Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reflections of a Hurricane Katrina volunteer- part 1

10 year have gone by since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.  9 1/2 years ago I made my first trek to Pearlington, Mississippi with a group of 20 teenagers and adults, ready to do whatever we were asked to do to help with the clean-up and recovery work.  We never expected to feel so tied to that community that we would go back, twice a year, for the next 6 years.  It just happened.

Mississippi changed me.  I found a part of myself there I wasn't aware existed.  I learned some hard lessons on those trips, and did a lot of growing up...A LOT.  I KNOW the grace of God.  Not just because of my experience with God's grace but because of the stories of those with whom we came into contact.  On that very first trip, one of the women at the First Missionary Baptist Church of Pearlington told our group "I'm so grateful for this storm!  If it hadn't happened I wouldn't have gotten to meet all of you!"  As I drove through town that week, as I pulled moldy sheet rock off the inside walls of the 2nd story of a house, as I heard the stories of the team each night, and slept on Army cots in a corrugated plastic pod, I couldn't really fathom being grateful for the storm.  It had done so much damage and taken so much away.

And yet...and yet all these years later I can say I am grateful for the storm.  I am grateful for the opportunities we had to make a difference.  To help others.  To make new friends.  To be light in the darkness. To look into the eyes of a stranger and know that we had helped to bring hope, laughter, goodness back into their lives in whatever small way we could.

It's been three years since I've been back to Mississippi.  Thankfully, there hasn't been a hurricane in that time frame.  I would go back in a heartbeat, though, if there was or if Mr. Ben called and said "I need help."  I would be on a plane as fast as possible.

There's a Mississippi state sign, on the edge of town that reads "Mississippi - It's like coming home".  I'm not sure why - my liberal, California woman beliefs definitely have a hard time meshing with the conservative Mississippi culture - but that sign felt true.  Every time we drove across the state line it felt like I was going home.  I miss it.

I want to go back.  I'm ready to rent a camp on the Bayou and sit in the humid breeze listening to the insects buzz.  To go with Mr. Ben and Miss Sue up the road to get the best fried chicken ever made by the man who will serenade you as it cooks. I'm ready to drive through the neighborhoods and see the changes made.  To sit on the porch at the Pretty House and watch the neighbors drive by, listening for the dogs at Mr. Sam's.  I want to go to the Turtle and eat Fried Shrimp po'boys while watching for the alligator.  I'm ready to go back and wander through the shops in Bay St. Louis and have coffee at the Mockingbird Cafe.  To drive along the coastline, to walk on the beach and put my toes in the water of the Gulf.  I'm ready to go back and watch for armadillos as we drive along the road (though, the armadillos might not want me to go back, I only see dead ones).  To burn my mouth on the hottest (spiciest?) corn on the cob ever  while trying desperately not to think about the yellow stuff that comes out of the head of the crawfish as I chow down.

Hurricane Katrina changed the Gulf Coast.  For many there wasn't anything to be grateful for about that storm.  I won't disagree.  Hurricane Katrina changed me and for that I am eternally grateful.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A text message reminder

My phone buzzed with a new text message..."Hey Britt!  What was the name of the tall kid that went to the Giants game?"

Back in July, I and other H.S. youth group leaders took a group of students up to the SF Giants game.  It's a tradition, round here, and one that I look forward to every year.  This year I had three students in my car.  One young lady going to be a Junior and two young men going to be Freshmen.  The car ride was interesting.  My Junior friend has a lot of energy and talks a lot, no matter what, but combined with one squirrel-y going to be Freshmen boy and his tall friend, the car ride was extra fun.

So was the walk to the car to the stadium, the hours in the stadium, the walk back from the stadium to the car and the car ride home.  Once back at the church, the two boys headed home before my Junior friend, so we sat in the parking lot and talked.  We talked about the boys.  We talked about being freshmen and going to a new school.  We talked about how one of the boys was going to her school and didn't know anyone.  It was then that I said, "It would really be cool, on the first day of school, if you said Hi to Tall Guy if you see him on campus."  She looked at me and said "I can do that."  No questions, no hesitation, just an understanding that it can be tough to be at a new school and she could do a little bit to make someone feel welcomed.

School starts this Wednesday.  My Junior friend remembered.  If she sees Tall Guy (we did figure out his name), she'll make a point to say Hi.  Probably in her awkwardly social, goofy way...which is part of what makes her so lovable!

That, right there, is what keeps me attached to Youth Ministry.  One simple conversation and one text message that reported she was listening, she remembered and she intends to follow through.  A part of me didn't think she would remember...but then that text message came through.  My heart is smiling.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nature's fireworks

I sat under the stars last night.

In the coolness off the early dark of night.

I sat looking at the sky, watching for the zip and swoosh of meteorites.

The sounds of cars, zipping and swooshing on the roads through town came filtering up to my place on the deck.

A sudden splash and sounds of laughter alerted me to the neighbor boys enjoying their pool. "Marco." "POLO!"

I sat watching the sky for movement and saw the lights of planes heading to and from the two big airports 30 and 60+ miles away.  There were a lot of planes.

The neighbors below were out watching the sky as well. Lovely lady neighbor ooohed and aaahhed as a meteorite slashed across the sky.

I leaned my head back on the chair, fighting to stay awake...watchful...hopeful...THERE!

An owl softly booted somewhere nearby.

The light clicked on in the garage...we have rodents.

My eyes grew heavy but I didn't want to leave my place on the deck.

Zip! Swoosh! "Wow!" I said to the night sky.

The coolness started to chill my tired body. I had to get up in 6 hours...I could just sleep here. Maybe wake up in the middle of the night to view more of nature's fireworks.

One more, just one more...beautiful.

Time for bed.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Happiness is..

  • Driving teenagers on adventures.
  • Baking with friends and learning a new recipe...Thanks Margaret!
  • An I-Pod filled with songs that bring happy memories.
  • Cool evenings that take away the heat of the day.
  • Quinoa salad...thanks K for the inspiration!
  • Reading M's blog.
  • Texts that remind me I'm not the only awkward one in the world.
  • Hanging out with Yo Momma.
  • Thursday nights commute home.
  • Netflix on my Kindle.
  • 3 CHP officers on the big hill during today's commute.  A good reminder to drive slower and hopefully a sign of better presence in the weeks to come!
  • A new wall hanging and a new arrangement of items on another wall.
  • Hair dye...I'm just not ready for the world to see all the gray hair on my head.
  • Skirts.  I'm loving wearing skirts this summer...though the wind could be a little lighter when I'm outside.  There have been some close calls with the whipping wind.
  • Books.
  • Shakespeare on the lake!
  • The anticipation of seeing plays in Ashland.
  • An upcoming trip that will include seeing friends in San Diego and...
  • A couple of days in Disneyland and a stay at the Paradise Pier Hotel. I'm so excited!
  • A new desk at work.
  • Miss Nancy.
  • A new season of The Walking Dead...two weeks until it begins.  Do not ask me how I became addicted to this show.  It's very unlike me.
  • Photos of Papa Bear.
  • God who loves me...despite me.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Howl at the moon

Friday night my neighbor was howling at the moon. 

It seemed more than a little strange for this neighbor.  It was a little more strange when I went out to see if I could see the "blue moon" and realized it wasn't even visible from my neighbors yard.  It was still behind the hill, way out of view of the neighbor. 

Then I came across an article - little Maddy's mom had suggested that at 8:30pm on the night of the blue moon, people wishing to pay their respects to Maddy howl at the moon.  Maddy loved wolves.

I couldn't howl at the moon.  All I could do was cry.  Cry for an eight year old whose life, whose innocence was so senslessly taken away.  Cry for a Mom who was howling at the moon with gut wrenching sorrow.  Cry for a community that is in mourning, in shock and trying to answer the question, "Why?"  Cry for a 15 year old boy who is sitting in jail - for the hurts of his own that no one ever saw.

I listened to the neighbor howl at the moon, a haunting, lonely sound and no longer found it strange but healing.