(Orange, Texas)

June 1, 2013

A guy named Joe shows neighborliness still has legs

Dr. Andy Pate
The Orange Leader

BEAUMONT — When disaster strikes in America, it’s amazing how quickly the people come together for those most impacted.  We Southeast Texans have experienced this reaction on, we might knowingly say, too many occasions, most recently after hurricanes Ike (2008), Rita (2005) and Katrina (2005).  Enough is enough.  But we’re grateful to the responders from near and far, forever.

Something quite similar has happened in Moore, Oklahoma, amid the devastation caused by the tornado that struck there on Monday, May 19.  Americans across the land have responded most laudably with their assistance.

One particular American, Joe Mallo of New York, has stood out among the responders because he has been featured on one of our major TV networks (CBS, Sunday, May 26).

Joe travelled from New York to Moore to help clean up the mess.  It took him 24 hours to get there.  And upon arrival, he started to work immediately.

“Why did you come?” the TV interviewer asked Joe, who replied, "I came because I know what being a part of something like this feels like, and I know it's an amazing thing to do, and I wanted to feel that, I wanted to…”

Joe the Responder almost restores one’s confidence in the essential goodness of the American people.  I say “almost.”  For we’re not doing as well with being constant in our goodness.  Following our spontaneous Helping Responses to disasters we ever so quickly fall back into bitterly divisive ways, which increasingly seem to be becoming as natural to our daily living as apple pie and hamburgers with fries.

If it were just a matter of differing opinions, perhaps we could ignore the divisions.  But, No!  There is bitterness.  There is anger, even hate.  There is too much violence in a nation that likes to pride itself on being founded upon the basic values of the Judaeo-Christian heritage.

So “almost” does fit our essential goodness.  That basic thrust to do the right thing lies hidden and too seldom tapped in normal times.  We need it, I believe, in the routine nitty-gritty of our politics, in the weekly sounds of our church worship, and perhaps most, in our daily conversations  about the status of our life together.

When he was asked who is the “neighbor” we are to love, Jesus answered with the story of the Good Samaritan who stopped ‘by the wayside” to help a man who had been beaten and robbed after a priest and a Levite had passed him by.

We know not Joe Mallo’s religious affiliation, but we do know this:  he’s trying to live as a Good Samaritan.

Would that we all did, hour-by-hour, day-in and day-out.