Lola Teigland's program to provide Christmas for Katrina families has begun to overwhelm her. Letters are pouring in faster than families are getting adopted. Never heard of it? That's because Lola only began this program a month ago and it's already turned into something huge.
This is one of those situations where all those scam busting tips I mentioned may not help that much. You'll have to contact the family and go with your gut. There's no way to know for sure if these people are also getting help from a dozen other places or are lying opportunists. Lola knows that she may get had by a family or two, but you can't build anything worthwhile without earning a few cuts and bruises.
From my experience working with disaster recoveries, I can tell you that the passage of time is a fickle friend. For those of us who didn't live through Katrina firsthand, time is life's little tube of Neosporin that mends those open sores on our heart. The shock subsides, outrage tapers off, and suddenly one day, we can talk about the crisis without feeling daggers in our chests.
But Neosporin isn't enough for a massive heart attack and the Katrina victims, themselves, need more than fifteen months to move on. These days, we hear less about the plights of people still trying to rebuild their lives and even assume that storm victims are probably pretty much on their feet by now.
Some are. Some aren't.
Many Katrina evacuees still live right here in my small town. They never moved home because, after spending months in our shelter, they were either stuck here, had nothing to go home to, felt like our town was their refuge, or had suffered so much that they couldn't bear to go back and witness the debris of their former lives. A few of these families are even on our angel tree.
If time has relegated Katrina to a page in your mental history book and if you can recall the horrors of Katrina without choking up, join the club. Life's little Neosporin has served me well. While Katrina was my focus for many months as we sought homes, funding, and jobs for the hundreds of evacuees who landed here, I'm knee deep in other helping hand programs now and I simply don't give Katrina the same attention I gave it last year. My own community has kids spending Christmas at Children's Medical Center, families living without electricity, grandparents raising kids on nothing but Social Security and newly widowed parents coping with the death of the bread winning spouse.
So many needs. Not enough help to go around.
My proposal to you** -- Find a program you believe in. Offer your help. Then, do it again once a month for the rest of your life. Or, better yet, do what Clara Barton did, what William Booth did, and what Lola Teigland did. Use your own beliefs, your own skills and experience, and your own heart's desire to respond to a need from the ground up. You may suffer a few cuts and bruises, but there's always Neosporin.