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Storms, Spiders and Inspiration

There’s something special about New York at a time like this. When it counts, the city comes together in inspiring ways.

Guideposts Editor-in-Chief Edward Grinnan and his dog, Millie

Here it comes, Frankenstorm. Or, if it blows out to sea instead of making landfall, the Snore-easter, a.k.a. Sandy (no matter where it goes). Is Sandy a boy or a girl? There’s an answer to that question but I just don’t have time to track it down right now. I’m too busy assembling my go-bag.

Not really. Julee, Millie and I are going to hunker down right here in the city. We don’t think it will be too bad, certainly not as bad as last year’s hurricane Irene and the freak Halloween ice storm. Both those events brought down trees and left huge swaths of the Northeast without power for weeks. People really suffered.

We thought about going up to the Berkshires to our little vacation house. Then we remembered that during Irene, a huge tree just missed the house. Had we been there then and if that tree had come down on our roof, we would have been goners. As it was, the tree would have totally destroyed our car.

Hence the decision to stay in the city.

There’s something special about New York at a time like this. In a city where millions of people rush around like crazy every day staying strictly in their own narrow channels through space and time, a mutual concern arises. You take a minute to ask someone you see daily but rarely talk to if he has a safe place to ride out the weather. People slow down a little, crack mordant jokes to relieve the tension and genuinely seem to care more.

That’s always been true of New York, from blackouts to hurricanes to terrorist attacks. People here know how to take care of one another. When it counts, the city comes together. People check on their neighbors. The mayor and city officials announce emergency plans to protect the most vulnerable. New York becomes the caring community that it truly is beneath the sometimes impersonal urban urgency. I would not have wanted to be anywhere else in the world on September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of that horror came such an inspiring outpouring of selflessness and altruism, even if we did eventually go back to our urgent urban ways.

I was listening to a report on the radio this morning about a certain species of South American spider. Spiders are relatively solitary creatures that spin their webs and wait for unsuspecting insects to blunder into them and be slowly ingested.

But these particular spiders are unusual in that their webs are all interconnected, thousands of them, though each spider is still an independent operator. The spiders have discovered that they will catch more prey if their webs are woven together. They have learned to share the space. They have found the secret to community. The point the story made was that God infuses creation with the willingness to share burdens and cooperate for the greater good. That even his smallest creatures are endowed with a caring spirit.  

I’ve always thought spiders got a bad rap, a little like New Yorkers.

The closer Frankenstorm gets, the closer New Yorkers grow. We know how to take care of one another. But don’t forget to say a prayer for us and for everyone in the path of Sandy. We might need it.

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