Last week’s three days of quiet and disconnection happened as Hurricane Katrina pummeled New Orleans and the city dealt with the grueling aftermath. You will recall that part of my challenge was to not peak at the news, which can be next to impossible for a news junkie like myself. Before starting my detox, I saw the news about the storm coming across the Atlantic, making landfall in Florida, heading out to the gulf, and possibly making landfall in Alabama and Louisiana. Clearly, I had no idea what would follow.
In many ways, the aftermath is worse than the storm itself. People are trapped, suffering, dying. Supplies are arriving at a glacier’s pace. Decisions are not being made, and those that are being made do not seem to move the needle in terms of aiding the stranded. The government’s response has been chaotic, uncoordinated, and insufficient.
What does any of this have to do with the topic of this blog?
In terms of finding a higher and better use of one’s talents, it would seem very little, though it does have me stewing over how to be a part of solving big problems. Given the apparent ineptitude of FEMA’s response, does that mean trying to work for the government? After watching a few large bungles in my dad’s Navy days, I am not always convinced public service, honorable as it is, is the avenue down which I want to go given its track record of inefficiency. Besides, even if I were leading relief efforts in New Orleans, what would I do differently?
Still, I want to know how such a colossal breakdown could occur. The physical infrastructure of New Orleans was not up to the task of absorbing a category 5 hurricane. Federal and local officials appear to have dropped the ball either evacuating the city or ensuring places of refuge with adequate supplies for such a storm. I understand evacuation orders went out and many decided to stay, but it appears many who decided to stay did so because leaving was not an option, either financially, because of a lack of transportation, or simply having nowhere else to go. In that case we are talking about an inequality issue, something that has festered in this country largely because of our own apathy.
Does any of this bring me closer to knowing a next career or vocation? Maybe a bit. Whatever I undertake I want it to have resources enough to actually solve a problem. The challenge is, it appears most vocations of that kind (solving problems and having positive impacts on peoples’ lives) are strapped for resources. Perhaps that can be addressed if the position comes with a big platform or megaphone to draw attention. As always, I am open to ideas so feel free to toss them out.
In the meantime, pray for New Orleans and that we are able to do better by our own citizens next time.