Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Beaven arrived Friday afternoon while we were putting up the big dormitory tent. When he called to say he was only 30 minutes outside Pearlington my reaction kind of startled me. I felt positively giddy. And I’m not a giddy-type person. You would think that after all these years (going on 39 now), the stars would have faded from our eyes. I was holding up one end of the tent and looked over to find him standing quietly to the side. I don’t remember it but Jan told me that I just let go of my part of the tent when I saw him and ran over to greet him.
He’s been here long enough to knock off more than a few things on my Honey Do List. He put up trim around the office windows and fixed the water pressure in my trailer. He’s figured out how to turn my laptop into a television receiver. He even cleaned out the trailer’s holding tank, a job no one was willing to tackle. I won’t go into details but we don’t have a good septic tank here in our camp and it was a work of improvisation. He was planning to branch out yesterday and go to a friend’s house to put in her icemaker but the weather turned bad.
We had a bad storm roll across the US yesterday afternoon that brought tornado warnings to our little chunk of paradise. Thank God we didn’t have volunteers or it would have been far more interesting than it was. We evacuated to the only large brick building in town, the gym of the former elementary school, which isn’t used as a school anymore since it was condemned after Hurricane Katrina. For a while I wondered about the logic behind taking shelter in a condemned building but I soon lost that thought because it turned into a mini-convention of various recovery programs who took shelter with us. We did a lot of bonding then watched a power line catch fire and throw out red, white and blue flames. This turned it into a sort of July 4th celebration until the rain finally overpowered the flames. The power went out but cell phones still worked so most business went on. The gym has enough windows that we could still see inside and the woman conducting an interview of a homeowner kept right on talking until they were finished. I had a chance to compare tool inventories with the Recovery Center. We traded offers to loan whatever tools the other needed. Believe it or not, they have even more hammers than we do.
The power never came back on but the rain slacked up enough that we came back to the camp. I read a few magazines and watched Beaven pace around muttering about generators. He and I usually have totally opposite reactions to things like loss of electrical power. Since I know nothing about electricity I sit back and make the best of the situation. My only concern last night was how soon I could declare the ice cream in enough jeopardy to invite the fire department to come over and eat it with me. Beaven, on the other hand, knows enough about power that he analyses the situation and figures out how to fix it. And here in our camp he had about five generators in the tool trailer with the 37 hammers. He was in hog heaven. But he held back and only started the one we needed to power up the trailer. Neither of us suggested using one of the generators to save the ice cream. I think in the back of our minds we were both willing to leave that at risk so our consumption of an entire freezer of ice cream would make sense. Just about the time I had calculated that we just might lose our frozen food, around 10 pm,the power came back on. And we were tired enough that we just went on to bed.
Almost as soon as Beaven got here Friday he realized he had packed wrong. He brought only long sleeved winter shirts, forgetting that this is Mississippi and it usually gets into the high 70’s in the afternoon even if it is February. Fortunately we keep an unending supply of blue PDA t-shirts in all sizes. So he was suited up in full PDA uniform almost immediately.
I really enjoy my wardrobe here. I wear the same thing every day. We have cases full of the blue PDA shirts in every size, so it’s not like I’m wearing the same exact shirt every day. I do wash them. But I don’t have to spend any time in the morning deciding what to wear. Blue shirt, blue jeans, period. When you get all the staff together, not only do we all have the same outfit on, the parking lot is full of the same trucks: white Chevrolet pickups. And in sequential license plate numbers. The accountant in me begs to line the trucks up in numerical order but I hold back. Only the staff finance manager would understand.
Sunday morning Beaven and I went into Waveland for a newspaper and some supplies. As we walked into the Wal-Mart wearing our PDA shirts the greeter handed us a basket and said, “Thank you for all you’re doing here.”
This was only the second time this has happened to me but I’ve heard stories of it happening to others all the time. It’s two and a half years after the storm and people are still coming to help and we’re still getting “thank yous”. Jan Rabe, who lives in Pearlington and works for PDA told me about the countless times it has happened to her. She says people will very quietly and very simply say “Thank You” as they pass her in the store. Nothing more; just “Thank You.” Wilf Wityshyn, another PDA staff member verifies this and says he’s even had people buy his dinner in restaurants. He’ll go to pay the tab and the waiter will tell him the couple three tables over already paid it when they left. (Wilf has also gotten out of speeding tickets this way. The cops will let him off by telling him to slow down because they don’t want to lose people like him.) There’s a sign down the road that says “Thank You Church Volunteers.”
This is just amazing to me. It reminds me of something Shirley Thompson told me a year ago when we first started working on her house. She said she had prayed for people like us to come when she saw what the hurricane had done to her town. She prayed, “Lord you know we can’t do this by ourselves, you’ve got to send some people to help us.” And we came.
I don’t think much about being an answer to someone’s prayer. I pray a lot about the things I and (the rest of the world) need but to suddenly find out I am myself an answer to someone else’s prayer is another thing altogether. It’s a very sobering feeling. Usually when you say that someone is “using” you, it has a negative meaning. But God is using me now in the very best way. Thanks be to God.