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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Southern Indiana vs. New Orleans: A Difference in Attitude

I spent last Saturday helping flood victims in southern Indiana. I got a call from a church leader, and gathered at 5 a.m. to carpool down to Franklin for the effort. What I saw both depressed and impressed me. The resiliency of the people affected is truly amazing.

I spent most of the day doing cleanup; that is, I helped clear out destroyed possesions and other assorted debris from people's homes. There were a few tears, but for the most part, people were looking forward. One family, with two children and a baby on the way, had lost everything. We gutted the house, removing sheet rock, the ceilings, anything that had touched water, which was basically the whole house down to the studs.

During the effort, the homeowners told us their story. They were renting to own from the previous owner. They had just put in $12,000 in materials and countless hours of work to make the home livable, as it had been a definite fixer-upper when they had purchased it. The man of the house had been working eighty-plus hours a week to earn enough money to renovate the house, but it was their first home, and they were proud of it. He had been about to landscape the yard when the flood hit.

I never heard any complaints about the government. Nobody blamed the president. Gratitude was constantly expressed for taking the time to help. Family came over to help recover what few possessions were left over and to begin the process of taking the home apart in order to rebuild. Brothers, sisters, and parents were all there. There were teary eyes all around, but there was also laughter and levity. By late afternoon, nearly the entire house had been gutted. A few truckloads of salvageable items had been carted off to a storage facility. Plans were being made for reconstruction.

The same scenario was playing itself out all over. Families were tearing down walls and making huge piles of ruined possessions on the street in front of their homes. All of the furniture had been ruined. There was almost nothing left undamaged; the flood had been so quick that people had to leave everything behind. Worse yet, those few who had purchased flood insurance soon found that it covered only structural damage, not the contents of the home.

Yet there was no complaining to be heard. Nobody expected Uncle Sam to ride in on his white horse and save the day. Because of this, and the self-reliance I witnessed all around me, I expect that Edinburg and Franklin will be reconstructed long before New Orleans. People will have done the job themselves.

1 comment:

  1. That is such a wonderful experience. Thank you for sharing. I think that in many of the mid-western states, the attitude is as you have shared with us. The "good old American" attitude of taking responsibility for yourself. That is how I was raised, but then that was quite awhile ago! The "new" generation needs to get a grip and grow up - at least many of them need to!!

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