[ Divine Signs ]

A Common Bond

After Hurricane Katrina, I felt depressed, confused, and vulnerable. I had been thinking about the people trapped in New Orleans, of ways I could help, and of what in heaven's name was going to go wrong next. Storms, floods, gas lines, and war. Golly. What next?

Even so, I worked, donated to relief efforts, and things were sort of moving on. I have an active spiritual life and rely on it for support and comfort. I'm active in my church - attending regularly and fully involved. I looked to it for comfort and direction. Especially at this time. And it provided them but in a unexpected way.

The church called in the evening. It was 6:30 and eighteen people from New Orleans were going to be at the church at 8:30 to stay in our retreat center for some time. We knew almost nothing about them or what they would need but wanted to prepare as well as we could. Could I go to the store and buy food and toiletries and so on? And could I go right now?

Of course I could. I was on the way in less than five minutes, arrived at the store, and got to work. I went through at record speed selecting spaghetti makings, things for salad, bread, butter, cookies, pudding, juice boxes, granola bars, chips, and more. I got diapers (several sizes even though we were not sure that there would be any children at all), toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, and other hygiene items. In short order, my buggy overflowed with all sorts of things. I, like everyone at church, wanted to be ready when our guests arrived and didn't want to forget anything.

I unloaded the buggy quickly so I could get to the church. The woman checking me out noted the diapers and asked me if I had many children. I explained that was this shopping was part of our church's work to help a family from New Orleans.

She paused and looked at me and said "I want to help too. I want to give $10. I know what it's like. I'm a refugee too." She explained that she was from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that she had lost everything too at one time. She had come through all of that and was working hard to make a new life and was willing to share some of what little she had. Her natural generosity was striking and inspiring. I accepted her gift gratefully and left the store uplifted.

At that moment, my worries evaporated. I realized that God was with us and was working through us all in this terrible time. The message was that recovery can happen, hardship can foster generosity, and that through service to others, we can also help ourselves. And finally, I realized that when we least expect it, God will show Himself. And isn't it wonderful when we notice?

Steve K.

Atlanta, GA