When I was growing up on the Alabama farm, we would come in from the fields at noon and eat like we had never seen food before. When the last of the bowls were clean, invariably someone could be heard to sigh, “I feel like everyone in the world has eaten now.”
That’s a real syndrome. When you’re satisfied, it’s easy to forget those still in need. The opposite seems to apply also: when you’re in severe need, you tend not to notice others in worse shape than you. Case in point: Pass Christian, Mississippi.
Monday morning’s Times-Picayune highlighted this little town not far inside the Mississippi line from Louisiana and the site of Gulf Shore Baptist Assembly, a wonderful retreat on the beach which we use as much as the Mississippians do. According to the paper, Pass Christian was wiped out by Katrina and still lies there pretty much untouched. “Mississippi coast remains a wreck,” said the headline. No lots are cleared, the stench is everywhere, and displaced citizens shiver inside their tent cities. Mayor Billy McDonald, working out of a trailer, does not expect the word ‘recovery’ to roll off his lips for many months. Few people had insurance, fewer have jobs, there is no money, there’s precious little hope.
So, where is FEMA? In the weeks following Katrina, while New Orleanians were griping about the lapses of this government emergency response organization, all we heard was how pleased our neighbors in Mississippi were with Mike Brown and his team. No more. According to U.S. Representative Gene Taylor, “FEMA could mess up a one-car funeral.” “The federal response, from highways to housing to trailers, is completely unacceptable,” he said.
A reminder to us in New Orleans that our misery is wide-spread, the needs are all around us, and there is plenty of work left for all.