Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Big Man in a Small Body

I just heard a story today that DEMANDS to be made into a screenplay.

One of the churches that opened up as a shelter for the Katrina evacuees has had some amazing experiences -- surviving the Rita evacuation, sharing resources with East Texas survivors on the trip back "home" to the shelter, whites and blacks working together in an area that is not known for its racial unity, kids doing extremely well in their new schools, the church living as Christ modeled and more.

One of the more tragic experiences occurred as one of the evacuated young couples watched their tumultuous relationship escalate into violence . . . and that resulted in the man being stabbed to death by the woman. The pastor shared the tale with equal amounts of grief, horror, and amazement at a system that has allowed weeks to pass without charging the woman though she is being held. No lawyer’s been involved yet. The pastor is exploring all possible options.

The pastor was asked to do the funeral. He agreed but only if the family would help him insure that it not reflect his Anglo heritage. Soon he was researching jazz bands known in New Orleans for their work at funerals. He found them . . . in Houston. The local funeral home made it possible to keep the costs low. The evacuees and many of their friends attended. The pastor smiled as he admitted he wouldn't mind having the band accessible for more funerals!

But then his demeanor changed. He began to recount how, unlike his usual tendencies, he had raised his voice during the service. He said his wife wondered exactly where he was going as he lamented the violence that had brought them to this place. He implored the streetwise gathering to allow for new life, for clean starts and to stop the violent acts that had caused an 8-year-old to bemoan the fact that he had already seen "too many people die."

After the funeral and while the group gathered to be fed by the church, the murmuring started. Several young men were disturbed by his fervor. And they said so. But the recepients of the church's compassion would have none of it. They hushed the naysayers.

Then a young man who had lived at the shelter approached the pastor. With finger pointing directly into the pastor's chest, the young man proclaimed, "No one . . . absolutely no one talks to us like that."

Pulling back, he then smiled, "Except you!"

And with a high five, he added, "You're a big man in a small body, you know that?"

This pastor has since endured threatening calls and limited support from the neighboring church pastors. Yet what he stressed throughout the conversation was the fact that the church had found housing for many, received over 30 into the church as members, and one of these new members recently called him to ask how she could be of help to a neighbor.

Seems looking outside one's self to the needs of others must be contagious!

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