Friday, September 09, 2005

Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama

Here is another report, sent through Gene Allen, from Jim Lodoen who was visiting a sick relative in Houston when the hurricane hit. Jim is with the Minneapolis law firm of Lindquist and Vennum:

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Thank you everyone for additional contributions of $2,505 on Tuesday, making a grand total of approximately $6,300 from L&V, one client and a friend. Your generosity has touched many lives. (Visa called Teresa today to make sure we knew someone had made to $2,000 and one $1,500 charge to Target in the past 4 days). Teresa told her what was going on and she was impressed with your generosity too.

My stories for today are much like yesterdays except different people. I probably won't send any more beyond what I am sending this evening, but thought you would like to hear a bit about my day.

I spent about 5 hours at the Astrodome complex today walking among the cots, talking to folks, and sharing the gift cards. I happened to come upon several situations where three generations were bunked together. Two involved 60-70 year old grandfathers, each of whom had lost their spouse-one 5 years ago and the other when his five children were all under 12 years. He raised them all by himself and with the help of some good neighbors. They viewed it as their obligation to keep their generations of family safe and intact. One gentleman had been on social security disability for 5 years and the other was a post office retiree. Each had 3 or 4 children living in their own homes within about a 4 block area. One is focused on finding ways for his children to stay in Houston and make a new home. The other is focused on going back. Each had all their earthly possessions in a plastic bag under their cot. Both were thankful and grateful. And tears welled up in their eyes. One said the Houston facility is a palace compared to the Superdome in Louisiana. I gave each of them Target cards to share with their family. I gave three $100 cards to one gentleman. He offered to give one back because he didn't want to take more than his share for himself and his five children and their children. I told him to give one to another family in need if he wants. Air mattresses allowed one to save his family from death as they escaped the water. They had to leave so fast at the end to catch a ride with a rescue boat that he didn't have time to grab his wallet from his bedroom so he lost every penny and his identification.

The volunteer staffing area asked for lawyers to work in the press room because they needed someone to help write stories. I showed up for my shift and watched a lot of nonsense that didn't seem to be too productive. They didn't appear to need more help. I soon decided that I could be more helpful talking to people than holed up in a communication center so I slipped out. I am glad I did. As I was walking outside I came across a 40 year old husband/wife with their 14 and 12 year old girls and their 2 year old son. As we visited, I learned that they were thrilled today after spending two days crying, because they just learned that their 22 year old daughter and her two kids are safe. They still don't know the fate of his 83 year old mother who he adores, but they are relieved their daughter and her children are fine. They shared that they had dropped out of school at age 17, were married, and worked hard to make it because they had no education. Michael said that they had the American dream--a nice house in a safe neighborhood with good schools. He said they had everything they wanted and at 40 he has to start over. But, they too are thankful--they left their house with water up to his nose while he walked on his tip toes to lead his family to safety. They just about gave up--but kept on going. His focus was to keep his family together at all costs. They have and I have no doubt they will. They were on their way to target to buy some shoes for their cute 2 year old because they didn't have any at the Astrodome. I said friends from Minneapolis would like to help and I gave them some cards. Tears and hugs followed. I then loaded them in my car and took them to Houston's version of Sebastian Joes ice cream shop, and we enjoyed some time together. Michael said they try to go out for ice cream twice a week and that this was a real treat for them to do this again. His focus tomorrow is to try to get a job with a Houston division of the water delivery company he worked for and to work with his insurance company, etc. to see what their new beginning will look like financially. He and his wife are busy planning their future at night as their children sleep on the cots next to him. A beautiful family. He said we will start small again and build as we can. He said he teaches his children that if you work hard, treat people well, study in school and do the right thing you will be rewarded for it. And he was too by your generosity. He said to thank you all.

I ditto everything I said in my e-mail of last evening about the faith, gratefulness, love and hope of these guests of Houston. The other thing that comes across is the family love and connectedness that goes on for 3 or 4 generations. Many live within blocks of each other. I have also seen that $100-200 from a real person vs. an institution has much more value for people in turmoil than the actual worth of the donation. Of course, we all need to donate big dollars to the big charities as so much of what is done for folks in terms of mere survival has to be done on a grand scale. However, the kind words or hugs of the volunteers working for the charities, or a contribution "from some friends at Lindquist & Vennum in Minneapolis", does something more by letting people know someone--an actual person or group of persons--cares! That makes them feel special--like we are all in this together. And we are!!



Blogger Derek Jensen said...

This part..."He said we will start small again and build as we can. He said he teaches his children that if you work hard, treat people well, study in school and do the right thing you will be rewarded for it."...sounds like bullshit to me.

September 09, 2005 7:56 PM  

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