Yesterday I spent most of the day working out at the corporate offices of the Dallas Housing Authority.
My job, and that of other volunteers from the Central Dallas Ministries community, was transporting families to their new dwellings here in Dallas. Any victim of Katrina's wrath who received public housing assistance while living in the storm's path was entitled to receive the same assistance here in Dallas.
I spent most of my time observing things and talking to the people who were waiting patiently to be interviewed by DHA staff.
One of the most encouraging things that I witnessed was the work of Ann Lott.
Ann serves as President and CEO for the entire housing authority in our community.
I watched as she stood in the midst of the crowd for hours talking to people, eyeball-to-eyeball, about their needs, their pain, their loss and their hope. Talk about leadership!
In discussing the transportation needs of the people before the day began, she told me, "Larry, just jump in and join the chaos!"
She could have said "chaos of concern," because that is exactly what she was managing as she led the way for the entire team without a word.
Ann Lott is no bureaucrat. She stands among our community's finest servant leaders. Dallas is fortunate to have her leading its housing authority.
I enjoyed a number of conversations with people who had survived the ordeal of Katrina in the city of New Orleans.
One with a woman whose family had managed to escape the flood waters and make it to Dallas.
As she was completing paper work to lease her new residence, I mentioned that now we needed to gather furniture and other household items that would be necessary to “make a new home” here in Dallas.
She looked at me with tears in her eyes and an amazing smile of gratitude on her face and said, “Mr. James, I spent three nights sleeping on two folding chairs pushed together in a foot-and-a-half of water. I don’t mind the floor at all!”
My other unforgettable visit was with a gentleman, accompanied by his wife and two children. They were looking for permanent housing as well.
He described with frustration how he had lost everything. He hung his head as he told me of the babies he had seen floating in the flood waters.
He was very upset about losing all of his personal identification documents. He told me he felt like “a man without an identity.”
He had worked in New Orleans all of his life, for the past 13 years in a fish market.
“We made it through only by prayer and sticking together,” he said.
“We walked through shoulder-high water, but we made it by prayer, by faith. We have a long way to go. Man, we lost everything, but we will be okay now.”
I pray that he is correct on both counts.
He and his wonderful family do have a ways to go.
But, they will be okay, if we all stick together and keep the faith.
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