As we continued to struggle with the necessities of life — food, shelter, clothing, and identity — more displaced citizens continued to show up to our meetings. They were all at different stages of adaptation. Some were ready to enter the mainstream world of work while others were still reliving that tragic week after the hurricane. Like they say, if the mind is not there, the body will not follow.
I told stories of having experienced hurricanes and how my family always came back, but I was clear it was nothing like what they had experienced. Then I would ask “How do we get past this one, which I don’t have experience of?” The response was, “It wasn’t the hurricane, it was the water!” Anger at the hurricane, the water, the system, the federal and state governments, the weakened levee, and FEMA all helped to bring us up from depression. In addition, there were those among the group who shared that they were ready to “get on with it.”
So, back to basics. Like using bicycles to get around. Group transportation for errands. Contributed food, clothing, and personal items at every meeting were very helpful due the efforts of Rev. Davis. Ernest was on the telephone daily dispatching people for help, giving instructions for contacting FEMA, and just having a conversation of support. Others helped with refreshments and conversations at the end of each meeting. But most of all, I think the most healing element was the “family” we formed. No one ever left a meeting without being upbeat and taken care of for the following week. That was it. One week at a time.
Slowly but surely, we began the conversation of responsibility and empowerment. Responsibility for our direction in spite of the tragedy and empowerment to create self-sufficiency. I really think that much of this conversation went beyond the tragedy and for some it was hearing it for the first time. It took several months for this message to set in and become accepted by a majority of the group.
This transformation began the turning point. It was like recovering something deep within ourselves from past generations. Like using tragedy to remind ourselves of who we are at the core of our being. Realizing that rebuilding our lives in the aftermath of such a tragedy is what true heroism is about. But most of all, it is a story of the human spirit to survive and prosper.
More to come…….
Meanwhile, check out the new podcast between Phil and myself on audio downloads.