By Mindy Nienhouse
The drive from Michigan to the Gulf Coast isnt all that long; only about 18 hours, but in those 18 hours the world changes.
At home in Michigan, it’s easy to take life for granted. Ive accumulated a lot of stuff in my twenty-four years on this planet: lots of good books that Ive read over and over, pictures of people and places I cherish, some CDs I love and some I dont want to admit I have. Its all stuff Im blessed to have. Its all stuff I forget Im blessed to have. I take them all for granted.
Down on the Gulf Coast, its a different story. Hurricane Katrina ripped apart countless lives in just a few hours. A lot of people no longer have the stuff that I take for granted. Most, if not all, of their worldly possessions were washed away. Some were fortunate enough to have saved a few things. Others cling only to hope that life might return to the way it was.
But it isnt just the stuff that I have and they dont that separates these two worlds, its a spirit and a joy and a sense that life is bigger than what we know. And no, I am not the one filled with that spirit. In the storm so many people lost their stuff, but they gained perspective. They see life. They value life. Ill be the first to admit that Im a bit jealous.
In three trips to the Gulf, Ive met a lot of people and heard a lot of stories of how Katrina changed lives forever. In the depths of each heart, there is a sense of joy and gratitude. They lost a lot, but in reality, it could have been so much worse. I sit in a southern Baptist church, feeling completely out of place. I watch people who have little to their name praise Jesus with everything they have, with a joy that can only come from deep within the soul.
Its as if in losing everything, people gain everything. When youve got nothing to cling to but Jesus, you’d better hold on for dear life. Jesus is not going to wash away with a bad storm, Hes there, through it all. But just like all of my stuff that I enjoy and usually take for granted, most days I take Jesus for granted too.
In going to rebuild areas along the Gulf Coast, maybe it’s not in the victims’ lives that the change really occurs, maybe it’s in my own. I gain perspective. I love my life in Michigan and I know that Im blessed. Maybe I need my own Hurricane Katrina to show me just how blessed I really am.
So maybe if you find yourself taking life for granted, its time grab a few friends, pack up you car and take a road trip down to the Gulf. Find a place to volunteer, pick up a hammer and get a few blisters. They certainly need your help. But, to some extent, maybe you need them more than they need you.
Mindy Nienhouse is finishing her last semester at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI where she is pursuing a degree in advertising and public relations. During her time at Grand Valley, she’s has been actively involved in Campus Ministry and Young Life. She plans to pursue a career in the non-profit sector.