Learning from Herbert

September 1, 2008
By
The week before I came to Exeter, I went to New Orleans on a mission trip. A mission trip is a trip where a group of people go into a community in hopes of making a positive change. I went on this with my church. While in New Orleans, we had planned to help with a children’s Bible camp in a poor neighborhood; the rest of the trip was divided among various other activities.

To get to New Orleans, we drove twelve hours from South Caroline, which is where I live. When we began to come near New Orleans, the devastation from Hurricane Katrina was still blatantly obvious. This was baffling to me because the hurricane had occurred almost three years ago. Roof shingles were missing on nearly every house, ominous black spray-painted “X” marked every building and vegetation, as well as houses, stood awry. Each section of the ominous “X” described four things the search and rescue teams found in the buildings: the number of dead found within the building, the date the primacies was searched, the chemicals that were found, and the search group that had executed the search. It was frightful to see a house that contains a number of dead. These houses, which were once safe homes for the deceased, became their malice, murky chambers of death.

Our large white van pulled up into the church parking lot. We exited the van, excited to know that we were going to play with little children at Bible camp and teach them a variety of things. I hadn’t realized how very little I had learned in my 16 short years of life.

“Hi, my name is Charlotte.” I said cheerfully to a little boy whose name tage read ‘Herbert.’ “Hi,” he meekly replied. I began to try to talk to him and ask him questions, he would politely reply, but never attempted to converse. As the week went by, with a little bit of encouragement, he began o embrace the camp’s environment. This was true for many of the children at the camp. I asked one of the little girls, “Do you go to church here?” She reluctantly replied, “No, my church was washed away when the big storm came.” Many of the children had experiences similar to this if not much worse.



Later, when I was talking with one of the trip leaders, I asked them about Herbert. She told me that when Katrina had occurred, his mother had left him with his grandmother, but had taken her other children with her. She had left Herbert because he had been very sickly as a young child and she didn’t feel as though she was going to be able to bring him with her. I met other children who had lost parents to the great waves, broken levees bring. Welfare checks given by the government were to be distributed the day after the storm had occurred. The parents of some of the children I had met had decided to wait in their houses until the storm was over because their check was too important to leave. Because of this some of them drowned or were the people seen on TV waiting on their roofs to be saved.



I realized these children have dealt with and survived more than I’d ever wish on anyone during their whole lifetime. Their ability to be functional members of society astounds me. If I were ever put in a similar situation, I hope to handle it with the same grace they are able to project, but know that it is hopeless for me to ever handle a tragedy, like Katrina, as well.





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