Live from Pearlington - April 15, 2006
Susie Sharp slept in her house last night, for the first time since the storm.
Susie is my hostess when I'm in Pearlington, giving me a spare trailer to call home and even lending me her car to get around. A true daughter of Mississippi, she's tough on the outside, soft on the inside; generous, fiercely loyal and hard working. There isn't a day that goes by that someone in this community doesn't benefit from her generosity and she is well-regarded here in town. I have written about Susie before; her husband Billy passed away before the storm and her brother Valery, from Texas, was accidentally killed here on the property when he came in October to help her clean up. Their memories rest now in a beautiful, shaded spot under the trees beside the house.
Susie has worked daily to get this huge job done. She lost her entire trucking business in the storm, but rises early each morning to face the tasks that will restore her life to normalcy. Using what resources she could gather and with some volunteer help from her family and those who have come to love her from out of town, she steadily worked to get her life in order. And last night, she slept in her new bed, in her new house, with an Easter lily I gave her close at hand.
We are all very proud of you Susie! You are truly an example of "reaping what you sow" and all that has come to you is merely a reflection of all you have given to so many others over the years.
Billy and Val would be proud of you as well and will watch over you as you create the next phase of your life.
I received a letter yesterday from two young women who were here last week, volunteering in Pearlington. I would like to share it with you:
"LPE's Trip to Mississippi: Life Lessons By: Ashley Butler and Whitney Adams
Lambda Pi Eta returned from their journey to Pearlington, MS with much more than a feel-good attitude about giving back to the community. This service project was unlike any other the group had ever experienced. In three short days of work and two long days of driving, the 15 honors students learned about devastation and heartbreak, but also about hope for the future. Nothing could have prepared us for the sheer desolation and despair we witnessed upon arrival in Pearlington. Almost 8 months after the storm, we figured we would be putting the finishing touches on town that had been rebuilding since the say it was destroyed. We were wrong.
We took in our surroundings and finally understood that the pictures and news clips we saw on TV were real, the people and their suffering was real, and the tragedy was real. Change has been and always will be the most constant element of human life. From the devastated landscape to the shattered lives, the Gulf Coast and the membersof Lambda Pi Eta will never be the same. First-hand interaction with the community of Pearlington, Mississippi helped LPE members comprehend the wrath of nature and the fragile essence of life, the benefits of good will and the importance of selflessness. While each member has taken away something different from their experience, overall they learned that nothing is guaranteed; to take every moment and treat it as something special and sacred; and that one is ever too far away to lend a helping hand, an attentive ear and an open heart.
No one will truly understand the pain the Gulf Coast has been enduring since Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 until they travel down there to lend a helping hand and witness it for themselves. It is only then that your compassion will be true and your life changed forever. We are so grateful that the town of Pearlington took us in, embraced us, and let us go with true life lessons which we will never forget. It was so difficult for us to leave, that we plan on returning in June for 1 to 2 weeks to continue our journey with the people of Pearlington."
(Lambda Pi Eta is the Communication Honors Society at Salisbury University located on the eastern shore of Maryland)
Last night I was invited to help "re-group" about 40 members of a team from California, working with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and headed home today. Most of them young people, they shared moving experiences of their time in Pearlington and I helped them understand what re-integration into their lives back home would be like. We laughed and cried together and Mary and Wilf Wityshyn, along with Wilf's son Chris have done an outstanding job since their arrival in Pearlington.
They are here because they too, in their turn, came to the Coast to help and were so changed by the experience that they re-arranged their personal lives in Canada and returned to stay for a year or two. They are kind, decent people and I am proud to call them my new friends. I was even made an Honorary Presbyterian Disaster Assister and will get to show off my t-shirt to my son-in-law back home, who is just graduating with a Masters of Divinity and will now become a Presbyterian minister. Ironically enough, he grew up in a town in Ontario less than 30 minutes away from the Wityshyn's home.
People helping people help people....that's what this is all about. The Circle of Life closes and we are all blessed.