‘Please, Please, I Can’t Stay Here No More’
My friend Father Peter Kang from Grace Episcopal Church in St. Francisville wrote this beautiful tribute to Grace’s pastor, Father Roman Roldan, pictured above. Here’s what he said:
Since its doors opened and began taking in flood victims, Fr. Roldan has been tirelessly volunteering at the impromptu shelter in Celtic Studios. I went in with him yesterday after a clergy meeting in Baton Rouge and caught a glimpse of the important work he and other volunteers are doing.
When I first walked in to Celtic Studios, I was a little overwhelmed with the sheer number of people – thousands of displaced victims, hundreds of community volunteers, hundreds of personnel from the military, police, red cross, FEMA, Verizon, Duracell, Tide… All compressed into a slowly shuffling, shifting, sitting, sleeping sea – of people. Where does one even begin?
Yesterday, as I understand it, there was a small altercation between evacuees in one of the housing locations. (I actually think that with so many people staying together in one place, still reeling from the trauma and stress of the past week, it is amazing there aren’t more such incidents).
In a cot near the scuffle sat an elderly woman. “You might want to go check on that one,” Fr. Roldan was told, “she looks a little shaken up.”
She had been in the shelter since it opened 4 days ago – no family nearby, no savings to speak of, and seemingly nowhere to go. Like so many others, she had lost everything – all her worldly possessions – soaked through and destroyed in the flood.
In the course of their conversation, Fr. Roldan (a trained clinical social worker) realized that she had already qualified for housing assistance, that there were state resources available to relocate her, and that there was no reason for her to be in the shelter aside from the need to submit the proper forms and documentation.
“Please, if you can, get me out of here.” She sounded desperate. “Please, please, I can’t stay here no more. Please get me out of here.” With a big smile and some jovial hand gestures, Fr. Roldan assured her: “Don’t worry, my friend, I will help you. I’m going to get you out of here.”
It took hours. Navigating red tape and bureaucracies like a ninja, by the end of the day she was out of the shelter and into a new apartment. She had only two pillows and a blanket from the shelter – no bed, no chairs, no dishes, cups, pots or pans – but she was grateful nonetheless just to have a place of her own. Fr. Roldan then put out the call and tonight she sleeps on a donated air-mattress and has some basic provisions to see her through the coming days. There’s still a ways to go, but this is at least a start.
With so many people in similar situations, so much unmet need, so much heartache and frustration – a case like [this] may seem only a drop in the bucket. And in the big picture, we may ask, what difference does such exhausting effort actually make? I suppose for the statistician, it’s true, it does not change grand totals very much. But for this woman, I am sure, it makes a world of difference.
It can be hard sometimes when beholding events of such magnitude to remember – that behind every number is a face, a particular individual, a person created in the image of God, of irreplaceable value and worth, whom we are ever called to love. And despite what we may think or desire, none of us has the power or ability to move the seas, to re-form the world. But all of us can put a drop in a bucket, and in so doing, make a world of difference.
Amen. God spits in the mud and rubs it on our eyes, and we can see. I love these stories! Pass them on — they’re happening everywhere around us here in south Louisiana these days.