Wednesday, September 21, 2005

People, Get Ready

We registered our house as available to offer shelter to people displaced from their homes by Katrina at two different sites. We’re not well off, but we do produce a lot of food off our little farm, and one thing we have in abundance is good eats. Knowing you have food for your family covered frees up people to concentrate on the other Katrina realities such as the labyrinth of insurance negotiation and finding work. We hope we will be contacted, but nothing so far.

Part of the problem, of course, is that displaced people have limited resources for finding us. This is an area that FEMA really needs to look at. Having a stockpile of technology ready to reconnect victims with opportunities is crucial. Not only for the people who need help, but the people who want to help are equally reliant on their technology. I’ve received emails asking that I try to locate evacuees myself, in an effort to let them know I have housing. I’m fine with that, but again, we are missing a significant puzzle piece when the gap between need and help is so wide.

One person can’t make the difference that ten, a hundred, or a thousand can.

Next time, I hope we foresee and solve the tech breakdown between helper and helpless. Since right now is where the need is, Rabbi Marc Gellman has a solution that I like very much.

Rabbi Gellman believes that it will be months if not a year before displaced families can return home. Shelters cannot function for that kind of time. Most housing offers are short term and can accommodate just a few. Resettling whole families is a big job with impact on the new communities in terms of schools and services. The Feds are going to be busy rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, so most of these individual needs are probably not going to be met by Washington (and possibly not by the overburdened states).

His solution? The Starfish Project.

Therefore, it is clear to me that the best solution to this emergency is for the houses of worship to step up to this sacred task and help resettle these families in their towns. Religious congregations are perfect because they are larger than a family and smaller than the government. They are perfect because they already exist. They are perfect because they are already spread out all over this great land, and most of all they are perfect because it is their mission to do this. The moral integrity of not just America is at stake now. The moral integrity of America’s churches and other holy communities is at stake now. – Gellman, Newsweek

This is an opportunity for People of Faith across this country, frustrated by the Republican hijacking of Christianity for un-Christian behavior, to get back to the roots of faith. I urge you to bring this idea to your communities and places of worship and get the conversation started. Hands on helping, working together to help raise up another who has stumbled, is just the tonic we need.

All I know is that we need to do this to fulfill God’s commandment and my favorite story. God’s commandment comes from the prophet Isaiah, “You are a refuge to the poor, to the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm” (Isaiah 25:4). A check to the Red Cross is good but it alone is neither refuge nor shelter. A shelter is an opening of arms wide enough to catch them. A shelter is using our blessings to ease their burdens. A shelter is bringing them close to our hearts and holding them until they are strong enough to walk on their own to the next place they will decide to live. A shelter is a group of families of
faith and hope, giving faith and hope to those who have just come up out of the waters and deserve to find more than a desert on the other side. America’s houses of worship are perfect shelters for the victims of this American storm. Some are already doing it now. More must do it tomorrow. – Gellman, Newsweek

The reckless spending of this administration is coming home to roost. We’ve spent a pile in the past five years; we’re well in bed with debt these days. It’s up to Americans to help each other. If we are what we believe ourselves to be, a caring nation with can-do spirit, we need to stop waiting for our uncaring, can’t-do government. Flexing our civic muscle, empowering our religious leaders and taking back our country from a bunch of talking points asshats on both sides of the aisle would put us a long way towards righting the rift that divides our country and allows us to be played against each other.

Religion has power in this nation. It’s just not the warped Pat Robertson “death-to-infidels” variety we’ve been beat with -- to the point that many believe that unless they pollute religion with politics, faith will fail. Faith can’t fail, people do. So get those conversations started, eh?

People get ready
There’s a train a-coming
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank the Lord

People get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers
From coast to coast
Faith is the key
Open the doors and board them
There’s room for all
Among the loved the most

Let’s raise this country up … once displaced American at a time.


At September 21, 2005 7:08 PM, Blogger madmary said...


Why leave out people without concrete faith? Do the people who are agnostic or athiest not recognize the same values as the people of God? Do they/we not value all human life?

I know you, Jet, and love you, but I feel you place a premium on people of faith, be they on the right or left.

I feel all voices should be in the discussion. I, personally, have very skeptical faith (don't tell my mom) I can't quite commit to being atheist/agnostic/catholic, but I strongly believe in the value structure I was raised with. Helping other people , is your "Christian Duty". Duty or not, it just has always seemed to me to be the right thing to do. That's why I identify with the liberal faction so well.

Heaven and Hell are another story. Saints and sinners, judgement. How can we really know. I just do not have enough faith for these things.
What I do believe, is that our fearless leader does not even begin to comprehend what true compassion is. He is beholden to Halliburton,et al,and not to the people he repesents, if he had to give the Physicians oath "first do no harm" he would not have lasted ten days in office. And that was well before the storms.......

At September 21, 2005 8:10 PM, Blogger Jet said...

I don't feel I place a premium on faith, but it's interesting to me that you think that. I'll have to mull it.

My point in the post was simply that I agree with the precepts of Rabbi Gellman's Starfish Project isasmuch that Churches, Temples and other organizations are ideal groups to extend long term care and support to displaced families. Do individuals matter, care and contribute? Of course they do. There is a huge need here, and the need will require a long commitment of time from the people willing to help. Organizations can, and should, be tapped for help. It can't come too soon for these desperate people.

At September 25, 2005 6:24 PM, Blogger ~Betsy said...

Well put, Jet. I've been thinking about the room and board idea, but wondering who would want to relocate from a southern climate to "da U.P."!? Winter will be here soon, and 200+ inches of snow...

But I'm very thankful that all we have to deal with is snowstorms with no names. No complaining this winter.

So, how are you expected to find a family to help? Where would you start?


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