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A Prayer for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina

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After Katrina, Let the Tears Come
by Molly Wolf

There is going to be an enormous amount of grief around these days. Maybe New Orleans wasn't the greatest place to live and raise your children, but it was home. Maybe your neighborhood had pretty severe problems, but it was still your neighborhood. You may have lost loved ones, friends, your beloved dog; you've likely lost pretty much everything you owned. Oh, yes, there's going to be grief.  

So go grieve. No; don't go. Sit right down here, and I'll sit next to you. I won't try to cheer you up or make you feel better, and I won't pretend to know how you feel—I don't. I've never been through what you're going through now. Here's a glass of water and here's a box of kleenex and there's more where they came from.  If you want a hug or an arm around your shoulders, I'll do that, but I won't push or intrude.  

You're angry? You've got cause. More could have been done and wasn't, not just during the flood but before, long, long before, because this disaster was set up by decisions reaching back years. It had been predicted time and time again, and nobody did anything much. You're angry at the authorities? Damn right; their failures increased your suffering. You're angry at God? God's big enough to handle that, and God knows where the anger is coming from—that it's a proper and healthy response. Go ahead and be angry; you've got lots to be angry about.  

But when the anger subsides, the pain rises, and that's hard, so hard. It's hard on you and it's hard on me, and I might selfishly try to make the pain (or you) go away.  That's what Job's comforters were doing. They thought they were arguing about why bad things happen to people, but in fact they were trying to shut down Job's suffering. 

Don't listen to people who tell you that others have it worse than you; your suffering is yours and it's real and nobody's taking notes or making comparisons. Don't heed those who would urge you to be calm and seemly and under control, not given what you're dealing with. People do this because they feel overwhelmed and can't stand it, but that makes you feel like you're the problem when you're not. The pain is real and reasonable, and you wail just as much as you need to. Wails that don't get out of your throat get locked into bone and muscle and turn into a terrible buzzing that doesn't let you think straight. Trust me, I know this.  

Trying to shut down suffering—that's not the way of Jesus the Christ, who wept at Lazarus's tomb, whose mother and friends endured with him through the Crucifixion. That's not God's way. God's way is to be with us when we suffer. It's not me sitting next to you and struggling with the pain; it's the God who lives in me.  These hands are Jesus' hands, and they will hold your hands, if you want, and do for you as best they can.  

Take your time. It's going to take time—time to get through the terrible first confusion, time to deal with the afterwash of fear and grief, time to clear up all the devastation, physical and emotional. You need people to be neighbors to you, where you are now; I'll do my best to do that for you. 

The one lesson we should have listened to is the one we can heed now: it's not everyone for themselves and devil take the hindmost and I'm in it for Number One; it's that we need community, we need to be responsible one for another, we need to care enough to make some genuine sacrifices for each other.  

You can say, and rightly, that a nation whose citizens are predominantly Christian should have been way more aware of the Gospel message. Jesus said that we'd be judged on how we treat the poor, the imprisoned, the hungry and naked - and in that case, we do have some judging to face. If Katrina turns the national attitude around, maybe good can come out of her.  

But that's not your problem, and don't give it any attention, not now. What matters right now is the grieving. It's okay; you can't make any sound that would make me go away. Just let it go. Just let it go.  

Copyright ©2005, Molly Wolf.

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