One of the blogs I read is Much Nothing About Ado(http://kanite.blogspot.com/). Here is a quote from an entry posted about 6 weeks ago.
We have officially entered the "despair zone", and of great concern to me is how the focus of our nation seems to have moved on…I wonder if those outside our region have a clue of the desperate situation we are in.
If that was the case 6 weeks ago, I have to believe it is only more so for many now.I believe today is Day 93 since the storm—fully three months—and here is a picture to show you how little has changed in that time.Believe me, what you see in this picture is what still predominates the landscape along the Gulf Coast.
This picture is of a WalMart where 15 people died.But that is not why I include that picture here.When you look at this, don’t just look at the destruction.Look at the lost jobs and the lost revenue in the local community.Then multiply that 100s of times over and you’ll begin to understand the reality of what they continue to face.
And finally, here is a picture of someone’s “home”.Yes, people are still living in tents on slabs.More people this time did have FEMA trailers set up, and that is something, but even they are small and cramped.
With these things in mind, the final paragraph of Much Nothing AboutAdo’s post is even more poignant today:
"I know this is not the most popular of blogs in the internet world, but I did seem to have a lot more visitors leaving comments in the early days of Katrina recovery. I don't see that any more. And as I puruse the blogs that I read most often, rarely is the storm mentioned any more. Being forgotten worries me more than the threat of more storms. This will be a long, long haul folks. Keep us in your prayers. Keep coming to help. Keep helping us think of how to put it back together again."(NOTE:The Relief Center, Camp Coast Care, where we served is going down to only 17 people helping next week...At that size, they will barely even be able to keep their doors open…)
In big letters at the top of our initial work assignment was this plea:Need help ASAP before dozer comes.The request was for a woman named Betty, and she was asking for “as many people as possible” to sort through the rubble of her house by hand, looking for any personal items that may have survived.
Like so much of what we saw in Gulfport, Mississippi, nothing at all had changed for Betty since the storm—even three months later. Her home, like the houses around hers, had been picked up in the storm surge and set down in big twisted pile of debris.Everything she owned was in that pile.
Her hope was to have enough of the wreckage removed—looking through it all the while—to be able to put a FEMA trailer on her site. (She is currently renting a single room in the house of a local family—there are still no local hotel rooms available for miles around.)
But Betty is in her early 60s, and she had no one to help and no resources to pay for the kind of help she needed.So, using chain saws and wire cutters and lots of willing hands, we began removing the rubble that was her house board by board, piece by piece.Amazingly, under huge piles of wood busted into splinters, we found things such as a pristine piece of pottery in perfect condition.
As with each item of any value that was found, the finder picked up the pottery like it was priceless and carefully carried it to the pile on the woman’s slab, where they set it down.Later the woman and her neighbors would go through the pile and see what was theirs.
As we were going through the rubble, someone found an old sewing machine that had now been sitting in water for three months.It was rusted out.It was hard to see how it could be anything other than junk, but just in case she carefully carried the machine up to the concrete slab.
When the woman who owned the house saw it, her face lit up.“Oh!” she said. “You found it!I know it doesn’t look like much now, and it’s probably not worth anything to anyone else, but that was my mother’s…Thank you!”
It may not have been worth anything to anyone else, but clearly it was worth something to her.For her it was a cause of joy and celebration.For her, in that moment, it was more than enough.
It made me think.I had this line going through my head while I was there:Everything deteriorates.Sometimes that deterioration is quick and dramatic, happening in a moment as when Katrina came crashing ashore.Most the time it is slow and unnoticeable, but everything deteriorates.Believe me, after a day of hard work in Mississippi, I was keenly aware that I am deteriorating.
It made me think that one of the basic tasks of life is that in the midst of all that is deteriorating, we too must sort through the stuff of our lives to find those things of value.To be able to do that, we need to be able to distinguish what we are looking for from the rubble around it, to recognize that which we can hold close and treasure as a source of true and lasting joy.
But I wonder:Have we forgotten what we are looking for?Do we know how to recognize it even when we see it?And is that part of the reason why we have to pile stuff on top of stuff and still feel like we need more, even when we already have more than anybody really needs and most people will ever have?
After my last post, our internet connection went down and remained down for the duration of out time in Mississippi. My plan was to do a daily update here (complete with pictures), but obviously that did not happen.
So I guess Plan B is to reflect on the trip in the week to come; to use this to write down my thoughts, impressions, and experiences. For some reason I didn't take too many pictures this time, but I'll include some of the one's I have.
But, after getting in at 2AM today and having done three services already this morning, right now I am going to take a nap!
Started off the day at 4AM. It was 40 degrees and pouring down rain.
But it could've been worse. Our fearless leader, Melissa, started the day at 3AM, packing turkey in the coolers and icing it down. She arrives at church looking completely and utterly exhausted.
We don't actually get on the road until almost 5. The first couple hours are brutal driving, but then the morning breaks and it is not so bad.
There are four vehicles, with Tom, Melissa, and all the kids in one van. Tom takes the first driving shift, which means Melissa crashes until 11 that morning. She appears from under a pile of clothes looking every bit like a miracle of resurrection. She is ready and raring to go!
We drive through quite a bit of snow, some of it quite heavy, but luckily it is not sticking yet.
Finally, we arrive in Mississippi at about 10:30PM. Even in the dark, even now almost three months after the storm, it is clear there is still damage everywhere and lots of work to be done.
It is good to be here again. It feels so right. It's almost like we never left, the community opening its arms wide to greet us. Even the ride itself turned out to be an enjoyable time with friends.
Tomorrow the work begins. Truth be told, I can't wait.
Last Sunday when I walked into my office I noticed a message was left on my desk.It was dated Friday the 11th at 11:30AM.It simply said,
Big Al stopped by to say hello.
He says you’ll know who he is.
Friday being my day off, I was at home when Big Al had stopped by. But home is maybe 3 miles from my office, so had Big given me a call on either my home or cell phone (the office has both numbers) I could’ve been there in minutes.And that’s not even to mention that he could’ve let me know he was coming beforehand.
So I called Big the first chance I got to see what was up.Turns out he actually stopped by the office the first time on Thursday (I was out for a lunch appointment).Big explained that he was going for the element of surprise in his visit.Since he always has had a flair for the dramatic, that made sense to me.
Anyway, Big assumed that once I found out he was in town, I would contact him.The only problem was, on Thursday there was no message to let me know he was there!As to why he never called on Friday, well, he really didn’t have a good reason other than that he had to get the rental car back.
Now I think this is probably a pretty typical guy thing, or even just busy person thing n our day and age.And I understand that too.
But I have to tell you, it was surprisingly painful—a wake up call of sorts.It made me take a hard look at my life and relationships.I had to admit to myself that personally, I’ve been letting that area of my life slip.I haven’t been giving people outside professional or pastoral relationships the time or the energy they deserve.
That’s just not a very good place to be.I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability and renewal lately, and of how it feels like I’m coming to the end of a sustainability cycle.
It’s an interesting thing.As men have (theoretically at least) become more self-aware and developed a “new masculinity” that places a premium on the traditionally feminine domain of relationships, we also develop a lifestyle that demands a pace that makes deep, satisfying relationships impossible.
And if that is the case, the “new masculinity” turns out to be just an illusion, no different then the old.
Whether it was the silence required for a successful hunt, the majority of time being spent in isolation out working the fields, the length of work days in less “enlightened” times (does anybody really believe that), or the pace of life of those of us today pursuing impossible ideals when scale is such an essential measure of success…whether it is new masculinity or old…it leaves men relationally…absent.
So…it’s time to do things differently, isn’t it?
Footnote to the above: I write posts in Word and then copy and paste them here. Apparently my daughter had done the same thing with an email she wrote a friend who moved to CA, which I inadvertently pasted here (hers was on the clipboard and not mine). I realized the mistake because of the following capitals, the last line of what she wrote (I couldn't remember capitalizing anything).Anyway, here are her words: " I CAN"T WAIT TO SEE YOU AGAIN! I MISS YOU SO MUCH!!!"
To be able to go to Mississippi next week, I’ve had to do an awfully lot of writing this week—at least twelve different pieces in the last four days.It has a way of burning out my writing brain.
I should’ve done more writing tonight, but I decided to do email instead.When I get busy I tend to fall behind on email, and it doesn’t take long for it to really start piling up.Some of it is just one or two sentence replies, but some of it is also pastorally sensitive, and so requires a thoughtful response.I suppose that is a form or writing too.
All of which is to say I’m feeling a little fried and haven’t quite made it to third installment on friendship.But I will.
Now my oldest daughter and I are off to see a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.I promise a review by tomorrow.
It’s 28 degrees outside right now and the temperature is still dropping.After the movie is done and the review is written, I’m thinking it’s going to feel awfully good to crawl in bed.
Somewhere on a hill side in western PA there is a hole.It doesn’t look like much, but if you poke your head in it and look around, you’ll realize it actually opens up into a cave (how we first discovered this I can’t quite remember).
Actually crawling in that hole and finding out what is in there may sound like a scary endeavor, and I suppose it is. But with a good friend to explore with, it wasn't so bad.
That's the nature of friendship, I think. It lets us find the courage we need to sometimes poke around in the dark.