Thursday, January 19, 2006

For the help that we can bring We can change the world

Six years ago, due to misunderstanding some directions, we got on New Orleans' Leonidas bus line. At the time, that bus went through some really rough blocks... areas where, as near as I could tell, the bus was the only city service being reliably delivered. The bus was a vital social center as well as necessary transport. The driver knew the neighbors, and chatting on the bus was how they all checked up on each other. Still, it wasn't a neighborhood we planned on discovering on foot. So we sat there, not even knowing that the bus had hit the last stop. The last guy to leave, an old black man with a cane, remarked to the driver, "hey man, you got some white kids left on your bus."

I wonder what happened to him. I hope he made it.

I intend to have this trip to New Orleans stick with me as vividly. But I'm not a scared kid stuck on a bus anymore. The world did not stop spinning on its axis because I didn't go to work or check my email or watch TV or drink beer for a week. I can put all those good things aside for a while, and give that time to changing even a handful of lives.

And so can you.

It's amazing what a difference even a small amount of money can make. Seriously, there's a need for $20 pushbrooms and $30 wheelbarrows. Even $7 worth of water can keep a work crew hydrated on the job for a couple days. If you can dig deep, great. But can't everybody with Internet access dig up 10 bucks? Five?

We can't just pay off all the pain and injustice out there. (Although it's a start.) Call your Congresspeople to ask them what they're doing about Federal rebuilding money. Write your local paper and ask them to run more stories about what your community is doing for evacuees. Find a group that's going down to the Gulf; go if you can, but even if you can't, I guarantee you they'd appreciate a cooler full of peanut butter sandwiches.

Our trip was in cooperation with Episcopal Relief and Development and we were hosted by St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in New Orleans, if you'd like to help me say thanks to my hosts.

It is incredible what even a small kindness can accomplish.


The students are already talking about another trip in March, during a time when I will not be able to go. I feel like my big challenge, having proven that I'll travel 20 hours to help someone, is to prove that I'll cross the street to do it.

For starters, I know nothing at all about our local disaster plans. It's a civic duty to know what they are, and to weigh in on the parts that might not be fair or not seem smart or have been left out. I have no idea how to research that, but if I figure anything out, I'll let you know.

And I don't know enough about our local social safety net. I do know that our local Habitat for Humanity chapter is extremely active, and that in a well-organized group, all skill levels can be productive. I need to stop wanting to be active, and just act.

(Of course, there's plenty of good causes. I support all those folks on the right there, and Swankette has news about a charity fighting homelessness which is trying to meet a matching grant.)


I saw a great prayer on a bulletin board when we stopped over at the University of the South. I'll close with it:

A Franciscan Blessing
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can do what others claim cannot be done.


Blogger lemming said...

Check out my "Editor B" link. He's - well, he and Xy blow my mind, they are so amazing. I lack their courage, but I admire them (greatly) from afar.

2:58 PM, January 24, 2006  

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