Hurricane Katrina ravaged the poor.
Almost 30% of the population of New Orleans lived below the national poverty line before she hit.
As is usually the case, the poorest citizens in the city lived in the worst places in terms of vulnerability to a storm like Katrina.
Compounding that reality is the fact that the poor couldn't leave the city. Many chose not to leave their homes.
Undoubtedly, most of the loss of life will be among the poor.
ABC News, via America On Line, reported a comment from Joanne Murphy, a resident of New Orleans who knows poverty by personal experience:
"It's just a thing that always happens. The ones that has the least, get hit the most."
The people hit the hardest already were burdened with extreme circumstances on a daily basis.
Low paying jobs.
Few truly accessible healthcare options.
Inferior educational options.
Isolation from the larger community of opportunity.
Segregation by class, as well as by race.
The problems on the ground in New Orleans before the storm only complicate the situation there today.
Again, according the ABC News--are you ready for this?--over 700,000 people in the Gulf Coast region live in mobile homes.
Katrina should serve as a wake-up call to the nation concerning the on-going plight of the poor in America.
The most vulnerable among us live fragile lives.
Things could be so much better. Our weakest citizens could actually be so much stronger than they are today.
But we have lost our national will to attack poverty and to overcome it.
We've opted for an approach that simply cuts people loose to manage for themselves with few resources and limited options.
Then, when a relative handful are successful against great odds, we crown them poster children for the "American Way," forgetting the 99% who never have even a chance of making it out of such crushing poverty.
Only when disaster strikes do we mount efforts to intervene, often when it is too late to save the unnecessary loss of life that always seems to occur.
For years now on the annual National Day of Prayer, we have quoted the famous call and promise recorded at 2 Chronicles 7:14.
The promise is taken from a recounting of the dedication of Solomon's Temple. It was written during the post-exilic period, possibly by Ezra, sometime between 450 and 400 BCE.
It is interesting that people during the time of Ezra dealt with many problems associated with justice, fairness and the rebuilding of a nation.
Normally, when we read these words as a call to the nation to pray and seek the guidance of God, we link needed national repentance to sexual sins and the fear associated with immoral media, a lack of religious expression in the public sector, etc.
Politicians and preachers take to the stages of America to pray and to pronounce.
The following day the poor continue to suffer.
Just once I wish we were honest enough to link this call and its promise to our out-of-control materialism, to our systemic national injustices and to our failure to care for the weakest among us.
Such an emphasis would certainly move us much closer to what the writer of the passage had in mind.
". . .if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. . ." (2 Chron. 7:14)