Katrina Journal
Slidell, LA — September 2005

Cod-Liver Oil and Twucks:

Just after arriving in Slidell, I had not yet received my work assignment. I looked for things to do and helped with cleaning some of the cambros (thermal food containers). As supper began, I was called to help with the serving line, handing out drinks. I began fixing drinks and playing with the folks coming through the line. I asked some to take a quiz on their colors before they could have a drink. I warned people that the cups leaked right out the top. I asked some of the youth what the blue drink tasted like, and got some very uncertain answers.

When one of the children came through, I offered her cod-liver oil to drink. She didn’t know what that was. I explained it and offered her some grape or orange drink instead. When I saw her standing in line the next day at lunch, she ran up to me and gave me a bear hug. We got her some snacks to take home, as well as some Pop-Tarts for breakfast. She was there for the food, but more than that she wanted to know she was loved.

There were other children in the serving line, too. Matt came with his mother. She was a member of Grace Memorial Baptist Church. She didn’t have a way to cook for herself and her son, but her concerns were greater than her family. She brought Matt with her and they picked up 40 to 45 boxed meals to take to her family, friends and neighbors. She fed the work crews in her neighborhood.

Picking up 45 meals took a while. Matt would get pretty restless waiting around. Like any 2 year-old, he wanted to move. Mom was trying to focus on getting the meals and keeping her place in line. She needed help keeping an eye on Matt. Matt and I talked, ran together, and played a little. With his mother’s permission, I picked him up and carried him around. That was all he wanted. He wanted life to be the normal reality of play, discovery, comfort, and joy. Most of the adults around were too focused on the destruction and stress of the hurricane to recall the joy and wonder of living.

I held Matt, and in doing so, I inadvertently helped some of the other families in the line recall the lessons of Katrina. Life is about so much more than the things destroyed by winds, floods, and trees. God reaches down to care for us amid the storms, reminding us of grace, love, and provision for our needs.

Matt wasn’t the only boy in line that needed attention. There was another there with his mother several days in the heat. While she stayed in line, he circled around and let her pour water on him to keep cool. I talked to Jeremy as did some of the other adults. We tried to keep him occupied as every toddler needs to be. He was fascinated by the “Twucks,” so I took him to see them. We twirled and bounced together. We looked at the stacks of canned goods on the trailers in the parking lot. We checked out one of the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles. We looked in the back where the volunteers were stashing items to distribute. We looked in the driver’s window up front. We talked to the volunteer in the side window where food would be handed out. We spun and got dizzy. We laughed, giggled, and enjoyed the moment.

On Monday, Jeremy’s mother came running up to me. She wasn’t there for lunch. She just wanted to hand me a picture of Jeremy and say, “Thank you.” I had done so little for Jeremy. It had cost me nothing. For one mother and her little boy, however, it had been a reminder that life was still good. In the midst of destruction and waste, there are still things like laughter and the excitement of discovery to be treasured and embraced. We can laugh in the wake of the storm, for God’s buffet offers so much more than cod-liver oil.

—©Copyright 2005 Christopher B. Harbin

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