I started this blog to keep my church, friends and family updated on my year volunteering in Katrina recovery with the Presbyterian Church (USA). I've now signed on for a second year working in disaster recovery and another year living in Mississippi. It's getting good....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From a hotel room in Atlanta....

...where time is the ultimate luxury.

I'm on my way back to Gulfport after a two week vacation to the East Coast. My flights were delayed and I was left in a hotel in Atlanta overnight. I choose to see this as Delta Airlines recognition of my need for some time and space for a proper emotional transition back into life on the Gulf Coast.

A funny thing happens down there. You get so used to the Katrina mess being an all consuming presence that you don't understand how the rest of the world can function without talking about flood lines, mandatory evacuation zones, smart codes, drywall, plumbing, HVAC, grants, pods, volunteers, FEMA, phase one, phase two, cottages, etc. I forget that there are millions of Americans walking around their daily lives without the constant pressing panic of disaster recovery on their hearts, minds and shoulders.

Then you go to the beach, or M Street in Georgetown, or Harvard Square in Cambridge or the Atlanta Airport. Life goes on like "normal". Families play, people spend way too much money on shoes, cars, clothes, and toys. Dinner out means talk about friends, pop-culture and some politics, sure, but not the homelessness of the thousands on the Gulf Coast- or elsewhere for that matter.

My first instinct is to be angry. I can't tolerate the ignorance and apathy. What are they doing with their time/money/lives?????

But as the two weeks of my vacation went by I am slowly reminded that many of these people are just as absorbed in their own worlds as I am in mine on the Gulf Coast. They are making local schools better and fighting for the environment. They are helping patients at a Baltimore hospital and serving the Rotary in MA. They are promoting eco-tourism in Guatemala and volunteering at church in SC. They are involved in local politics and report the news for the local paper. They are loving, compassionate mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends.

Sure, not everyone in every cute New England boutique is doing everything they can to help out, but....oh hey wait, those are cute shoes. No! How does that happen after only two weeks? The draw of a more comfortable (?) life has sucked me in again. Two freaking weeks. It would be so easy to walk away from the coast right now and find a less-stressful job and a cute downtown apartment in any one of the great places still on my "to live" list.

All of this had me spinning yesterday while enjoying lunch with my cousin on a busy street in Cambridge. I was in no shape to jump on the plane back to Gulfport, to the life I wasn't totally prepared to re-join. Stressed doesn't begin to cover what I was feeling.

But then I heard a little southern in my voice when I spoke with strangers on the T. And I heard myself tell a recent college grad about the work we're doing on the coast and she asked me to email her more information about how to get involved. When I checked in at Logan, they asked if I was going on vacation and I realized after the words had left my mouth that I'd said, "No. I'm going home."

When the flight out of Boston was delayed for an hour and I learned that I'd miss my connection out of Atlanta, I didn't freak out, like so many others flying Delta in or out of ATL yesterday. I was calm the whole time. This is not like me. I had an interview at 8:30 the next morning. I have a full voicemail box. There is so much work to be done and not enough time to do it. But the idea of spending a few hours alone in a hotel room to repair and prepare sounded like an incredible opportunity.

So after some reflection, prayer, and time I am ready to return. There is much work to be done. In Mississippi, but also in Baltimore, DC, Boston, and around the world. God's led me to the Gulf Coast this time. She knows there is a place there for me, because she created it. She gave me great roommates and friends, a loving support system of pastors and volunteers, and plenty of people to help and work to do.

Now I just need to catch one more flight and get to it!


Linda said...

i'm so lucky to have you coming home to me!

Brandie said...

Good words.