Thursday, September 01, 2005

I'm wondering....

I've been reading about the disaster in the delta region of our country through a New Orleans paper that is miraculously still publishing, at least on the internet, giving much desired news about the devastation to those of us who sit comfortably from a distance in awe, shock and horror.

One reason our home has been paying such close attention to the situation is because, as you all know, New Orleans is Frank’s childhood home; he lived there until he was 14. The city that holds his childhood memories has drown and there is a certain amount of grief that accompanies that coupled with the empathy many of us feel for the plight of those who rode the storm out. Another reason is that I, like many watch searching for clues on how I can help.

We've all heard those being displaced by floods and the destruction of the hurricane as "evacuees" in the last day the term "refugee" has been used more and more frequently. Imagine, you've been told to leave your town, you have no access to basic necessities like food and clean water, you have no idea what the next few hours hold for you, let alone the next few days and weeks.

Then I recalled the experience I had with our church youth at the Heifer Ranch in 2000 in what they call the "Global Village". Our group, along with the others at the camp, spent a night in a situation that simulated the differences found between the developing and undeveloped parts of the world.

We split up into new communities of people: Appalachia, Africa, Honduras (they had access to running water!), the Barrio, Asia (the mosquitoes were very big), and a group of Refugees, one of whom was "pregnant" which meant a water balloon secured with duct-tape inside the T-shirt one of them wore. The adult leaders were told that our role was to be a 2 year old toddler; they youth were in charge of decision making.

We were left there with the instructions that no one was to leave the village for the night and that there was enough food in the village for everyone to eat, although the food was not evenly distributed among the communities. Honduras had the most resources, including food and didn’t have to share with the rest of us if they didn’t want to; the refugees had nothing, not even a place to lay their heads. As I recall none of the refugees were from our church, but I do remember what an impact in made on me to see a small group of three wander around, asking for work to earn some food, to earn a place to stay for the night.

Our plight was not nearly as desperate as the situation in the Delta. Human nature being what it is we too had our share of "looting"--a member of the Barrio snuck back to the Heifer Hilton's soda machine and brought goodies back for his community. We had our share of "cheating" too; members who'd illegally brought candy into the village used it to "bribe" the 2 year olds into being quiet about breaking other rules. But we also knew that when it was over we'd get to take a shower, get into fresh clothes, and be able to cook a meal where no one would have to even worry about going hungry. And within a few days back to our homes in Missouri with our families and our “stuff”.

As I recall the experience we shared as we spent a night in another world, I wonder: what will our response to the situation in front of us will be? There are so many resources for us to pull together to share, what are you going to do? I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Peace, the Rev