Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Oh, Hail.

I found out today that the hail storm of a couple weeks ago did more than break a few shingles off of our roof; the nice insurance adjuster who came by today told me, "You get a new roof." Which is probably a good thing--when we go to sell this house in a couple of years (hopefully) having a roof that is five years old or younger is de rigeur for this part of the country, where a roof seldom lasts more than a decade given our propensity for large hail and damaging winds as part of the expected spring weather.

We weren't sure the roof would need more than a patch or two--the hail that came down wasn't huge in size, but there was an awful lot of it over a relatively long period of time, and there were some pretty significant wind gusts throughout the storm. The roofing company we've dealt with before for some minor jobs sent out a representative, and he's the one who told us we ought to call in the insurance people--the roof looked pretty bad to him, and he thought there was a good chance the adjuster would decide that replacing it was the right call.

So in a few weeks, perhaps, our house will resonate with the sounds of a roof being torn off and replaced. And as I think about that, I can't help but compare the effects of hail on a roof to the effects of unkindness on the human soul.

It's easy to see how evil can damage and even destroy a person. The headlines are full of the tales of total destruction, of the person abused since childhood who eventually gets a gun and wreaks havoc on an uncaring world. Most of us strive very conscientiously to avoid evil, to keep the commandments, to stay away from the big sins that can lead to such horrific consequences--and that's good, of course.

But are we as careful to avoid the little sins? Are we as committed to rooting out unkind or belittling actions and attitudes from our lives?

I know this is an area I struggle and fail in often. It's easy to keep from hating each other, but it's hard to keep from sniping at each other. It's easy to avoid hitting or slapping each other, but it's hard to keep from taking a rhetorical swipe at each other. It's easy to avoid neglecting the basic needs of the people in our care, but it can be hard to be unselfish with our time or committed to the art of listening to each other. It's easy to stay away from harsh denunciations of our fellow men, but pretty darned hard to keep from the insidious practice of secret and unjustified judgment.

When the big baseball-sized hail rains down on the rooftops here in Texas (or anywhere else, for that matter) the damage is instant and unmistakable. When we hurt each other in big, headline-grabbing ways, the damage is equally recognizable.

But when the little hailstones pound down in a persistent cold dance, it might not be so obvious that the roof has been broken; and when we hurt each other with the same kind of persistent and repeated coldness, we may not ever know how much brokenness we are leaving in our wake.

How much more so, too, because we don't know the storms of pain and tempests of confusion the soul present beside us has already weathered. We don't know if the shingles are sound, or if they're already cracked or damaged. We have no way to gage whether the icy sting of our spiteful words or cold-shoulder treatment are the first hailstones to be flung in the direction of the person in our midst, or if they are the stones that will do the final damage, leading to a need for healing reconstruction in which forgiving us for our role may be the most difficult thing that needs to be done.

To replace a roof damaged by a spring hailstorm requires time and money and materials and, thank goodness, insurance. To repair a soul damaged by the cold hail of thoughtless and selfish unkindness may take much more effort; the work may not be complete this side of the grave, and how much regret will there be for each moment in Purgatory required by our role in the damage.

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