Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Putting life in perspective

This email to NRO's Ed Whelan from a friend evacuated ahead of Katrina, I thought, provided that perspective in a big hurry:
Dear Friends,

I have often thought of my home, New Orleans, as the future Atlantis. Rome may well be the Eternal City. New Orleanians have the Ephemeral City.

And now, the long deferred worst case scenario has come due. The outlook is grim indeed. And the suffering that will no doubt be my fellow citizens' lot, be it from loss of property, health or life, is enough to touch the flintiest of hearts. Not to exaggerate the situation, but I am doubtful whether the city will ever be the same again. Without having seen the damage firsthand — and without knowing whether my home or office even exist — I can't imagine that the city will soon recover from such a blow. Our city appears to be filled with polluted water, and assuming that it could be drained soon, it seems rather unlikely that we will be going home within the next month.

Can you imagine a city of this size being vacated for a month? I can't imagine it, but it seems likely that I will live it!

Imagine losing the following:
  • Your home
  • Your job
  • Your possessions
  • Your children's access to schooling
  • Your economy
  • Your culture
  • Your city
I bring all of this doom and gloom up to make one key point: I am, in some key ways, better off now than I was before Katrina came to town. You see, for years now I have tried to convince my children of one truth: The most important things in life are not things. I had, of course, intended to emphasize this point from the comfort of a chaise lounge under the beneficent breeze of a ceiling fan. To my irritation and dismay, I must now say this without the proverbial pot.

We shall just have to wait and see whether my philosophy is able to withstand the rigors of a reality without. Although I shall miss air conditioning, I have reason to believe that I will pass this test.

Just this morning my ten-year-old daughter came to me, and with her voice trembling, asked me "Papa, are we going to be all right?"

My reply was "Yes, we are going to be just fine. I can lose everything I have with just a few exceptions, and they are your mother, you and your sisters."

I write these words from the home of a friend in Houston, Texas, with very little to my name. I have, nevertheless, wealth untold. To those of you who have attempted to call, it is probable that our telephones will be out for the foreseeable future — New Orleans doesn't have an electrical grid right now, so until they can rebuild that we probably won't have much in the way of telephone service.

I'm grateful for the kindness of friends who have taken us in without reservation.

Say a prayer for my city tonight; there are so many others who have lost the greatest wealth God gives — their own lives. Whether I like it or not, my treasure will, for a season, be stored in places where 'moths and dust doth not corrupt.'
Maybe such a perspective comes when you realize you have no other choice. Or maybe God gives His grace to those who He knows will best exemplify it. If you're praying for these people, say another one while you're thinking about it.


  • At 9/01/2005 9:51 AM, Blogger J.D. said…

    This is a nice post, though if there is a God, I'm not sure He plays favorites. I think that this sort of perspective comes whenever one is stripped from normal life. Have you ever been on an extended vacation? Have you ever noticed how the weight of daily life seems to strip away from you when you don't have your home, your job, your things to worry about? They're not what is really important in life, and the e-mail you quote does a remarkable job of making that apparent.

    Nice post.

  • At 9/01/2005 10:23 AM, Blogger Ken said…

    I think you're right. That was a silly way to conclude that post.

    The great thing about God (and I do believe He exists, even when I can't understand Him sometimes) is that he "gives grace to the humble" (Prov. 3:34); the people of the South are certainly in a position of humility whether they want to be or not.

    The book I read says that God's grace is abundant, even when we don't deserve it. It also says, however, that "to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." I should have said God's grace is available to all, but it shows up nicely in those who are humble enough to accept it and let Him work through them.

    Thanks for stopping by.


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