The Spirit of Apollo is alive and well in Southeast Texas, and in many other places I suspect. It just never ceases to amaze me how our response to natural disasters makes it so apparent. You would think based on the fractured state of our country that a natural disaster as devastating as Harvey would only embolden the tribal impulses tearing us apart. But, far to the contrary, the greater the degree of destruction we suffer, the louder our cries to help one another become–the more connected and responsible to each other we feel.
Growing up in South Florida, I learned quickly about the existential threat of hurricanes. In August of 1992, my community was forever changed when Hurricane Andrew struck with a ferocious force–upending trees, homes, and lives on a scale most people will never see. As the winds died down, I can still remember my first look at its path of destruction–thinking to myself that our lives would never again be the same–that we would never fully recover.
And, then out of the silence they came. By mid-morning the revs and drones of chainsaws filled the air with a resolve that seemed to chip away at despair itself. These were not hired hands or government employees, but everyday people: private citizens, neighbors, perfect strangers now clearing lawns, driveways and streets one branch at a time because they could–because they saw in themselves an ability to make a difference–because they made a choice to be an active part of something bigger than themselves.
Now, the people of Southeast Texas must begin that same long and trying road to recovery. And if our response to previous natural disasters like Sandy, Katrina or Andrew is any indication of how they will ultimately fair, I have no doubt that their future–however distant and unreachable it may now feel–will ultimately be a brighter, stronger and more hopeful one. Because the same spirit of 'can do' that carried us through previous recovery efforts will also take root.
It’s the same spirit that guided us during the age of Apollo: a spirit that said “we choose to go the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard”–the spirit that believed “failure is not an option”–the spirit that got us to the moon and back. Behind these words and actions is the common understanding that when we work together towards a common goal, even the impossible is within reach.
If we know the awesome power of this spirit, why then do we reserve it for the worst times alone? Why do we let storms and recovery efforts dictate the emergence of unity and cooperation? History shows that the spirit of Apollo surges in times of tragedy. But we also know of its amazing potential when skies are clear. Like finding a chainsaw and clearing that first path, it begins with a choice. The moment we commit to making this spirit a permanent fixture in our lives rather than a fleeting phantom, the better off we all will be.