Still contemplating Katrina in the face of Rita's arrival, I have been thinking a lot about poverty. The reality in New Orleans requires me to do that: to contemplate the face of poverty and the shadow of economics (and politics) that linger behind it.
Much has been said in the aftermath of Katrina that critiques (and even criticizes) the poor for being poor and for not reaching outside their poverty to "save themselves" before Katrina's arrival.
Today, I want to focus on a different aspect of the conversation: what loss means to the poor (and working class).
Often times, we think of the poor as having very little, if anything, in terms of personal property and possession. Consequently, in the face of loss, we presume that even though they have lost (almost) everything they haven't lost much because they didn't have much to lose in ther first place.
However, if we think about the fact, that little is all they have, then perhaps the poor and working class who have less actually have lost more in terms of personal property and possessions than those who have lots more to start. (And maybe this is even more true if they more deeply value the little they have as opposed to those who have much valuing each item less deeply.)
Truthfully, I don't want to propose the question of "Who has truly lost more?" because loss is loss. I do, however, want to invite us to think deeply about poverty, about the poor, about the working class. I want us also to think about possessions and our relationship to them especially things we have acquired (purchased) and not so much things with sentimental value since regardless of economic standing, the loss of sentimental items is a deep loss for the items cannot be replaced.
Let us not undervalue what loss means to the poor and working class in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. In contrast, let us not over- or undervalue either what loss means to the economically stable or economically privileged.
No, let us understand that as humans we suffer loss in very similar ways, and we desire to survive and overcome to the same degree. Let us not criticize the poor for being poor or for not handling life the way the middle class thinks they should. Rather let us think innovatively about constructive and life-giving ways in which we can work to empower the poor and working class especially as they move through recovery in the aftermath of Katrina (and maybe Rita, too).
God of the winds,
God of the seas,
God of the rains,
God of the storms,
God of the calm,
God in all things
and at every moment,
have mercy on us, your people,
and bless us!