Monday, January 7, 2008

One woman's story of survival

Yesterday we met Vera. A quiet, reserved and wildly funny woman. She sounds and looks like a woman full of wisdom, and when she speaks, it's time for you to listen. As I write this, I am trying to find the Time Magazine article she told me to seek. It's her own story and the story of those from her neighborhood. They couldn't leave when Katrina came, and they became even more stuck when the levees broke. The hurricane brought in water through the back, but the bursting of the levees brought it in through the front.
Now Vera's mother was in a wheelchair. Her mother was in water up to her chest. She never said it was the toxic floodwater, and I would have a hard time sleeping if I knew it had been. They just couldn't believe all the water that came in so fast and so quick. They managed to make it on to I-10, but she never said how. You see, this is a story where you just listen... you don't ask. Vera's on a Holy Mission - to let you know how God works in your life during the darkest moments to let you know He's still there - telling you how much He loves you.
Vera said it had been ages since she had seen stars like that. The filled the night sky like the Lord had put them there. She said that the words just came to her, "I am the light." God was letting her know that he had not left her there. Everyone shared what they had. Vera had filled a pillowcase with food, water, clothes and some other supplies so she had a little more to share. She said if someone said they had a cracker another person would shout out they had peanut butter. That was life on I-10 in the aftermath of Katrina. Vera also mentioned that she had found a dog, I think it was her neighbor's dog, all alone. She emptied out a bag to put the dog in because if (when) they were rescued the dog would have to remain hidden or it would have to be left behind. Everyone, person and animal, was a part of this community on the overpass of I-10.
Vera said she was in a house in Baton Rouge but it's not her home. She's still trying to get home, and I think that woman will either get there or die trying. She said she's just passing through right now, and it's evident to the listener that's how she deals with some of the frustration, anger, sadness, depression she feels and sees.
However, Vera, Gail and Diane are a force of nature all in their own. Each of them has a different story with amazingly similar undertones. They will get home; they will rebuild; they will create a community; they will not fail. They showed all of us such hospitality. It's moving to see people who are rebuilding everything in their lives share all they have with those who ask, "How can I help." These women put both silver coins in the coffer. The church they attend takes time to welcome those who are home or on their way home. I couldn't help but wonder if that's what heaven is like. "I'm not settled here yet, but Lord I'm on my way back." Then there is the applause... not thunderous but the beat of it stirs your heart.
Personally, I have to share my distant connection to this congregation. A congregation from my hometown area of Milwaukee, WI donated money for them to put in their elevator. They allowed people to do one more thing that brings them home. Everyone, I hope, has pride for the place from which they came. I have never been more proud of my roots than I was at that moment. There are so many stories to be told and shared. These are just a few of the beautiful ones. There are many that are not so beautiful, and both need to be shared. I think the hope lies with riding the crest of the beautiful moments and continuing to create them.

The link to the Time Magazine with Vera's neighbor is,16641,20050912,00.html

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