Creating inviting shelter from the storm

Those who fled the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Gustav this weekend can’t help but have flashbacks to the horrifying reports of destruction and lives unraveled in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

At least to some extent, evacuation efforts were more organized than three years ago and people aired on the side of caution, limiting loss of life. Hopefully, because of lowering intensity of the storm, loss of property will also be minimal.

The other shining light amongst the storm clouds were the outstretched arms of people right here in Shelby County who have rolled up their sleeves to help those needing a place to lay their head.

Consider yourself immensely fortunate if the lives of your family, your sisters, your uncles and friends were not directly impacted by the storm. Most can’t say that.

People scattered this weekend looking for shelter, searching for clothing and sustenance and anticipating the chance to get back to normal life.

Those displaced by the storm are scattered from Dallas to Shelby County. If you pass by the exhibition center you can meet a few of them. Stepping inside to volunteer your time will reward you with sounds of that distinct, warm and charming accent of the bayous and parishes of the Gulf Coast.

I heard such an accent three years ago as evacuees from Katrina rolled through our area.

A gentleman hailing from just east of New Orleans was shopping for the basic necessities of life with his brother and three children. His home had been destroyed. Family photos and the afghan knitted by his grandmother lost in the storm’s rage.

Most evacuees in this storm have made out more fortunate. They still must wait patiently to return to the homes they love. They still must rely on the help of strangers to get by.

The generosity and care of individuals, churches and groups across our county is inspiring. They have provided meals to eat, clothes to wear and even a place for both them and their four-legged friends to sleep.

If you happen to hear an accent in your daily comings and goings that strikes your ear as unique, take time to introduce yourself and welcome our new neighbors to the community.

Take to heart their story and plight; doing so will remind you of the strength of the human spirit and just how fortunate we are.

Lend a hand if you can.