Monday, September 05, 2005

Refugee Status

Defying President Bush's request that I limit travel this weekend, my family and I trekked in our gas-hogging SUV (packed with seven people and paying $3 a gallon, if it makes anyone feel better) to a wedding in Ft. Smith Arkansas. It was beautiful, by the way.

While staying at the Residence Inn, New Orleans' refugees straggled in, washed their clothes, swam in the pool (lovely, I can attest) and ate warm food. The hotel was packed full. My husband heard a woman at the front desk ask, "Is the food free?" She and her husband promptly loaded their plates full of hot breakfast and took it back to their cool, clean room. It looked like they were starving and hadn't had a good meal for days.

The Wendy's in Longview, Texas had a sign that said, "Hurricane survivors 50% off food." The people in front of us in line claimed the discount.

I wonder what it is like to be a refugee in your own country? People all over are generous, kind and giving. But you still have to start over.

Maybe I would hold out to go home if my town was wiped off the map, but I don't know... It seems to me that the better part of wisdom is to buy an atlas, go to the library and dream. Where would I like to live? Where can I afford to live? What do I want my life to look like?

This may sound callous at a time like this, but I can speak of having a tragedy in my own life, not just this kind: disasters free you. Priorities suddenly become sharply focused. All the B.S. falls away. Questions pop around:
  • Who am I?
  • What kind of people do I want to spend my suddenly more valuable life with?
  • What do I want to do before I die?
These are the kind of questions that we all should ask every day, but don't. We get mired in obligation, resentment and wasted time. Disaster survivors think about it all. All of a sudden, there's time to ponder all those things that get pushed aside in the busyness. There is also time to start the life you kept meaning to get around to.

Greatness will rise out of the soggy heap that is New Orleans and it won't be architectural--it will be people who grab their destinies one person at a time.
More blogs about the woodlands rita.