September 5, 2005
Sunday, the fourth, at worship ....the UU Church of Jackson was blessed with UU's from New Orleans, Slidell and Bay St. Louis. People of the UU diaspora who are in Jackson, in apartments, or hotel rooms, or with family. One father I met in the Coliseum had grown up in the UU church, he was non-pulsed at finding a UU minister there.
Essentially the worship service was an extended Joys and Sorrows Service with singing of Love Will Guide Us, and We'll Build a Land. The congregation sang a round to each other after the sharing and then over several times to all those suffering: We are sending you love to heal you, to hold you, we are sending you light to hold you in love. And we ritualized the drinking of healing and life giving water in a communion of sorts. Cool, clear water is appreciated by those of us in the aftermath of Katrina as never before, perhaps as it was by people of the near east 2000 years ago.
All of us, as most of you are frustrated by our lack of ability to do something to alleviate the suffering and pain in areas south of us, so when I announced that seven evacuees were to move into the house that is our RE building that afternoon, the congregation was pleased. Several times before others whom I had meet at the shelter had said they would like to move into the house, but again it was not to be as hoped. Like you, UUCJ really wants to help, to make it better. But wanting to help people can be frustrating, we've learned. What seems like such a wonderful idea to us is not always so received, and our offer is turned down.
There are many very valid reasons for staying together with the others in the shelter, such as the convenience of having the medical teams there to help, three delicious squares a day cooked by Jacksonian volunteers on grills outside the Coliseum, donated clothes, toys, etc, to the point of over-flowing, and now big screen TV's to stay informed and to discuss plans among themselves, plus other televisions with children's videos playing. Each day there is more as the people of Jackson embrace the evacuees. The shelter is a known entity, even though it is far from home and most are sleeping on air mattresses on the floor of the arena with no privacy.
But we don't get to make it better, so we can feel better. Sometimes we are learning you have to wait, to witness the struggle, to allow people to make, or not make, decisions to accept your help, to answer,“I've changed my mind,”or “maybe in a few days.” So much is coming at the people and their children in the shelter s, and they have had little time to process what has happened ...it is surreal and filled with so much that is new. They are uprooted and confused and are being pulled in a thousand different directions with announcements for last calls for the bus to Atlanta, or some other place coming over the speaker system, and people offering this and that. Come here, go there- its overwhelming.
Angela and her family moved into a rent house with the first two months free, Wendy left for Gretna, others had heard the neighborhood was dangerous and the schools not good, another leaving in just a couple of days. Jim, the single man in his 70's I had spoken with, did move in that afternoon without the others, and he is very pleased to have some privacy, some quiet, in UUCJ's house. We bought him a few groceries and needed socks and underwear. Once a week the kids will meet there, but other than that he has a home rent free in Jackson for an undecided length of stay. Some are offering rental homes to families with two months free rent, that seems to be a real way to help, though then, there is also the need of furniture. People need help finding jobs, and places to live, an address for the paperwork that needs to be submitted, and parents want to get their kids into good schools. Some are using the church's address, though staying at the Coliseum.
I hear in the Hattiesburg/ Laurel / Jones county area where Our Home Universalist Church is located most homes are still without power. The end of last week I could get through to some of the congregants on the phone, and heard how others were. This week the line continually says the circuits are busy, try my call again later. I know what you all know about the Gulf Coast and its people from the news.
Today, I was able to get gas in Jackson; I was incredibly lucky to see a policeman taking down the yellow tape from the tanks of a station as I was passing feathering the accelerator so as to conserve fuel. I was fourth in line...credit card only. Across the street there was a long line backed up onto I-55 frontage road, cash only. Perhaps soon I will feel confident enough of refueling capabilities to drive south to see the folks (yes, I know folk is proper) of Our Home and its community and further to those of the Gulf Coast congregation.
I read this from M. Susan Milnor during my meditation this morning, may it grace you as it did me.
We pause this hour to remember
those whom we have lost,
those whom we fear losing,
those from whom we are separated,
those to whom we would extend a helping hand, a caring
heart, the will to live.
We pause this hour also to hope
for life and good living,
for love and kind words,
for support of family and friends,
for meaning in our struggle,
May our memories and hope renew us for the days and nights
Yours in faith,