Blogathon for Pearlington

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Why Pearlington? Why Now?

We’re now one month shy of the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Why should we care about a little town called Pearlington, Mississippi 11 months after the fact? The world is full of tragedy. Every day we wake up to news of floods and earthquakes and droughts and famines. Every day we wake up to news of wars and rumors of wars. In Kenya, little AIDS babies waste away in orphanages or on the streets without access to proper formula or diapers or medical care. Google “humanitarian crisis” and take your pick of literally millions of heartbreaking situations. We can’t help everyone, and sometimes it seems we’re nickeled and dimed to death with all of the good causes people bring to our attention. Sometimes it’s so hard to figure out who is the neediest, who is the most deserving, who will be the most responsible with our contributions. Sometimes we want to do the right thing by others, but we just don’t know which way to turn.

So why Pearlington? Why now?

Pearlington is a forgotten town in a land of plenty. I never saw it before Katrina, but I know from talking to the locals that it was an idyllic place to live. It was the kind of small town where everyone knew everyone, and you’d hardly even run across a dog you couldn’t call by name. Teachers worked in the same old much beloved stomping grounds where they’d once been students. Right on the Pearl River and only a few miles inland from the Gulf, Pearlington’s greatest asset has always been that it was untouched by the commercialization that has swallowed up the rest of the Mississippi coastline. While casinos and condos were popping up at a sometimes alarming rate elsewhere, Pearlington remained a quiet family-oriented community.

Now Pearlington’s greatest asset is also its greatest obstacle to recovery. When Katrina brought flood waters of twenty feet and higher through Pearlington, everything was washed away. People lost their homes, their jobs, their school, their bank, their grocery store, their post office, and any hope of an economic infrastructure through which to rebuild. Because this infrastructure is just not there, the government programs to help jump start the economic recovery on the coast are not quite making it to Pearlington. Pearlington’s hope lies in private donations and volunteer labor.

Yes, there are a lot of places that need our help. No, we can’t help everyone.

We have to give where our hearts lead us and help who we can. Pearlington needs our help, and it is a place where our dollars and our time can truly make a difference.

The first time I went to Pearlington, I thought I had ridden right out of America when the van pulled off the main highway. Families there spend much of the year in tents. The first of those families are only just now starting to move back into houses. Many, many more families are still waiting for their houses to be completed, and many, many more are still waiting to even begin to figure out how they can ever get back into any kind of permanent dwelling again.

Pearlington is a forgotten town in a land of plenty. Stick around to learn more about Pearlington throughout the day today, and if you have it within your heart and within your abilities, reach out and give Pearlington a little helping hand.