July 4, 2008

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Let’s stay in it for the long haul

David SilerFor those of us who stayed comfortable and dry during the recent torrential rains, it could be very easy to go on with our lives and forget those who did not fare quite so well.

The news stories and images of the flooding can quickly become a distant memory as we learn of new disasters.

It is truly difficult to describe in words what it is like to drive through a neighborhood where the entire contents of everyone’s homes are heaped in piles in their front yards.

Or to stand in homes where water mixed with mud and sewage has flooded the rooms halfway up the walls—or up to the very ceiling of the first floor.

It is hard to describe the destruction that this water did to thousands of people’s homes in our surrounding communities.

I was standing on the second step of one family’s home in Martinsville when the owner invited me to look into her basement after the water had receded and now was only five feet deep. She wanted me to see her husband’s many hand-painted oil paintings floating in the sludge. Furniture, carpet and clothing can eventually be replaced, but so many people also lost personal items that have a value far greater than money.

An 80-year-old couple in Columbus, who lived in their home for more than 45 years, was so distraught by the damage done to their home that they left after the water receded and said that they just could not bear to look at their house covered in mud.

A group of volunteers from St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus was busy just a few days later cutting out their drywall, carpet and insulation. It was a very strange sight to see someone hosing out mud inside a house. This couple not only lost the contents of their home, but also the car that sat in their driveway as the flood waters rushed in.

Some of our brothers and sisters in south central Indiana lost their entire homes and all that they contained. And, as we have so often heard, very few had flood insurance to cover their damages, which for some will reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The incredible challenges that many people will face in the months and perhaps years to come also present us with an incredible opportunity—an opportunity to really show what it means to be Church. We have the opportunity to demonstrate to our neighbors how a family comes together in times of crisis.

There are already many stories of heroic acts of kindness that have been shown to those suffering from flood damage. I witnessed strangers just showing up in neighborhoods and going door to door asking if they could help. Very few offers were turned down as residents were just overwhelmed by the work to be done.

The rebuilding of homes, businesses and lives in many areas may take years. We must keep our neighbors in the forefronts of our minds lest we forget that, as we go about our lives as usual, many lives have come to a complete halt.

For pictures of the devastation, updated information on recovery efforts and ways that you can help, please log on to www.CatholicCharitiesIndy.org.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org.) †

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