The Chainsaw Option

Do what you can to help.

That’s the lesson that Sister Margeret Ann wants her students at Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School in Miami to remember when they walk out the school’s doors and into the community.

So when she saw a tree blocking the road following Hurricane Irma–Sister Margaret Ann decided to take her own advice. She raided the school toolshed for a chainsaw–consulted Saint Google–and got to work clearing the debris.

Her good deed–like thousands of other acts of everyday kindness in the wake of the recent hurricanes–might have gone unnoticed, had not a Miami police driven by and taped her at work, creating a viral disaster relief superstar.

Sister Margaret didn’t know she was famous until she’d got home.  All the attention seems to have caught her by surprise. After all, she was just doing what came naturally.

So, there was a need, I had the means — so I wanted to help out,” she told CNN.

This is how religion works in America. There’s a disaster–and thousands of people show up to help with chainsaws and willing hands. Someone gets sick and friends show up with casseroles and kindness. A neighbor grieves the death of a child or a spouse or a parent and their community rallies around them so they don’t grieve alone. Volunteers distribute food so kids don’t go hungry.  A church opens its doors to refugees.

Most of the time there are no cameras and no Twitter fame. Just everyday, unexpected acts of grace. They see a need, they have a means to help and they get to work.

With apologies to Rod Dreher, call it the Chainsaw Option.

That’s why I became a religion writer in the first place — to cover the way that ordinary people practice their faith, live out their values, and put their spirituality to work in the real world.

There’s a time to cover the flashy side of faith — the rock star preachers, the cat cults , the lawsuits. But that’s not the heart and soul of religion.

But that’s not the heart and soul of religion in America,

Folks like Sister Margaret Ann are.