Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dust on the balance

It is amazing how small many of the things we think are so important become when tragedy strikes. Like the flooding in our neighborhood.

One family had survived previous floods, including one from Hurricane Agnes in the 1970s that washed most of the neighborhood away. Another family decided to declare a total loss on their property - ironically they had just finished improving it so they could apply for a home loan in order to add another story so the part that flooded this month would be the basement. Now it's a loss.

There are things beyond our control - floods, rain, storms. Sometimes I wonder if we contribute to these disasters - through cutting down forests in order to build townhouses or apartments. That lets the water run off into the rivers and creeks where it has nowhere to go.

Or like cutting the mangroves that helped prevent some of the violent shifts that contribute to hurricane damage.

I was struck this week by two things (1) gasoline is getting way out of hand - even though we burn it like we will never run out; and (2) we have a lot to be thankful for.

The first point was driven home by rush hour. Car after car after SUV after truck lined up for miles. Every day for at least 8 hours a day. Don't ask why gas is so expensive - look around. That's why. I started taking the train to compensate. I might even start to ride my bike again.

The second point was driven home when I came home to my wife and dogs and they were healthy and happy and glad to see me. That made the commute worth it. They are why I do what I do. Whether I can figure out the latest tune on the Gospel charts or not is not really all that important. The people I love and the life we share are precious, even if I sometimes forget that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The rain damage

My neighbors are in the process of cleaning up from this week's flooding. One person has decided to call it a total loss and deal with FEMA (God help them). Another person has the Boy Scouts coming in to help her family clean up. She and her husband are both almost 80 and their home is the log cabin in the photo with the fire department standing on the banks trying to decide what to do. I don't know what's happening with Mr. Sun and his family.

The news trucks are gone now and the local radio station still has some photos of the damage in the area. In Dale City, a huge chunk of one of the main thoroughfares gave way in a sinkhole. Other folks had subsidence and lost pieces of their homes. There was even a tornado in one county, though we never saw that kind of wind here.

The sun is out today and it's a glorious morning. Yesterday was beautiful, too, with crystal clear skies, and temperatures around 65 degrees. My wife and I walked the dogs around the neighborhood and could see the residue of the flooding. One family's fence had a water mark about three fee high on it while others had debris from who knows where in their yards.

The thought that struck me is how long recovery is going to take - way after the story is out of the news. People have to pick up their lives and try to rebuild, or decide to move away, or try to clean up. The insurance companies are sure to be their normal "helpful" selves - lining their pockets on the suffering of others. But the damage and the shock will still be the same. But one thing is for sure - it will never be the same. And more rain is predicted.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You're Welcome

So the folks who I used to go to church with deleted me as a contributor to their missions blog. Didn't bother to ask me not to post, didn't call to tell me they were going to. They just deleted me so I can no longer post on Dashboard.

Nice, huh?

The thing that's really kind of small is I built their missions blog. Did all the links and maintained it while I was going to church there.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised - nobody bothered to comment about any of the postings.But I don't go to church there any more. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Flood photos

The Manassas Park and Yorkshire fire departments try to decide how to rescue someone trapped in a house across the lake that Lake Drive became.

One neighbor who probably lost everything in the flood of Bull Run Creek. His house is right next to the culvert.

Ironically this boat was on a trailer when the floods came, so it could not be moved out of the danger zone.

Here we go again....

This is my neighbor Sun Kyun. He is from Vietnam and his house just got flooded. It sits next to what used to be the lake of Lake Drive in Manassas. But now the Lake is in his basement. The sad thing is he has transformed this house. I have seen him and his son out in the yard working diligently to clean the lot, and change the basement and the sun room and spruce up the driveway.

Now he has no power, his freezer (in the basement) is full of water so his food is rotten. And he's not even got the worst of it yet. His neighbor across the street has water up the mid level of his windows. Two years ago when a similar heavy rain flooded the neighborhood, my wife and I bought flood insurance because of something similar. But I don't think Mr. Sun and his family have it. I know one thing they don't have - electric power. The NOVEC representative came and took the meter off their house to keep someone from being electrocuted. But it left them with no power.

They have cell phones and Mr. Sun's granddaughter said they can call relatives, but his son said they have no family except the one that lives in the now flooded house. I am sure theirs is just one of many such stories here in Northern Virginia. But theirs is the closest ones I know. The house is - or was - beautiful inside - hardwood floors, tile in the kitchen, the dining room overlooks the lake - except now the lake has covered the stairs. The hardwood stairs in this immaculate little home. The Red Cross or the County will not allow them to stay there - probably won't allow them because the basement is full of stinky brown water. I don't know what will become of them, but I hope to be a friend to them. It sure puts alot of the crap that I have been worried about in stark perspective.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The least of these ...

Like many of us who watch the news, I am taken aback by the rising death toll in Myanmar (Burma) from a cyclone there this week. The latest reports I have seen say the toll could rise above 100,000. The UN says that as many as 1 million people are homeless after the storm. The ruling military junta in Burma has even asked for help, something they rarely do.

The questions we have to ask ourselves include:

Why didn't people get the warnings? (State run media did not issure them. First Lady Laura Bush said this week that people did not even know the storm was coming unless they listened to Radio Free Asia or Voice of America).

What is the Burmese government doing to help? From what I can tell, not a whole lot. The military government does not allow very many outside organizations into the country and so aid is slow in getting there.

What should be done? I think the answer to that is obvious, unless you're dead spiritually. The photos of the devastation and the body count are enough to appeal to the hearts of even the coldest person. We cannot afford to NIMBY this one. These people are desperate.

What can be done? Plenty. The easiest thing to do is give money. There is a plethora of aid agencies that need the money. The most important thing to do is pray, pray that the aid gets to the people that need it instead of being hoarded by evil men. Pray that disease and drought and famine don't kill more people than the storm. Write to your Congressman or Senator(s) and ask for the U.S. government to help with aid. The First Lady is calling for help in caring for those devastated by this storm.

The thought would be easy "why should I help them; nobody helped us with Katrina, and there are still people homeless in New Orleans. Can't we take care of our own first?"

Legitimate point. There are deep needs in the USA as well. But we have very few places that are as desperate as the situation now in Burma. Let us - once again - be the ones with open hearts and open hands to help those in need.

If you would like to give here are just a few agencies:

World Vision


Christian Aid

Catholic Relief Services

World Food Program