Saturday, March 27, 2010
Randy's mission trip story (From the Top of the World)
A story from the Mission trip - where to begin - perhaps with a series of memories flashing from the road and our "rolling nest" - six souls in a tin can on wheels stuffed to the brim with pillows, sundries of food and entertainment, good will, and oddments of the lives we left behind, temporarily watching the occasional (were there three or four?) gigantic crosses beside the highway, boastful proclamations of faith and place, roll before us on the way south and behind us on the way north; and reading the billboards asking the clergy of Knoxville what they were doing about the "3000 abortions a year" in their hometown making us wonder if they were the ones responsible and what sort of guilt was being proffered; the cars and the trucks and the folks on the road with us, each with a personal mission, passing the land and creeping up on the Gulf coast until at last we arrived on the immaculate grounds of the place called Aldgate (did I remember it right?) in Slidell ; soon we were at work at Peggy’s; she told us stories of the flood and the wind and the fury of lives torn apart and left in the backwaters of places just off the road to wither in desiccated depression until someone suggested she direct her prayers making them manifest in words to that incarnation of faith - the church! help was there already marshaled by those who tried to restore their brothers and sisters after the deluge; and five years later there I was (grateful to my daughter who insisted I come) happy to lift the drywall sheets to make the walls dry - 17 feet above the ground which was still a few feet less than that flood; like working in a tree house the crew and I measured and plumbed and cut and lifted and screwed and sunk again screws then finally (how funny, how ironic) applied "mud" to the walls we hoped would never taste water again making them smooth sanding them smoother sealing them together with a promise of paint and trim and the finishing touches to be completed by others someday real soon - the last trickle of help restoring a place for Peggy, her daughters, and her sons, and her grandchildren, and a home for her husband, too, when he returns on those infrequent days from labor so far away. At the end, we tour St. Bernard, flat and filled with busy life brimming with business and folks in a hurry to come and go (did water really cover it all?), and we wait on a bridge while a barge passes below before descending to the Ward - a 9th circle of hell then and still – now an opportunity lost … for us … to become a greater nation … lost when we did not mobilize - immediately - a simple, civic devotion to neighbors - fellow citizens; in every empty lot and broken house is a vision of what was, what might have been, what will be resurrected by those who call that place home; and the melancholy, which seeps into me as we turn corner after corner after corner of work yet to be done, is relieved by an echo of a youthful voice silenced too soon so long ago: "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" Bobby Kennedy knew - as privileged as I – he knew and now I knew, watching the passing parade of unreasoning poverty and wondering why only a few had homes rebuilt - with innovation and a committed compassion rendered into action. Now I knew Kennedy’s truth: “It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task.” And the task is great – preserve the hope and serve the change begun in the last election … and remember his other words: “Ultimately, America's answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.” So, then we enjoyed the exuberance of the parade - the joyful kissing and carrying on – (the gift of love … loving and being loved … not a streetcar named Desire) - and then the exotic French Quarter – a reminder that Maine is a place far away – “Hey, man … Maine! You gots to be joking! That’s like … on top of the World!” he shouted … to us in the van … supporting his honest labor outside the bar … on Bourbon Street … when we paused at the light … and as we passed on the green … he knew we high schoolers were “working tourists” … I am certain he could see our “shine”. Then the road home past the same landscape in reverse; more billboards hectoring our eyes, some our sensibilities, telling us what we ought to believe and how we ought to behave … specifically; and I was not mistaken; it was a short wave radio station proclaiming its version of the Word into the electromagnetic spectrum for all the world to hear, if all the world had radios … and were tuned to its frequency. For five years the word on our campus was an invitation … to do a little good. A little good was done. There is more to do – here and there – one day at a time. Let’s choose our tools and continue. -Randy '10 UMVIM team & KHS English teacher.