Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2014

After Hurricane Katrina blew through our lives, we faced many trying days. The challenge of carrying on without electricity translated into a very different way of living.  The simplest tasks were often difficult, but wonderful things occurred. Many of us learned to lend a hand, depend on each other, and remember where our real help comes from.

We got to know our neighbors, even the ones who were a little different.  The differences didn’t seem to matter; we had more in common then than before.  We shared meals together under the stars and laughed at each other’s feeble attempts to rough it.

Why do we need a hurricane to lighten up and laugh?

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One of our neighbors, Mr. Carroll, was an elderly widower.   When I stopped by to check on him I found him alone and discouraged.  He was sitting in his house burning up with all the windows closed.

Mr. Carroll had always been active and strong. Getting old had been difficult for him. His usually robust voice cracked with emotion as he said, “Don’t worry about me, I’m not going to make it”.  All his windows were quickly opened allowing some respite from the depressing heat.

The wonderful people in our neighborhood made it a point to love on him, and make sure he had what he needed. With so many lending a hand he did make it, and we were all blessed to have several more years with this lovely gentleman.

Why do we need a hurricane to check on our elderly neighbors?

My late husband, Glen R., transformed an old tub we had previously used as a watering trough for our chickens.   After bleaching it out and moving it to a sunny spot, he filled it with water.  Next, he rigged up a curtain around it so I could take a bath in water warmed by the sun.  Funny as it seems, this brings me to tears even now.  I remember the twinkle in his eyes when he surprised me with my very own redneck hot tub!

Why do we need a hurricane to delight in the simple things?

Almost everyone in our neighborhood whether they were escaping the storm or longtime residents worked together to clear our street of debris. Some carried food and water to the workers, and some wielded chain saws.  It was a joy to see all colors, all ages, men and women, boys and girls joining forces to get the job done.  What we could not do alone, we accomplished together.

Why do we need a hurricane to work together for the common good?

Our knees were bent in prayer to our God who rescues us.  We praised Him when trucks rolled into town with food and water.  We praised Him when news reached us of our loved one’s safety.   We cried out for strength when the news wasn’t good.  We looked at the heavens and thanked Him for the beautiful, starry night.

Why do we need a hurricane to remember who hung the stars?


Jan Penton is a guest columnist, local writer,  and member of the Writer’s Guild of Picayune.