August 29, 2006
Hurricane Katrina is in my thoughts a lot lately. I went down last September with a handful of people from our church to help out. It was the first time I'd ever done anything like that, though I've always dreamed of it. Someone else put the trip together, so I had the benefit of just hopping aboard the van and going along. I would love to do something like that again, or even just volunteer my time more often around where I live, but life always seems to get in the way and I don't make time for it. Unless it surprises me in my every day life, it takes a catastrophe. I feared leaving my family. I hugged my 13 year old goodbye during half time in his soccer game. I left my 3 year old without him really understanding where I was going. My 8 year old was silent but smiled. It would be my husband's birthday while I was gone. It hurt to leave, but once I was on my way I felt peace in my heart.
I was trying to think of how exactly the trip affected me now that it's a year behind me. I don't think there are any monumental lessons learned in the days I spent there. I actually think they were small lessons. I learned that people are touched and blessed when others show up to lend a hand, even in the smallest ways. When there is a catastrophe like that, sometimes all there is to do is the very smallest thing - remove limbs from a house, help a church organize its kitchen so it can serve volunteers, lend an ear to someone whose family has lost everything, feed some National Guard men and women a special homecooked dinner, make friends, accept thanks, hug, just be there to say, "We're here, we're sorry."
Something that touched me deeply was driving down and seeing convoys of electric trucks, supply trucks, church buses filled to the ceiling with food. I was driving on that same road, with those same people going to help out in a small way and that gave me a lump in my throat and made me full of thanks and praise. I was so honored to be someone sent to help and care. That was when I began to taste the enormity of the situation firsthand, when I saw that we were traveling toward an area of utter destruction, that people were leaving, like the one motorcyclist that passed by with his few belongings and a sign that read: Katrina refugee.
When I think of the experience I think of words like wound, sacred, love, one. The wound upon our country did seem sacred in some ways while I was there. Love was almost tangible in the air. What I saw and felt was an outpouring of love carried out by people who were interested in being one with one another, to feel each others pain and to know love on a level that they don't usually get to experience in their every day lives. The love that isn't readily given unless there is a desperate reason for someone to receive it. I guess I learned that sometimes we have to be cracked open by force to get to the good stuff within.