It happened 11 years ago this month, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Hurricane Katrina had flooded New Orleans. Every television station was broadcasting around-the-clock live coverage. Every photographer was pulling 16-hour shifts. There was no end in sight.
I went home that night, exhausted. I grabbed a beer and flopped in my recliner hoping for a few minutes to clear my head of the carnage I had documented over the previous month. My 9-year-old son wandered into the family room, gave me a hug, and asked me, “Dad, why would God let this happen?”
I honestly do know where the answer I gave him came from. “Sometimes, bad things happen, and it’s up to us to be an example of God’s love to other people.”
That seemed to satisfy him.
As we muddle through the recovery from our own flood, I’m struck by how true those words were then, and still are now.
My wife left our home with two duffle bags of clothes and no idea where we would lay our heads for one night, much less for the months it will take for us to get back into our home.
Friends took us in. They fed us. They sheltered us. They gave us a shoulder to lean on. Not just for a night or two, but an open invitation to stay as long as it took us to get back on our feet.
Three days in, they took in our son who had also flooded. They gave us a place to huddle together to regroup, to rest, and to prepare for whatever came our way. In our time of greatest need, they gave us what we needed most. A place filled with love and hope for better days ahead. They gave us a home. A family.
Even before the flood waters had receded, an army of family was making plans to help gut our house and speed us onto the road to recovery. Strangers from around the country poured into our neighborhood to help however they could, whether it was manual labor, supplies, food, or just to stop in to pray. They lifted our spirits.
It’s been two months since the Amite River invaded our home, and we still see God’s love all around us: in neighbors swapping cleaning supplies, the Red Cross wagon that circles our neighborhood almost every day with hot lunches, and the trash crew that is slowly getting our street clean.
Today, we are well on our way to rebuilding our lives. Thanks to talented friends willing to give their nights and weekends, our house again has doors, electricity, insulation, and walls.
God’s love manifest itself almost daily in our lives, mostly in the little things. We just don’t notice it until we are at our most desperate, our most vulnerable. It’s in those times, when we need Him the most, that we find Him in the people around us.
And if there was ever any doubt, this afternoon, while we were raking drywall crumbs out of our grass where our entire house was emptied and hauled away to the dump. My wife found this.
My grandmother’s rosary. It was a gift on our wedding day. At this point in our lives, we did not need the reminder. We have seen His love in the face of everyone who has helped and encouraged us along the way.