Her name’s Jean.
In 2005, she lived in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans—until Hurricane Katrina surged through in August and forced her, her husband, and her two grandkids to evacuate.
The Lower Ninth was hit the hardest by the storm—or at least ignored the longest by city officials and FEMA. It took several months until residents, like Jean, were allowed back in to their neighborhoods. And while she waited, Jean relocated to a hotel in Houston…until she maxed out all her credit cards and was forced to sit on a curb in a K-Mart parking lot with her 1- and 2-year-old grandkids and beg for food and diapers.
Take a listen to her story…
I was driving when I first listened to that story and nearly had to pull over.
I thought of my own son. I couldn’t imagine having to put the same diaper on him twice in one day, much less for three straight days. I couldn’t imagine him cowering in the corner of my car and crying from overwhelming hunger and thirst. I couldn’t imagine being without money and without any access to money. I couldn’t imagine asking—no, begging—from others.
I felt sadness for her…then I felt shame for me.
After I listened to Jean’s story, a string of questions harassed me in quick succession: Why do I have so damn much? Is it too much? And why do I live in the home I live? Is it too extravagant? Should it be smaller? Am I keeping too much to myself? Should I be giving more? Or giving elsewhere? Why am I raising money for people I’ll probably never meet? Why am I ignoring the people who live right down the street from me? Should I be helping them first?
This shame of privilege had me spiraling.
And while I’m not entirely sure what to do with those questions—many still swirl around me without an answer—I feel compelled to keep on doing what I’m doing…at least for now.
Less spiraling. More serving.