Thursday, March 29, 2007


I just finished my last shift at the “orange house,” or women’s shelter, run by Common Ground. I did a little bit of work on their resource database, and hung out with the women there. It was exactly what I wanted to do, on our last work day here.

Yesterday, I worked at the “blue house,” or distribution center; a combined clothing bank, food pantry, and tool library. It was strange to see the levee just a few blocks over; it’s a completely nondescript concrete wall. It doesn’t look imposing. And yet, its presence was in the back of my mind the whole time I was there.

Common Ground workers are staying in one of the houses on this block, and using four others, while their services are needed. (One has a functional bathroom; the other a kitchen, complete with filtered water. Another holds supplies that often end up in the distribution center.) The houses they use are mostly gutted; ubiqutous blue tarps apparently protect them from whatever gunk is still in the walls. One of the women who runs this particular project is a 19-year-old from Olympia. Six or seven years ago, I worked for her mother. We chatted a lot about home.

People come here from all over the country to help. That is deeply encouraging.

We got to go to church last night, at St. Anna’s. One of the women at the orange house told us about it, and we all wanted to go. My rector is friends with the rector there. We really, really, oh, so really—needed the worship. All of us were hungry. And all of us were fed.

I completely fell apart during the service, but it was a good falling-apart. I can’t remember what the hymn was, but there was a whole lot of soul in it. (St. Anna’s uses LEVAS, apparently heavily, and they have a better-than-decent worship band.) It hit me that I’d seen the horror of the effects of this storm, and that had overwhelmed me. Listening to this music, I saw beauty again. People can suffer so much, and still be beautiful. That realization was as wonderful, and as disorienting, as I imagine any resurrection would be. I was an absolute mess.

A woman sitting behind me held my hand as I was crying. I couldn’t go up for Communion or anointing for healing, because of the incense. The priest brought them to me, and my friends stood around me. I don’t quite know how to say how I felt, but it was definitely better.

I sort of feel silly, falling apart as much as I have this week, because this is not my home. It’s not my city; not my life, and I’ve only seen strength, and graciousness, in the people I’ve met who live here. But it’s also good to cry for something bigger than myself. I’m going to do something with these experiences, when I get home. This church has a benefit potluck dinner for musicians every Wednesday, and a free legal clinic, acupuncture, and a couple other services at the same time. I asked the priest, “What would you want me to take back to California with me?” He answered, “Peace. Hope. And send us money.” I’m going to work on that when I get back. I cannot come here and not do something after I leave.

Michael just called; we’re going out to dinner in ten minutes. Time to post this and go. Thank you all for your prayers, your thoughts, and your love. We definitely feel them.

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