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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 [1], 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.

Louisiana, man.

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. [2]

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. [3]

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.

But….

…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.

IMG_6841 [4]

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34 Comments (Open | Close)

34 Comments To "Flood Of Misery, Flood Of Grace"

#1 Comment By Behnbridge On August 16, 2016 @ 11:04 pm

Can you update with charities people post? I don’t know anything about who’s doing what down there in LA.

#2 Comment By Jonathan On August 16, 2016 @ 11:07 pm

If you’re going to alter the BenOp book in light of the human response to the catastrophe you have witnessed, I hope you’ll consider addressing — or at least that you’ll give some sustained personal reflection to — the fact of climate change. That’s why this once in a thousand year event, and the various other such events that keep happening every few years, has happened. What does BenOp look like in a world drastically altered by climate change, or in a world (God willing) that has retooled itself in a massive way to combat climate change?

[NFR: I believe that global warming is real. But addressing it is really beyond the scope of this book. — RD]

#3 Comment By Peterk On August 16, 2016 @ 11:21 pm

now that you have a new computer, please please please set up a backup routine using external drives and the cloud to protect your work.

[NFR: Came home with an external hard drive. Will be making use of cloud storage too. I have learned my lesson. — RD]

#4 Comment By Sean H On August 16, 2016 @ 11:28 pm

Really good reportage Rod; very moving. You are a kind soul. Glad you and your family are safe. I wonder what will happen to all the people who lost their homes? Where will they live in the future? Does FEMA have a role to play here?

#5 Comment By Matt On August 16, 2016 @ 11:31 pm

And the new atheist asks ” Where is God in all this suffering ? Why would a good God allow such suffering, if he exists? ”

We only need to read the headlines ” Huge outpouring of generousity for victims… ” and ” volunteers from all over the state working tirelessly ” .
” Selfless community comes together in time of crisis “.
” This is the American spirit ”

It is in times of material desolation that the hearts of men are kindled with love for their fellow man.
In times of comfort and plenty the hearts of men grow cold, a spiritual desolation occurs, they forget what is important, they think nothing of their neighbour.

Material desolation is far more preferable than spiritual desolation, in fact we should thank God for these disasters as an opportunity to Love, and rise from our self absorption our indifference.
Where is God in these times? He is in the heart of those who come to help.

#6 Comment By Sean H On August 16, 2016 @ 11:35 pm

Here is some coverage in the WaPo:

1. Story: [5]

2. Some pictures, also from the WaPo:

[6]

#7 Comment By df On August 16, 2016 @ 11:56 pm

The New York Times has the flooding in a big homepage article now….but the flooding is kinda the excuse. The main event is really the flooding as evidence of climate change.

So that’s how to get attention.

[7]

#8 Comment By Eamus Catuli On August 17, 2016 @ 12:07 am

As of Tuesday evening, American Airlines’ web site was directing users to a page offering frequent-flyer miles as awards for donations to Louisiana and Mississippi flood relief. So I guess some of the coastal elites have begun to notice what’s going on.

#9 Comment By Charles Cosimano On August 17, 2016 @ 12:24 am

Rod, I know you tend to admire the Ancien Regime, but when Louis XV said, “Apres nous, le deluges,” this is not what he was what he was talking about.

Or as the old saying goes, “Into every life a little rain must fall but this is ridiculous!”

Stay dry.

#10 Comment By Evan On August 17, 2016 @ 12:25 am

Mormons are great. I think they present a good and positive picture of what a BenOp might look like. Even so, New Glarus beer is even greater than Mormons.

#11 Comment By MikeCA On August 17, 2016 @ 12:29 am

The cult of the Spotted Cow! My best friend is from Wausau,WI lives in Minneapolis and despairs that his preferred brew is unavailable locally. He buys when he’s close to the border & can nip over or when he visits. He just came back from Bayfield,WI with a few cases in tow. It was awfully generous of your neighbor to share! I’m not sure my friend of 25 yrs would share….?. There’s a huge sign in western WI that advertises ” Liquor,Cheese & Taxidermy” to passersby. That pretty much sums it up. Long live the land of taverns!

#12 Comment By Jeffersonian On August 17, 2016 @ 12:41 am

Serious question: are you using mosquito spray when you go out? I just heard someone on the Ed Schultz Show, talking about the LA flooding, say three very scary words: chikungunya, dengue, and Zika, and then I also thought of yellow fever, West Nile, and malaria. With that amount of water around you’re going to get a whole bunch of skeeter bugs right quick, so go bathe in as close as you can get to pure DEET so you don’t catch something nasty.

#13 Comment By ForxaBarca On August 17, 2016 @ 1:05 am

Glory be to God! Glory be to God!

#14 Comment By Leigh Ann On August 17, 2016 @ 1:38 am

Rod,

I’m a designer and better with pictures than words, but I felt compelled to write and thank you for telling our story.

I was at the PMac for hurricane Katrina and I dropped off donations to Celtic Studios the day you were there. The two felt so similar…helicopters taking off and landing, dazed faces asking for help when mouths couldn’t form the words…but I also witnessed an outpouring of generosity that I wish people across the nation could experience.

85% of my family is displaced, but we, like so many others, have already rolled up our sleeves and gotten down to the business of starting over. There’s no time to grumble or feel sorry for ourselves. The comment I hear most often is, “I wish I could help more people.”

Soldiers in Black Hawk helicopters landed on my parents’ property to rescue residents of a nearby subdivision (my parents had already evacuated.) Their back yard is now strewn with branches clipped by helicopter blades, a reminder of heroic efforts in the midst of terrible tragedy, which is what we do so well down here.

The following is my 20 year old daughter’s Facebook post tonight:

“I spent the day in the hell that so many in Central now know as reality. The contents of entire homes line the streets, soaked and awaiting their disposal. What should have been a somber day of watching my family mourn the loss of memories (some 80 years old) turned into a day of awakening. I was face to face with strength and selflessness that so greatly exceeds my own. We held hands, laughed, and made memories to replace those lost. People with nothing lending a hand to those with even less. Elderly relatives with no home cooking meals for those who aren’t capable. I hurt so badly for my family and everyone who faces this difficult journey with such uncertainty, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that I couldn’t be prouder of the love I’ve seen emerge from pure devastation. It’s colorblind and relentless. And I wish it upon the entire world. You did good, Louisiana.”

Thanks again, Rod. Welcome to the neighborhood.

#15 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On August 17, 2016 @ 4:39 am

Really happy you recovered both your hard and soft goods.
Hope you will have a peaceful time for the final rush of the BenOp book.

#16 Comment By Liam On August 17, 2016 @ 7:57 am

One charity I can always recommend, having served as a Vincentian, is the Society of St Vincent de Paul. The local conferences (chapters) are entirely volunteer, and operate with little overhead costs so that almost all money goes to work directly for those in need. While they may not be involved in big-ticket emergency assistance, you can be sure they will be involved in myriad other ways for months and years to come:

[8]

#17 Comment By Hound of Ulster On August 17, 2016 @ 8:03 am

It is in the darkest times that the brightest lights shine forth

#18 Comment By Johan On August 17, 2016 @ 8:27 am

I see the NY Times website has finally noticed the flood. Perhaps they realized they could use it as an object lesson on climate change? But at least they’re reporting it as the huge story it is.

#19 Comment By lily On August 17, 2016 @ 8:31 am

So glad to hear your good news – a blessing! Thank you for your reports on what is going on in your part of the country. Its quite odd that people are suffering so much and its not being reported much in the national news. The cynic in me thinks its because the media doesn’t have anything to gain by reporting this event – there is no narrative to push in this tragedy.

Peoples’ suffering to hard to hear about – but it is encouraging to see the goodness in people as they reach out to help their neighbors.

#20 Comment By Anonne On August 17, 2016 @ 8:44 am

I donated to the Salvation Army after reading the What You Lose, What You Gain entry. Ironically, I got the contact info from a CNN article that was about how to help Louisiana flood victims.

#21 Comment By Liam On August 17, 2016 @ 9:16 am

The NY Times coverage started this past weekend.

#22 Comment By mrscracker On August 17, 2016 @ 11:11 am

So glad to hear your belongings & book are safe. God bless!
🙂

#23 Comment By Stephen On August 17, 2016 @ 11:48 am

Rod,

Do you have a good suggestion for which charity a Hoosier should give to for Louisiana?

[NFR: The one you trust. Seriously, there are so many working here. — RD]

#24 Comment By Ken L On August 17, 2016 @ 12:03 pm

I am one who often disagrees with you, but reads your site regularly for the thoughtfulness of its posts. Please provide any information on reputable charities who will be helping people afflicted by this disaster.

[NFR: Thanks. I really can’t vet them, though, and I would hate to vouch for one and later find out that it wasn’t reputable. Pick one you trust (e.g., Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army etc.). — RD]

#25 Comment By R.S. Rogers On August 17, 2016 @ 1:04 pm

Great bit of journalism here, and what great good news to learn of the recovery of the data for the book, as well as the safety of Rod’s stored stuff.

But it leaves unanswered a vitally important question: How do y’all have Spotted Cow down there? Smuggling, obviously, and whoever did the acquisition and transportation is a rogue hero of Han Solo proportions, but the bottom line is that whenever you find Spotted Cow beyond the borders of the Badger State, you invariably also find a really good story about how it got there. See MikeCA’s comment above for a perfect example of the genre.

[NFR: My new neighbor in Baton Rouge is a Minnesotan who just moved here. He was visiting his folks on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, and made a beer run for Spotted Cow. Because he is a SAINT, I tell you, he shared two bottles with me. — RD]

#26 Comment By Oscar T On August 17, 2016 @ 1:07 pm

Your friends in Wichita, KS are praying for you folks. My good friend Jack Korbel wrote a song about the Katrina flooding several years back called “The Lower Ninth Ward”. Seems like a good listen right now. [9]

#27 Comment By Ellen Zoudlik On August 17, 2016 @ 1:17 pm

Thanks for the updates, Rod. Can you please tell us if Juanita Rougeot found some place to go? Your story featuring her and her cats really got my tears flowing! I live in Dallas, but if I was local, I’d take her in in a heartbeat.

[NFR: I haven’t been back to the shelter to find out. I heard they were turning volunteers away, because they had so many. If any readers are volunteers at Celtic Media, or have access to the Red Cross list, please update us. I wanted to offer her shelter, but we are living in a small apartment full of boxes, and we live on an upper floor, which she is too infirm to reach. — RD]

#28 Comment By DRK On August 17, 2016 @ 1:44 pm

Hey, as you’re going around and about, keep an eye out for a good cover for your BenOp book, because it seems as if you’re living it right now…

[NFR: There’s no time for going with a new cover concept right now. We’re far along in the production process (you’d be surprised how long this takes). I am told that the commentary from this blog’s readers, an overwhelming majority of whom preferred Mont Saint Michel, was quite influential in the production meeting this week in New York. We’ll see what they come up with. — RD]

#29 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 17, 2016 @ 3:39 pm

This kind of rain event happens once in a thousand years, we are told.

I was waiting to see something like that. Our cultural lexicon has “hundred year” labels on events when it seems appropriate, like a storm or earthquake. It puts criticisms of (lack of) preparation to shame.

#30 Comment By KSS On August 17, 2016 @ 3:52 pm

I appreciate your other writing, Rod, posts like this one remain what draws me to this blog, over and over again. I’m heartened to hear that some your experiences with the flooding will make it into the BenOp book, because when you add these humanizing stories about people and places you so obviously care deeply about, it makes the stories you tell so much richer. You and I corresponded briefly after “Little Way” came out about these attachments, and while I know your road back has been difficult at times–as has mine, after making a conscious decision to head back to Minnesota after college in Washington DC–the grace that comes out of these moments does seem to make everything pale in comparison.

Just the other day, I was thinking that I need to quit wasting time on horse race politics and laments of civilizational decline and find some way to get back out into the world around me, in all its beauties and sorrows. This post is a good inspiration. Though I do think I’ll pop over the border to grab some Spotted Cow to fuel me through the journey.

Thanks for all you do, and best wishes to all of you down at the other end of Highway 61 and the Mississippi as you pick up the pieces and rebuild.

#31 Comment By Stefan On August 17, 2016 @ 5:07 pm

Using proprietary cloud storage solutions (Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, SpiderOak,…) to make backups means relying on closed, proprietary Silicon Valley code, i.e. on something that is shaped by Silicon Valley’s need to build and maintain political legitimacy over the long term by participating in the US’s national security apparatus, including the newest addition to it, the neoliberal inclusion spectacle. Entrusting your stuff to “the cloud” because you were neither a terrorist nor a drug dealer nor a pedophile was a legitimate choice in the past. It is easy to imagine though that in the future people like Rod will have some of their files if not their entire accounts deleted because their contents (your files’ content as scanned by algorithms and subject to unaccountable algorithmic justice) risks creating hostile environments for various groups of liberal worthies. Companies’ TOS are already full of clauses allowing them to do whatever they want with your data and liberals would be all too happy to condone the sort of concept creep that allows them to fight amorphous bigotry using tools designed to fight terrorists, drug dealers and pedophiles. You may like the human beings in the Apple store genius bar, but neither Apple nor any of their competitors respect your politics one bit. The only backup method you can trust when using a Mac and not having above-average technical skills is to make regular backups on one or multiple encrypted external hard disks that you store outside the house.

#32 Comment By mrscracker On August 17, 2016 @ 5:16 pm

Franklin Evans says:

August 17, 2016 at 3:39 pm

This kind of rain event happens once in a thousand years, we are told.

I was waiting to see something like that. Our cultural lexicon has “hundred year” labels on events when it seems appropriate, like a storm or earthquake. It puts criticisms of (lack of) preparation to shame.”
*************************
Where I used to live, we had two “500 year floods” in 18 months. And another one several years before those. So, not being anywhere close to 1500 years old, I take those labels with a grain of salt.

#33 Comment By Jess On August 17, 2016 @ 5:52 pm

Thank you for writing such a wonderful post. It brought tears to my eyes.

#34 Comment By On the Bayou On August 19, 2016 @ 11:50 am

Thanks for getting the word out. I am so proud of the people of my state for grabbing the bull by the horns and jumping into action the moment they saw their neighbors in need.
All races helping each other, no questions about politics, religion, or sexual orientation.
But that’s how we reauxl!