Last week’s headlines featured an unrelenting series of disasters which depressed me. First there were the nuclear-armed cruise missiles unknowingly flown across the country that got my attention. Those weapons sat on a plane on a runway at an Air Force base in North Dakota for 24 hours without crews noticing the warheads had been moved out of a secured shelter. The Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne, said, “We would really like to ensure it never happens again.” I didn’t find this reassuring.
Then I discovered that the Afghan and Iraq War may cost $24 trillion; that number is so mind boggling I can’t even imagine it. Whatever its astronomic cost, it’s higher than the cost of Vietnam or Korea (when Bush invaded Iraq he estimated the War would cost no more than $50 billion. The Congressional Budget Office put it in perspective and estimated that $24 trillion is nearly $8,000 per man, woman and child in this country. I didn’t find this reassuring and plunged deeper.
Then it was the catastrophic fires in Southern California, stoked by ferocious Santa Ana winds. Firefighters said there was nothing they could do until the winds died down, and it seemed to me that even the heavens were conspiring to intensify my blues. In the midst of my disaster overload I read about acts of loving kindness, and that stopped my descent.
The fires created the greatest mass evacuation in the history of San Diego County. Tens of thousands of evacuees filled their football stadium where volunteers offered free massages; there were tables piled high with food, and palettes of apples and bananas. If you didn’t want to make your own sandwich, a volunteer would make one for you. There wasn’t a motel room in San Diego, so people in the community began posting “Free Room and Board” offers on Craigslist. David Paullson, the FEMA Administrator, said after visiting the stadium, “Nobody does disasters better than California.” Those images . . . massage, Starbucks, and beach music made me laugh and I knew I’d bottomed out . . . It never rains in Southern California.
Nothing helps me more than laughing, and nothing makes me giggle more than playing with my grandkids. They are so into the possibilities of every moment that they can’t be bothered by your limitations. Their expectation is that you will keep on amusing them forever. So I invited them out for brunch, to be followed by Olympic competitions. Our contests (which feature not only sports but pencil and quiz games) are staged in my library. These contests are quite intense, accompanied by unimaginable sound effects and lots of spontaneous frivolity.
There is no darkness that cannot be illuminated by the spark of love and acts of loving kindness.