth. There is only death. That is the greatest tragedy that can happen in this adventure we call life.
Yet, there are solutions to our problems. Lots of solutions. If only we are willing to engage. Projects and plans for the poor, political solutions for the refugee crises, money for the needy, are all valid and helpful. But above all, we must never forget the beauty of the individual life. There is no one so isolated from the rest of humanity that he or she can’t find someone to care about. In caring, so we find our beauty and when it is our turn to fall, we’ll find ourselves more than a statistic in the hearts of others who will discover within our lives the strength of new hope.