Pass The Spirit

Hurricane Irene is stomping her way closer and closer to the East Coast. She’s packing Category 4 winds and a sure outlook toward massive destruction. It seems most people are taking this storm seriously with mass evacuations taking place

Many news outlets are comparing storms most of the commentators either have no personal knowledge of or only dimming recollections because they were so young when the hurricanes made landfall. There are statements about Camille in 1969. I was 17 years old. To me it meant nothing because I lived in New England and Camille devastated Mississippi.

It wasn’t personal. But it became so when Andrew slammed Louisiana after laying waste to Homestead, Florida. His 131-155 mph winds are still having an economic and social impact on the area almost 20 years later. When Andrew made his debut in Louisiana I was working as a cop. I spent a lot of time doing atypical, non-traditional service duties. I oversaw volunteers as they cleared fallen trees. I cut trees myself and dragged brush and moved survivors to safe shelters.

In rural America there’s less looting and intrusion into other people’s businesses or their business. Rural America maintains a sense of community. They seem to guard it jealously. I’m not sure that’s true in cities.

And I don’t mean that in the sense I feel people in densely populated areas are cooler or more emotionally distant from their next-door neighbor. But to me, it seems the greater the distance between the houses, the closer in proximity you feel to the heart-felt charity of brothers and sisters in need.

The truth of that fact came home when another hurricane showed her fully dedicated wrath to us in Louisiana.

Katrina. I won’t call her the *itch I’ll always think her to be. But she proved even a toxic, ill-tempered, out-of-control *itch can give birth to something beautiful. Katrina birthed a connection between the city and country. It was a connection indicating a disconnect people didn’t much notice before.

While the cosmopolitan and cosmo-political “leaders” in New Orleans, State and National government mishandled the crisis with their tunnel-visionary sense of political drama, the rest of the state put its collective shoulders to the wheel and started getting the job done. While the politicos were holding press conferences and deciding how to appear commanding with rolled up sleeves and select designer wear to appear before the cameras; they wet their pants and gnashed their teeth over their inability to function under stress. They did this without Teleprompters.

They’re good at being useless. Now, one of them is advertising himself as a Disaster Consultant. He must be giving lectures on how to mismanage a city and a major crisis. His whining wasn’t impressive as a mayor. Nor was the Governor, or the President for that matter, a tower of strength as the drama unfolded. Their selfishness affects New Orleans today.

But this isn’t about the rich, the famous, the infamous or the distant hierarchy trying to impress voters. It’s about the people standing in the full strength of the sun, handing out diapers, food and water to people held hostage by circumstances they couldn’t overcome alone. It’s about country women holding city women’s baby’s as the mom tried to gather diapers and supplies given away at no cost. It’s about the displaced, the disengaged and despair driven members of a society we didn’t share contact with regularly. It’s about giving without expecting repayment. Refugees still reside in this area.

It’s about sharing hope and comfort and a chance to understand their pain was shared. And in that sharing it was lessened by the greater number of people sharing the load for a moment. That’s what we were all about then and we’re all about now.

My home’s in a postage stamp community halfway between nowhere and the end of the earth. But my good wishes go out to the people clustered on the East Coast waiting to be hammered by Irene.

Good luck. Learn to pull together. The weight lightens as you share it with others; then you pass that spirit on.

Thanks for listening.

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