The Incomparable Beauty of Community
To say that South Louisiana has had a rough month would be an understatement. In July, we felt the fear and heartbreak of a deadly assault on our police. Less than one month later, we are attempting to pick up the pieces of an entire region ravaged by unprecedented flooding. In my neighborhood, the image of blue ribbon attached to an almost completely submerged mailbox bears witness to the fact that we have not yet recovered from one tragedy before facing the next. But true to our culture, Louisiana is proving its resilience, empowered by the strength of its communities.
After the police attack, we witnessed support and fundraising like we had never seen before to assist the families of the fallen officers. The community support was overwhelming. In the aftermath of flooding, we are seeing the same. In my area of Livingston Parish, it is estimated that 90% of homes took on water. As I write this, most businesses have not yet reopened. And yet, even with so many victims, we are seeing community spirit rise once again.
Even though 90% may have been affected, 90% do not see themselves in the role of victim. Louisianians are a stubborn bunch, a people who refuse to lie down even in the face of immense tragedy. The line between victim and rescuer was blurred throughout the weekend, as individuals who were rescued wasted no time in quickly becoming the rescuers. Those who have lost everything are quickly gutting their own homes and then moving on to assist those who can’t. Our sheriff’s deputies are working around the clock even as their homes were lost and their families are living in the courthouse.
Louisiana has always been known for its community spirit, but it is in times like these that this quality truly shines. As pastors of a large church, my parents were in a position to temporarily provide shelter in the church gym for many of those who fled their homes with nowhere to go. Without even being asked, members of the community jumped into action to assist in this mission.
During the days that they housed these refugees, there were no government funds or delivery of supplies. There were no major organizations providing relief. People of the community came together to make it happen. Restaurant owners and grocery store owners within the local community brought food and supplies. Blankets, towels and personal items flowed in in abundance. People came to cook, to clean, to wash clothes, and to help with pets. A local nurse practitioner dedicated her time to making sure lifesaving medicines were located and administered. Everyone did what they do best, each bringing their own talents and ministries.
In my subdivision, some homes flooded and those that didn’t were islands, with no way in or out. Individuals who had not ever met before teamed up to run small boats back and forth in the rain, making sure people were evacuated from flooded homes, and delivered to dry places. Today, our homeowners’ Facebook group has been continually lit up with posts matching needs with resources. Those in affected homes are putting trash bags of laundry in the driveway, while unknown neighbors pick them up, launder them and return them.
As the days ahead unfold, and the media report the big picture, I hope we will be able to take note of all the individual stories like this that are still to be told. On Sunday night, when my twin nephews were burning up with fever and there was no open road to a doctor, I went to the local grocery store. They were closed, but the owners, our longtime friends, were still inside. They saw my face in the window, came to the door and gave me medicine. This is the very definition of community. And it is incomparably beautiful.