Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Volunteer's Prayer for Pearlington

It's the dead of night and I cannot sleep. I find myself at my keyboard, somewhat overwhelmed. There is so much to do here and it seems to take so much to get even a little something done.

If the whole world could come to a place like Pearlington, they would understand what it is we witness here; what it means to lose everything by an act of God and then to try and hold bravely onto one's Faith. Words like dignity, integrity, trust and hope take on new meanings; no longer vague abstractions, but the stuff of everyday challenge to understand their meanings and to walk them in the world. Faith really isn't Faith until its ALL you're holding onto. Hope is the daily waiting, looking at the mess that was once your life and praying someone will come to help. Many people in this town are holding on to to both, like two life preservers keeping them afloat in a sea of broken dreams.

They never expected us here, never needed us here, but they need and want us now. Some are too proud to ask for help, some ask for too much. Many are manifesting some version of post-traumatic stress and we need to be gentle with them. And with ourselves. We can't do everything, only what we can and it serves no purpose to burn out on the altar of service. I remember back in November thinking I hadn't called home in a couple of days and almost resenting the fact that I should. It was then that I realized I was at risk of "going native," of over-identifying with the good people of Pearlington, as if they were MY people, MY town. As a therapist it's a dangerous spot to be in and a sure sign of Compassion Fatique. I had come to care so much, to be so busy on their behalf, to want to help and make the monster go away.

Now I'm back once again, rested, with a healthier perspective and still I feel their pain. It shouldn't be so hard to get some paint, some plywood, some nails. Simple things that would merely occasion a short trip to the Home Depot, but magnified 1600-fold - is daunting. And that's just Pearlington. If I only share with you the karaoke, the crab boils and the fried turkey; only talk about miracles of resource meeting need; only sound up and happy and that it is all easy, I would minimize the experience of both resident and volunteer alike. Don't get me wrong: Karaoke Nights in the fall were fun, but I intended it as group therapy for us all.

Tomorrow, I will arise and put my customary smile on my face and rejoin the adventure. I am an optimist by nature and I believe in the power of the human Spirit. I believe in all the volunteers who come here to help because that very same Spirit called them to this journey. I'm proud to be a part of this volunteer community and a friend to the people of Pearlington. I know I have asked you before and once again, I call us all to redouble our efforts.

God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference. Grant us the resources to fairly distribute to those truly in need of the materials required to rebuild Faith and Hope. As leaders and volunteers, grant us the ability to stay focused and healthy, leading by example and staying determined, organized and co-operative with each other. Guide us to the creation of 1600 miracles, 1600 opportunities to show we care, 1600 ways to find what we need to do this job. God, place the invitation in the hearts of all good people to come and join the Dance, each in the way they can do best, by sharing the abundance of this great continent with our brothers and sisters of all faiths and ancestries and beliefs in this little bayou town.

It's Easter and Christ will rise again. As will Pearlington.

Amen
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