America, September 5, 2005
A person to person connection & call to action
What can you do? What help can you give? How can you do your part to alleviate the tradegy that is the banished residents of New Orleans? Everyone says donate to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, send them your money and they'll make it happen. They sure are doing their part, but I am a more active guy than that. |
When Hurricane Frances f'ed up my weekend, I didn't stay in DC and send my Mom a check. No, I jumped in my car and sped down to Florida with chainsaws, gasoline, water, and enough supplies for a week. There I cut, cleaned, and generally helped out anyone and everyone the best I could. That's the kind of guy I am.
So sitting here watching Katrina slowly kill a city, and the residents slow die while trying to get out, I've oscillated between tears, anger, and renting a car and driving down there. Alas, where would I go? What would I do? Whom would I save?
While I loved my time in NOLA, where Yana and I were styling naturally in New Orleans from the moment we arrived, I don't have ties strong enough for me to make a real and lasting contribution. Or so I thought until today.
Back in 2003, at the end of our 14-hour drive from DC to NOLA for Yana's schoolmate's wedding, I made a fun little friend. Walking into the first house after our long drive, expecting a warm greeting, we were met by a 7 year old boy. He greeted Yana and her friends with hugs, but when he saw me, out came his protective side. With a yell, "Look Dad! It's a white guy in the house!" the "lil' revolutionary," made me laugh and made the Dad, Joey, crimson in embarrassment.
By the time we left, with Grandma's good food warming our bellies, I'd taught Yosef, the "lil revolutionary," a little about his African heritage. While the history and politics of East Africa didn't stick, the word for "white person" in East Africa sure did. For the rest of the week, my new nickname was "mzungu" a title that after I left, Yosef applied to every white person he saw. Yeah, I'm sure Mom and Dad loved me for that!
Today I've just heard distressing news about the "lil revolutionary" and his family. They were air lifted of the roof of their flooded home two days ago and were evacuated to Houston. Luckily, they're safe and staying with friends, but they have nothing, only the clothes on their back.
Think about that. Nothing, no spare clothes, no car, no money, not even toys for Yosef, now 10, and his 14 year old brother Jaha, to keep their mind off the total loss of their family's possessions. His parents, once very proud and productive members of their community, now homeless, jobless, penniless and living in borrowed space on borrowed funds.
Not for long though. I know the parents will find work soon. They ran a successful community daycare center in NOLA, a service that will be needed by Houston. But before then, they're gonna need new clothes, new lives, and even a new car. Or well, new to them at least. While I can't help with the car (could you?), I can help with the clothes and little things.
Forget donating my old stuff, I'm too much of a minimalist to have much past what I use every day, but I can help in a better way - retail therapy. I'm sending Target and Kroger gift cards, so Yosef and his family can find the self-respect and personal pride that only your own food and new clothes can provide.
Please send the gift cards and any other donations suitable and usable by a family of five struggling to get back on their feet and back on with their lives to: