Tragedy brings out the true American spirit

As I typed the words in the search box, my computer screen filled with heartbreaking images of the ongoing devastation in Texas. Flooded highways, homes completely destroyed, boats where cars once crowded the streets — the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey rings as déjà vu to me.

My hometown was also destroyed by flood twice during my teenage years in South Brazil. I remember entering my childhood home after the waters receded, watching as my mom broke in tears at the sight. I stared at my beloved piano, speechless. The once-beautiful instrument was but a shadow of the long-awaited birthday gift. Mud covered every piece of furniture, and a feeling of hopelessness filled the air.

Sympathetic to their plea, my heart ached for the flood victims in Texas as I prayed: “Lord, help them. Encourage these people. Give them the strength to rebuild.”

They’ll need it.

It’s amazing how tragedy brings perspective. Sometimes it takes something of the magnitude of a hurricane in our lives to make us stop and re-evaluate the legitimacy of our cares. Ask someone who just lost a loved one if they remember a quarrel they had with a relative. Ask someone whose house was recently destroyed if they are still offended by what their neighbor said the week before.

It’s true. When the reality that life is but a vapor grips our soul, offenses and divisions lose their stronghold. It is when tragedy strikes that we are left with a stronger sense of our mortality, and of how petty many of our concerns truly are. It is then that we realize that unforgiveness is poison, and bitterness rots our own hearts first, often robbing us of precious moments with those we love.

The last couple of weeks in our nation reminded me of a verse in one of King Solomon’s Proverbs, where the wise Jewish king said: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”

As news and images of the damages caused by Hurricane Harvey make headlines all over the globe, in America, just days after watching the most horrendous demonstration of hatred and discord, we witness the true American spirit rise again. Compassion and love overcome hate, and our divided country joins together in the pain.

While perusing the images in my computer, I realize that tragedy brought out the heart of the America I love. I saw men and women of all races, mingled together in a beautiful symphony of solidarity and selfless love. I watched a video showing miles of trucks from all over the country, men and women of all ages, colors and nationalities, towing their personal boats to rescue strangers in Houston.

As I watched videos, looked at pictures and read the stories, I wanted to shout to all media outlets: “Look! Focus on this. Stay here a little longer. Write the stories, share the truth for the world to see: This is the real America! A country that has always been the first to rescue and help those in need, here and abroad. A country that longs to rise above the sins of its past. A place where most people, regardless of their race, color or tongue, sing the same song: We all bleed red. We are all made by the same God.”

May the God of all mercy and grace help, heal and strengthen the people of Texas. May the same God open our eyes and hearts to allow love and compassion for our neighbor to reign above any differences we may have. May God protect us from the spirit of division and contention that longs to destroy the America we love.

May God heal America.

Patricia Holbrook is a Christian author, blogger and international speaker. Her ministry’s popular women’s conference “She Soars” will take place Oct. 14 in Jonesboro. Visit her website for more information. For speaking engagements and comments, email

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