2017-09-21 / Viewpoint

The VIEW from here

Mexico earthquakes bring grace to mind


Andrew Dietderich—Staff Writer Andrew Dietderich—Staff Writer Grace takes on a different meaning for everyone, and sometimes things happen that serve as gentle — or not-so-gentle — reminders.

For many, the meaning is deeply religious — essentially, referring to something happening through the kindness or help of God. For others, grace offers a similar meaning, though they choose not to necessarily refer to a particular entity and opt for some other kind of unseen higher power as having a role in all the good we have in our respective lives.

With what’s happening in the world — headlines as recent as Wednesday morning talked of a hurricane pummeling Puerto Rico, and at least 200 dead from an earthquake in Mexico — I’ve been thinking a lot about grace.

Particularly, how lucky we are here in southeast Michigan to enjoy the fruits of a stable economy, to face such “hard” decisions like what movie we should go see, or what cider mill we should visit this weekend.

Don’t misunderstand — the implication isn’t necessarily that life is always a piece of cake. It’s just that in relative comparison to the rest of the world, we at least don’t come up on the short end of the stick. We don’t have to stand in a constant state of worry that at any given moment the earth below us will rattle so violently that our walls tumble.

In July 2003, I served as an embedded journalist on a trade mission with Oakland County’s Automation Alley to Mexico City. The assignment was to follow small- to mid-sized companies and document their efforts to establish working business relationships with potential business partners. Travelers from Michigan were received by a people who were warm and welcoming. Mexico City was amazing, too, from the National Museum of Anthropology to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral in the heart of the city. Visiting Aztec ruins and pyramids also is a favorite memory.

Of course, there were the parts of the trip where caution was advised — don’t get into the green cabs (“they are known to kidnap foreigners”), don’t use an ATM alone or when it’s dark, don’t drink water from a tap or eat anything cleaned with the water. In short, don’t be dumb.

Yes, there also were obvious signs of struggle. The landscape was dotted with massive ghettos built into hillsides featuring homes that appeared to have been constructed of nothing more than scrap pieces of wood and metal.

Despite the obvious differences, however, I was struck by the similarities between southeast Michigan and Mexico City, and the fact that both contain such a wide spectrum of residents and are rich with history – and all while facing a fair share of challenges.

Now, however, with two major earthquakes within 11 days, reports indicate Mexico City remains at risk to suffer from the effects of aftershocks from the recent seismic activity. I can’t help but think of the people I met during that 2003 mission, the amazing architecture, the rich history carefully preserved. I also think of those people living in the shacks.

And grace comes to mind that for whatever led us to the here and now, we are, in fact, here and now, far removed from things like earthquakes and hurricanes to not necessarily have to worry about it happening anywhere close to home.

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