So I'm sitting in the screen porch, warming up nicely in the morning sunshine, taking a break from both the CNN reports of Hurricane Gustav and Nemesis, the current Agatha Christie novel I'm gently browsing.
It was of course Doctor Who that got me here. Well - Virgin Atlantic got me to Florida, you understand, and then my sister drove me to her home & the screen porch; but the Unicorn and the Wasp reminded me that, despite my great love for reading and my constant devouring of a decent novel, I have never actually read anything by Agatha Christie. So I beetled off to eBay, found a lovely hard-backed version of Murder at the Vicarage, and a selection of 10 other Miss Marple paperbacks for next to nothing, and I've been working my way through them ever since.
Personal favourites? The first. And A Caribbean Mystery. And I am enjoying Nemesis right now. Not many left to go...
They are easy-read novels, and the development of the form and of AC's style over the series is part of the pleasure of the read, though the rather light way in which "murder" is treated, and the loss of life becomes acceptable and unshocking to all - evil is mentioned, but never really seen for what it is.
So I sit here in the screen porch. And CNN continues to report on hurricane Gustav, and genuine tragedy unfolds. And here is reality, with the lives and homes of countless people being ruined by the wind and the waves. And my prayers are constant too: for mercy, for love, for help and for a better response now than last time. People here in Florida are not enamoured of the way in which Hurricane Katrina was dealt with; they point to the earlier Charlie, and how they rescued their own at that time.
And my mind wanders to China, and to Burma, and to all those places that suffer natural disasters away from a hundred CNN reporters. The news media is so powerful; and so selective. We are parochial beings; I guess when pain and loss hit our own, we feel it more.
I thank God that each person who suffers is loved by him in exactly the same way, no matter where or what kind of pain they experience. This is the wonder and the truth of his love. But I confess I don't know how to live out that depth of love.
Loving the person in front of you is the start, isn't it? Not taking the loss of life lightly. "Just another story on TV - click, what else is on?" And remembering that there are others too, and praying for them when we cannot directly help - that also matters.