September 11, 2005
The Facade Is Washed Away
In the wake of the devastation of Katrina I am buoyed by the response to the needs of the people whose lives were forever changed by this hurricane. The outpouring of love and support is so heartening that I wonder how someone could witness this and still want to give up on humankind. And yet there is a part of me that cannot help but wonder why it takes devastation like this to bring this out in us. I especially ponder this when I see that the many persons who have lived for many years in poverty in New Orleans and other places are the ones who have suffered the most from Katrina. I wonder where we were all these years when the poorest of New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama and other parts of Louisiana were eking out a living.
It appears to me that Katrina washed away more than homes, businesses, schools, churches, and other dwellings. Katrina also washed away the blinders from our eyes that shielded us from the misery and depravation of those who have lost hope and are barely getting by. Poverty does more to you than cause you to be hungry. It robs you of self-worth, dignity, pride, and a sense of kinship to the rest of the world.
Sojourners magazine in its SojoMail tells us that there are 37 million people living in poverty not somewhere else but in the United States. 13 million of those persons are children, 1.1 million people fell below the poverty threshold between 2003 and 2004 and this is the fourth consecutive year that the poverty rate has risen in the United States. Katrina may have provided us an opportunity to respond not just to its devastation but to the slow death that poverty sends our way.