August 30, 2010

New Orleans, Five Years Later: "Oh afflicted city, lashed by storms..."

"Oh afflicted city, lashed by storms...", Isaiah 54:11

The news I've been reading and listening to in the last few days contains numerous mentions of the fact of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina happening in NOLA. Why is this an anniversary worth remembering? Is there something magical about the number five?

I don't think so. For many of us, it doesn't seem like five years. Time passes at its own pace, not on our preference. I remember being stunned at how many people I knew and spoke with --at that time-- seemed to believe the people in the Gulf Coast were responsible for their own experiences during and after the storm.

"Why didn't they leave like they were told?" "They probably didn't know what a category five hurricane was..." "It was an evil city, with too much partying and drinking and gambling; they got what they deserved."

Has it taken us five years to understand compassion? If you don't have a car and you don't have credit cards, how quickly can you leave a city? Where will you go if family members can't or won't take you in? How often does a category five hurricane happen? Do you deserve to suffer because you listen to music instead of the news on the radio or TV? Should you be "sentenced to the Superdome" because you drink gin or gamble?

Nature and the natural world are not friendly, nor are they peaceful. Try spending a few nights in the woods without modern gadgets. When someone is in unexpected or uncontrollable trouble, here is my chance to show God's compassion and love. The Gospels tell over and over how Jesus had compassion, not criticism when he looked upon the crowds and saw their confusion and lack of direction.

I'm missing something terribly important if my only response to need and pain is to say: "They should have known better." Oh afflicted city, lashed by storms, I hope your story will remind me to be more actively caring, more actively compassionate, and more deeply forgiving.

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