- Lil' Old Lady Under Umbrellaby judelesemann
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The Red Cross volunteer, The liittle old lady, and the Lord
Lil' Old Lady Under Umbrella by judelesemann
    Humanitarian cause Contest Winner 

It was hard to believe that Hurricane Katrina careened through here just a few days before. A 35 foot storm surge savagely rushed 25 miles inland to reach this sleepy, little Southern community. The devastation masked by another beautiful, sunny day here in Pascagoula, Mississippi

My husband and I, seasoned National Disaster Volunteers for the American Red Cross, were housed on the second floor in a Motel 6. The first floor was gone. Just the walls remained, like monuments to the devastation of Katrina. The porcelain princesses, the ceramic toilets from the first floor bathrooms, were lined up neatly in the parking lot, like contestants in a local beauty pageant waiting for the judges to deliver their decisions. We watched as the creepy, black mold slowly moved up the bathroom walls in our room.

This day, about five days into the recovery operation, cambros - cooler-type trunks with about 350 hot meals for the survivors of Katrina in Pascagoula - filled the American Red Cross ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle). The day's menu was a delicious hot dog on a bun, with baked beans, canned string beans, peaches, water and a variety of snacks. Yum!

Approaching our severely affected assigned area, we turned on the whining siren and declared, cheerily, on the loud speaker, "We have hot meals for everyone today. Y'all come."

The response was immediate. Men, women and children rushed out from behind the rubble, like ants discovering a new source of sugar. Our survivors and helpers rushed to line up and received their hot meals with gracious smiles. Most of them were busy with the hard labor of hauling the remnants of their homes to the curb. Many of them showed the strain of the tragedy; sweat mixed with dirt poured in rivulets down their brows. We first offered them the cold water, which they accepted and quickly gulped down. They were always so mannerly and polite. We enjoyed getting to know them over the four weeks we served in Mississippi.

As we turned down one of our regular streets, I noticed someone sitting in a lawn chair with a brightly colored umbrella clamped to the arm. It instantly piqued my curiosity.

Why would someone be sitting at the end of their driveway? Someone had cleared off the slab the house was under, neatly tidied and even mowed the lawn. Someone had really taken care of this piece of property.

We proceeded through our normal routine with the siren and announcement of lunch.

As we approached this person's driveway, a beautiful, elderly woman sitting contentedly in her chair emerged into view. She waved at me and flashed a gorgeous toothy grin. She was a beauty!

I fixed her dinner in the clamshell and climbed out the back of the ERV to visit her.

"Well, good afternoon, ma'am. How's it going today?" I inquired.

"Well, honey, I am just fine, truly blessed, thank you." She flash a cheerful grin.

"What are you doing out here at the end of your driveway, sitting in your chair?"

"I'm just awaitin', just awaitin'." She showed me the most beautiful smile I'd seen in days.

"And what are you waiting for, my dear?"

"Just waitin' for my new house, you know. It's comin', comin' soon."

"Hmmmm, okay," I offered gently, "So sorry about your house and everything. Can we help you with anything?"

"Let me tell you somethin'. I had a house here that wasn't so good. It had a leaky roof and some plumbing woes. And now it's gone! Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!" She broke into praises to her Lord.

"Okay," I again offered, speaking slowly. "But, what are you going to do now?"

"Well, honey, I know the Lord didn't like the house I was living in, so He decided to take it away to make room for the new house which He will supply me. Praise be to God! Hallelujah..." Again she broke into her praise and rejoicing service.

"Amen, amen," I offered in joyful response, happily joining her in her praise fest. "God is good, all the time."

"All the time, God is good, "she sang forth with increased fervor.

I knew the glorious angels in the high heavens were singing, dancing and rejoicing with us.

"The Lord giveth, and the lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord," she sang out joyfully.

"Amen, amen." I murmured to myself. "This is what volunteering is all about."

A bright and glorious day for this dedicated American Red Cross volunteer who was hot, sweaty and just a little weary. I carried that little lady's spirit with me throughout the rest of our deployment. This sweet spirit sustained me through many long hours of strenuous service. My oft-difficult duty was made easier by a pleasant praise and worship session, with a little old lady under an umbrella, and my Lord.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, indeed!

Writing Prompt
Write about volunteering or otherwise helping where it makes a difference for good.
Humanitarian cause
Contest Winner


Author Notes
My husband and I have served as National Disaster Volunteers with the American Red Cross for several years. We have had many memorable experiences over the years. This story is about my favorite encounter with a survivor of Katrina.


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