Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Human Factor...


Katrina is the name on everyone’s lips. The images we see on tv and in the newspaper are seared into our minds and hearts forever. IMHO, this is one of those incidents where, twenty years from now, we will all ask, “Where were you when Katrina devastated the gulf coast?”. In my mind, this event is just as historically significant (if not more) as the first space walk, the deaths of JFK, Martin Luther King and Princess Diana.

As many people know, I have some very strong ties to southern Louisiana. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities and I’ve spent a lot of time there. The food, the people, the history, the atmosphere – all of it combines to create a place like none other.

I also have many, many friends in some of the LA parishes devastated by this event. My heart breaks at the thought of the human loss, animals as well as the lovely, stately homes on the bayous of southern LA. This state is one of the poorest in the country - the unemployment rate is higher than the national average and the number of people on Medicaid is tremendous. Most of these people have nothing left, no home, no possessions but they have their lives and the clothing on their back. Some were not so lucky.

As I prepare to head south to Louisiana, I had a rather interesting experience at the store. I’d filled a cart with water, cleaning supplies, rubber gloves, rain boots, canned food and sanitary items so, needless to say, it would take a few minutes to empty the cart, ring me up and then put everything back in the cart again. A woman got in line behind me and began shoving my stuff on the counter aside so she could put her few items down.

I didn’t pay much attention at the time but the cashier’s reaction drew my attention. The woman had mixed her items in with mine and the cashier didn’t know where my order ended and the next began. I straightened her out as the newcomer was ignoring her questions and I continued on my way. Another woman got in line behind her and pointed out that a third cashier had opened up and instead of saying thank you, the interloper started yelling at the newcomer.

I’m almost forty years old and I’ve seen a lot of bad behavior but this really took me by surprise. I wondered what was going on in this person’s life to cause her to go to the store and unleash her ire on an unsuspecting public. Health issues? Car broken down? Bad hair day?

I started volunteering for several charities and civic groups for nine years or so. I do photography work for my local police and fire departments and I took the training to become a first responder in an event such as Katrina. I used to help with literacy classes for adults and I also worked as a bookseller and panel member for Thurber House in Columbus, OH. When I began to donate my time to various charities my life became more fulfilling than I’d ever imagined. What I receive from helping others is immeasurable – far more valuable than just a few hours of my time.

I understand that daily life is very busy, there are many times that I want to pull my own hair out – but I usually feel refreshed and rejuvenated after I donate my time to these organizations. If you cannot donate time, please consider donating some money to or - its not a hand out, it’s a hand up.