Flood Of Misery, Flood Of Grace
Here’s the good news: Julie was able to get to the storage facility where half our worldly goods, including all our heirlooms, are stored. It’s in what became a flood zone in Baton Rouge. We expected the worst. Turns out that the roof sustained serious rain damage, but the facility was not flooded. All our stuff is safe.
Here’s more good news: the team at Baton Rouge’s Apple store were able to save all the information from my dying hard drive, and transfer it to my brand new MacBook Air. I love MacBook Airs so much that there was never really any question that I was going to replace the dying one with a new one. I bought that last one on August 29, 2011, I learned. It has lasted almost five years. I have put that little machine through so much. Nearly four books were written on it, and heaven knows how many blog posts, notes, e-mails, and such. It served me well. So will this new MacBook Air, I’m certain.
I’m so grateful for this I can’t even tell you how much. They treated me so well, and have saved The Benedict Option book. In the picture above, the only one missing from the team that helped me is Cassie. She’s from Denham Springs. Her dad still lives there. He lost everything in the flood.
On the far left is Brent Mangum. He’s the Apple store manager I saw on Saturday, when he couldn’t open the store because his employees couldn’t get there through the rising water. I ran into him again on Sunday morning at the Celtic Media Center shelter. He was there helping direct traffic.
“You came in yesterday!” he said to me.
“You’re the Apple guy!” I said back.
When I left the shelter after 7 that night, there was Brent, still in place, still working. Amazing.
The Apple store was open today, and I was able to get in to the Genius Bar. They spent two hours with me, saving my hard drive, transferring it to the new computer, holding my hand, putting up with my nonsense. I gave Brent a copy of The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, which was the very least I could do. Watching him at the shelter in action reminded me somehow of the way St. Francisville responded to my sister Ruthie’s cancer.
Later, before he left for the day, Brent came over to the Genius Bar to talk. Turns out his family is now hosting their second displaced flood victim family. “We’re pretty much at capacity now,” he said.
I asked him what made him go out to the shelter on Sunday to work.
“Well, I’m part of the LDS Church, and that’s what we do,” he said. “Some of us guys from the church figured we needed to be there.”
Mormons. I should have known. That is what they do.
“You’re going to laugh at this,” I said, “but a couple of weeks ago, the editor of my book and I were talking about this thing I’m working on, which I call the Benedict Option, and we agreed that the LDS folks are in so many ways a great example of what I think all Christians should be doing. I ended up working with LDS headquarters, and they put me in touch with a Mormon theologian who gave me some great background on why y’all do what you do regarding community. And here you are, a Mormon, a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Unbelievable. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to put you in the book. People need to know this.”
He shook his head and smiled. “Yeah, that’s fine with me. It’s no coincidence that we met.”
“No, it’s not,” I said.
So, if you buy the Ben Op book, you will almost certainly run into Brent Mangum’s name again. But I want to say right now to Apple, Inc., that y’all have a very fine man working for you, and a great team in Baton Rouge. I’ve been to the Apple store twice today, and talked to a few different employees. Every time I brought Brent’s name up, people would say some version of, “He’s such a nice guy. Everybody loves him.” They didn’t know they were talking to a blogger. That’s how they really feel. He’s the guy who goes to the shelter and spends all day helping, and who takes refugee families into his family home, because they have nothing. Just think of it.
NPR’s Debbie Elliott was in Baton Rouge today, giving us the kind of national coverage we wish everybody would give us, revealing the intense human drama of the catastrophe here. When I tell you that this is probably going to be Katrina.2, I mean it, at least in terms of material devastation. Edgardo Tenreiro, a friend and a reader of this blog, shows up in her story talking about the struggle area hospitals (he’s the acting CEO of Baton Rouge General) are enduring.
“The flood has been some of the worst we’ve ever seen in terms of the natural disaster,” he said, “but also some of the best, because it has shown who we are as a community.”
Whole story here:
Back at home tonight, I got a text from another friend and reader of this blog. He’s been over in the Sherwood Forest neighborhood helping someone clean out their house. He reports that the entire neighborhood is going to have to be gutted, because of raw sewage that got into everybody’s house.
“It’s a middle-class Lower Ninth Ward,” he said. And he’s not joking. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, there were about 15,000 people living in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, which became synonymous with the total devastation left by the flood. Know how many people were living in Sherwood Forest this time last week? Just over 15,000.
They are not poor, they are not black, but they are now just as homeless as any Lower Ninth Ward resident was a decade ago. The overwhelming majority of Baton Rouge residents do not have flood insurance. Their neighborhoods have never flooded. But this rain event was off the charts. Watson, La., for example, received about 30 inches of rain in a few days — more than Los Angeles has received in the last three years. While it’s hard to do a one-to-one comparison — Louisiana is subtropical, while L.A. is a desert climate — it might help to understand that this area gets about 60 inches of rain per year. Half a year’s amount of rain fell on us in two days. Who expects that? This kind of rain event happens once in a thousand years, we are told.
Yet it happened to us, in 2016. Nobody was prepared for it, not because they’re foolish, but because to expect this would have been crazy.
Look, I’m going to stop writing and go to bed. Tomorrow Julie and I are cooking for some displaced folks. Tomorrow morning I wake up and get back to the Benedict Option manuscript. And I help my wife cook for some displaced people. I have to share this with you, though. The other day, before the rain, I noticed an empty bottle of Spotted Cow beer from New Glarus Brewery in Wisconsin on the sidewalk outside our place. Where on earth did that come from? I love that stuff! Is it available in Baton Rouge, or what? Turns out one of our neighbors, a young chemical engineer, recently moved here from Minnesota. His folks live near the Wisconsin border, and when he was home recently, he drove over to get Spotted Cow, which you can only buy in Wisconsin (I was introduced to its greatness when I was in Wisconsin a couple of years ago). I went on about the greatness of Spotted Cow when we ran into each other.
Tonight there was a knock at the door. It was Connor, the neighbor, bearing two bottles of Spotted Cow. Just to be neighborly. I swear, I could have kissed him. It’s like my brother-in-law Mike Leming said in the days after his wife Ruthie died: “We’re leaning, but we’re leaning on each other.”
I tell you what, you are going to read a different Benedict Option book because of what I’ve seen, heard, and lived this past week. I had been talking back and forth with my editor about how we bring more hope to balance out the sky-is-falling material. Now I get it.
More tomorrow. Be as generous as you can with your donations. God knows we need it. Let this e-mail I got from a regular reader and commenter inspire you:
Although I disagree with you vehemently on way too many issues, I know, by your words, that you are a decent, kind, and honorable man. As a hardcore progressive who is getting more liberal with every passing year, I still visit your site multiple times daily, and look forward to whatever it is you’re going to post. I’ve never donated to American Conservative, because I would feel dirty, if I may be so honest.
…having said all that….
I am very fortunate in my life. I grew up poor, but have made a very good life for myself. I would love to offer you a new MacBook Air, no strings attached. You pick it out, tell me what it will cost, and I will paypal money to you immediately for you to purchase it. I know you probably won’t take me up on my offer, but I’m 100% serious. It’s the least I can do for the years of instructional information I’ve gotten from reading your blogs – going all the way back to your NRO days.
I wasn’t able to see this amazing letter until I got home with my new MacBook Air and was able to access my TAC e-mail from the past few days. I thanked him for his incredible generosity, and asked him to find his favorite charity doing relief work here in south Louisiana and give the same amount to them. I invite you all to do what you can along those lines. If you appreciate what you read here, even if it drives you crazy, please show your appreciation by giving to a charity you trust that will use it for the suffering people in south Louisiana. Goodness and plain human decency knows no political, racial, or religious boundaries. As we are seeing every single day down here in the flood.
If you are sick of Trump, of Hillary, of the Kardashians, of the whole sh*tshow that is American pop culture, come down to south Louisiana and help out. It’s horrible here, but it will sure as the world cure your despair. Trust me on this.