Last week we went to Pearlington, had a great time, cooked a little barbeque, put up some drywall and came home. Before we start today, I'd like to announce the winner of the First Annual Texas versus South Carolina Barbecue Cook-Off. Of course, if you ask me, it was Texas. If you ask the eleven or so folks from the fine state of South Carolina, they will tell you they won with their wimpy little pork butt in a crock pot. I will let you decide for yourselves based merely on the fact that there was no genuine hickory smoked Texas brisket left over after the meal and South Carolina was still trying to foist their left-overs on anyone who would take it for the next two nights until they limped back home.
Certainly a Good Time was had by all. In between sharing the camp with a few old friends of mine from Dorchester Presbyterian in Summerville, South Carolina, and helping put the town back together, we feasted on lunch at the Missionary Baptist Church and discovered a great new restaurant in Bay St Louis on our last night.
Lunch at the church was a reason to go to Pearlington in itself. Who could resist cornbread whose recipe begins with the instruction “first you take a pound of butter…” ?
We were able to go straight to work the first morning. The camps were closed during the summer's intense heat so all the building inspectors had been able to catch up and the houses were just waiting for the next step. Ardyce and Chris went to the church to help with lunch and I went with the guys to hang drywall. We finished the hall and the last bedroom, then taped and mudded the rest. It was ready for the second coat by the end of our week. Beaven worked some on the electricity and plumbing. He fussed over the septic tank way more than I would have. We worked on one of the few brick houses in the town so after gutting the windows and walls, the house was pretty much intact. Certainly the plumbing gave us no concern. Or, at least, I didn’t think so. I can’t imagine a hurricane doing much damage to pipes that were buried underground. That tiny little philosophy didn’t keep Beaven from wondering aloud, and frequently ad nauseam, if there was a P trap underneath the shower drain and exactly where it was. He couldn’t see it and, therefore was in doubt that it ever existed. For my money, if people had been taking showers in this house for the last 20 years without a problem, just put the damned shower pan in and forget about it.
The family whose house we worked on was headed by three sisters. That’s all I knew for a couple of days until I found out their last name is Baudean. Angel, Laurie and Leah Baudean, with Laurie's nine-year old little Mary as our major inspiration. After two years she couldn’t believe they were finally going to get their house fixed. Finally, our dear friend Dallas Trammell told her that she was so sure they would get their house fixed that Mary should pick out the paint and a ceiling fan for her room. We left before the house was ready for it but there’s a can of pink paint and a pink ceiling fan sitting there waiting.
I got to see my third finished house. You can’t imagine the satisfaction in being able to stand in Shirley Thompson’s living room and see her kitchen table sitting where we had piled drywall a year ago. I got to see towels hanging on their holders in her bathroom underneath the cabinets I helped install. Someday I’ll be able to see Mary Baudean’s pink bedroom.
I’m sure the South Carolina team, in spite of our differences in cooking style, felt the same way. I was there when they installed the hardwood floor in Shirley’s back bedroom and I know how much care they put into it. We may not be professionals but what we lack in skills we make up for by earnestness.
It took me back to something Dallas Trammel said about a month ago when I called her to see how things were going. Dallas is the work site manager for PDA. She told me sometimes people ask her what happens if another storm comes and washes away all our hard work. She said she tells them: ”Nothing will ever destroy these homes again. They were re-built through God’s love and what is stronger than God’s love? Nothing.”
What a poet Dallas is. But the greater poet is God.
For the last couple of months I’ve been thinking about my birthday coming up. It will be my sixtieth. November 26. I calculated once that it’s about nine months after Valentines Day—a good example of God’s poetry. Since the day is so close to Thanksgiving and so many other people I know have birthdays around that time (the Valentines thing, I’m positive) I figured I’d have my party a month early so more people could come and the weather would be better. So I’ve got a big old party coming up in a couple of weeks but I still hadn’t figured out what I will do the actual day, the anniversary of my birth a month later.
I thought I might do something very physical to prove I’m still a healthy young chick--maybe a marathon or charity walk. I ran in the Turkey Trot one year for my birthday. Then I thought I might do something more contemplative, spend time alone with God, like a whole day spent in prayers of Thanksgiving for sixty years. I kept waiting for the perfect idea to come to me.
While I was at the camp last week I talked with the Volunteer Village Coordinator, Rich Cozzone. He mentioned that they were looking for people to serve as managers of the camps. They’ve been using Young Adult Volunteers for the last year, which I thought was a brilliant idea. The work isn’t really that hard or complicated. It really doesn’t pay much to speak of. But it’s perfect for a recent college graduate who doesn’t have a mortgage payment and is still figuring out their next move; spending a little time chilling out and getting some management experience while watching the Kingdom of Heaven at work. Exposure to the hurricane recovery is good for any young person.
But Rich says they’re having a hard time finding YAVs to manage the camps now. I have a feeling the recovery has lost its appeal for them. Time has moved on for everyone except the people still living in FEMA trailers. So it’s going to take some retired old geezer with nothing better to do with her time, somebody like me. I knew Beaven would encourage me but would stop short of both of us going. He’s convinced our dogs and cat would starve to death without us and he may be right. We can’t both be gone.
I talked it over with Beaven and he encouraged me to apply. I e-mailed in an application, alerted my references and went to the grocery store. I had a call on my answering machine waiting for me when I got back from the store.
Now I know how I will spend my birthday this year. It looks like I’ll spend November 26th driving myself to the Gulf Coast to one of the PDA camps to start work as a Village Manager. I don’t know which camp yet but I know it will be located somewhere within the Kingdom of God. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the beginning of the last third of my life. I have a feeling it will be the best third.