The Common Good
July 2007

One House at a Time

by Joanne O'Neill | July 2007

I had just returned from a mission trip organized by the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana's Office of Disaster Response when I read Jim Wallis' column for the April 2007 issue, "All Hands ...

I had just returned from a mission trip organized by the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana's Office of Disaster Response when I read Jim Wallis' column for the April 2007 issue, "All Hands on Deck."

Our group of 19 deacons gutted houses and distributed relief items. We got to talk to quite a number of people who expressed deep appreciation for our assistance with the rebuilding as well as our emotional support and expressions of solidarity. However, set against a backdrop of such total devastation, our efforts seemed almost futile. Upon my return home, I found myself (and still do) uncertain as to how to follow up. One cannot help but wonder what difference it could possibly make to restore one house when it sits amid blocks and blocks of wreckage—disheveled, mold-ridden, and abandoned.

At this point, the relief/rebuilding effort needs to be bigger. Wallis' words calling for a new mobilization, a new strategy, a new collection of resources, and a new accountability articulated my thoughts. New Orleans and its people captured my heart. By no means do I intend to abandon them. But I want to participate in work that will enable a true and life-generating rebuilding.

Joanne C. O'Neill
Hackensack, New Jersey

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