There are particular times when I miss living in a small town. Now is one. Everybody talks about the conveniences of the city, but there are conveniences in a small town that often go unrecognized.
I grew up in Athens, Texas. Being a small town with an overly ambitious name, it has about 12,000 people. Since Tuesday (August 30th) they have been feeding about 250 people at the First Baptist Church gymnasium. These people had left New Orleans to find a place to ride out the storm and the first place with rooms for them was Athens. I talked to my father a couple of days ago and he told me of two families who had already elected to stay. They had found jobs, places to live, a church. I can't imagine what I'd do if I had lost everything I had. I'd hope I'd be like this family.
Already wondering what to do with the 250 people at local hotels during Canton weekend, they received a call Saturday morning. Could they take five bus loads of people from New Orleans? They said yes and now there are about 650 refugees in the city (Brownsboro has about 50 of them). In comparison, I live in Grapevine, Texas. We have about 38,00 people, but we are surrounded by other suburban communities from the metroplex. Grapevine probably has about 1,000 people it is housing at this moment.
My mom and dad went to the fair grounds to help process the incoming refugees. They had been handed surgical masks and gloves and told that these people had probably been exposed to all manner of pathogens. Then the buses came at about 5 p.m. that evening. Unfortunately, but I can't see any other way of doing it, these people were first met by the Sheriff's department. They were searched right as they got off the buses (wonderful welcome, I know). These people were some of the last to leave New Orleans and needless to say they were in poor shape. All were poor, some were ailing, some were drunk or drugged. The Sheriff's department confiscated knives, guns, drug paraphenalia, alchohol.
After they were processed through the fair grounds, they went to various places in the community. Some went to the Christian Chruch Camp just outside the city, 100 went to First Baptist Athens, about 50 went to First Baptist Brownsboro, some went to the Christian Chruch, others went to the Chruch of Christ. The youth of First Baptist went through the neighborhoods to collect bed linens. They were overwhelmed by the generosity of the people in town and in no time at all they had bedding for 100 people. The church bused the refugees up to the high school for showers. It was the first shower these people had had in about five days.
It is times like these I really miss my small town. I miss the community. I miss seeing a need and knowing just who to call to fix it. Because in a small community I knew the people. I knew their family. I also knew their schedule--on Friday night everyone would be at the one high school football game in town. On Sunday you know who will be in the churches. In small towns people are still held accountable by the social bonds that exist between its members. If people don't help, or are ungracious to one another, word gets around. In larger communities, you just worry about being sued.
While it's not mine or anyone elses business to discern God's judgement upon New Orleans, I am in a place to see this present crisis as a test for the rest of us. I was glad to know that the town that I came from has responded so compassionately to those in need.