My "sister" Adele reminded me that the older we get the more complicated life gets. And that led me to think back to what was happening in late summer and early fall that would be grist for my November column.

Just when we thought the news could not get any worse — with North Korea shooting off all kinds of missiles followed by the rumors of war, health care dying on the vine along with the late tomatoes, clashes between alt-right and alt-left over Civil War monuments, lots of unresolved issues inside and outside the Washington Beltway, all of them man-made disasters — along came natural disasters, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, to decimate parts of our country and our neighbors and the lives of millions, creating many more horrors and unresolved issues. And let's not forget the devastating earthquake in Mexico that took hundreds of lives and Hurricane Maria that demolished much of Puerto Rico and many lives. There were even a number of lesser hurricanes to follow. And then there were the wildfires in California with the total destruction of entire neighborhoods, the loss of many lives and livelihoods.


There was a great outpouring of hope and helpfulness when the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey hit Texas; namely, neighbors risking their lives to save others, people giving generously to help with physical and financial needs, people picking up the pieces of their lives trying to rebuild and move on. Most people became the good Samaritans we were always meant to be.

And did you see how the elderly were treated in the Texas disaster? Even when they were sitting in waist-deep waters in an assisted living home waiting to be rescued, they were deemed valuable to rescue with respect. Hospital patients, young and old, were also retrieved from very dangerous situations. Human life, no matter the age, was valued and deemed worth saving. Yes, buildings were often not salvageable — largely because of other man-made disasters of building on flood plains — but human life must be saved no matter the race, color, creed or age. Thank God for the military, including the National Guard troops, FEMA workers and volunteers, first responders and police who put others before themselves.

There were, of course, those who took every opportunity to mimic goodness to promote their own personal gain by stealing from the good Samaritans. Shame on them for their nefarious ways and shame on any of us who let them get away with their thievery. Such disasters also brought out the looters. People who take advantage of the misfortunes of others are inhumane bottom feeders! They create man-made disasters and represent the worst that humanity has to offer in the face of natural disasters that often reveal the best that humanity has to offer.

Look, too, at what happened in Florida even before Hurricane Irma hit the state. Price gouging on all kinds of supplies occurred because some business people were looking to make a few extra bucks instead of showing compassion on those fleeing the wrath to come. I understand the economic law of supply and demand; what I don't understand is greed overtaking human decency when everyone is facing the same coming storm.

The elderly at one nursing home in Florida did not fare well at all in the sweltering heat, as a number of them died, with a hospital right across the street. That nursing home was under investigation for possible violations of disaster protocol, seemingly another man-made disaster that had been festering for some time.

At the same time that the country was facing these hurricanes and their aftermath, as well as the horrendous wildfires in the western part of the country — and some of the man-made disasters — where many older people lost their lives, came the news about the Equifax hacking that affected 145 million Americans. Here was another example of a man-made disaster that could destroy people's lives in still other ways.

The news media called the natural disasters of fires and floods ones of epic proportions, with some even calling them of biblical proportions. While we know that natural disasters occur regularly all over the world, we can be thankful that these natural disasters of epic proportions do not occur constantly. What we do have to be wary of every day of our lives are the man-made disasters that rear their ugly tentacles to take advantage of young and old alike. Witness the horrendous massacre in Las Vegas from a lone gunman!

It is ironic that, with our modern-day technology, sufficient warning can be given for many natural disasters so that people in their path can be saved and even thrive; whereas many man-made disasters happen without warning, leaving people's faith in humanity shaken and their trust destroyed.

So, where do we go from here in this month of November that revolves around Thanksgiving and all that it is supposed to mean?

Perhaps this November we will have much to be thankful for in the wake of all the heartache we have witnessed our fellow Americans endure from natural disasters. Perhaps this November we will feel compelled to give to alleviate the suffering of others and thereby demonstrate the best of humanity. Perhaps this November we will realize just how finite we are in the face of all that can and does have the potential to overwhelm us, whether natural or man-made. Perhaps this November we will look past our finiteness to the infinite and thank God, as that mother in Texas did when she prayed for her child and herself to be saved. And perhaps, in the words from Shakespeare's Hamlet, we can and must leave those who cause the man-made disasters "to heaven."

Hermine Saunders writes from Westminster. She can be contacted via email at