Starry nights

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, September 17, 2014

After Hurricane Katrina blew through our lives, we faced many trying days. All of us remember the difficulties associated with loss of electricity, which translated into a very different way of living. The simplest tasks were challenging.

The storm brought death and destruction, but amidst all the ugliness, beauty also shone through. Many of us learned to lend a hand, depend on each other and remember where our real help comes from.

We got to know our neighbors, even the ones who were a little different. We shared meals together under the stars and laughed at each other’s feeble attempts to rough it.

One of our neighbors, Mr. Carroll, was an elderly widower. When I stopped by to see how he was doing I found him alone and discouraged. He was sitting in the stifling heat with all his windows closed. Mr. Carroll had always been active and strong, and slowing down proved difficult for him. He tearfully said, “Don’t worry about me. I’m a worn out old man. I’m not going to make it.”

Soon all his windows were open. Some of Mr. Carroll’s discouragement dissipated along with the oppressive heat. What looked hopeless before wasn’t quite so bad when shared with a friend. The whole neighborhood pitched in to show their love and concern for our wonderful neighbor. These simple acts of kindness helped him overcome his discouragement, and he, like the rest of us, did indeed make it through this rough patch.

My late husband, Glen R., heated up water in the sun in an old tub we had previously used as a watering trough for our chickens. He rigged up a curtain around it so I could take a warm bath. Odd as it seems, this brings me to tears even now. I remember the twinkle in his eyes when he surprised me with my very own redneck hot tub!

Almost everyone in our neighborhood worked together to clear the street of debris. Some carried food and water to the workers, and some wielded chain saws. It was a joy to see all colors, all ages, men and women, boys and girls joining forces to get the job done. What we could not do alone, we accomplished together.

When we realized the men working so hard to get our power on were sleeping in their trucks, we put our heads together. Several families shared their extra beds with the workers, and many of us scrounged what food we could for a huge potluck. Grateful residents as well as the electric workers laughed and talked long into the night.

Our knees were bent in prayer. We praised God when trucks rolled into town with food and water. We praised Him when we received news of our loved ones safety and cried out for strength if the news was not what we had hoped. We looked to the heavens and thanked Him for the beautiful, starry nights and paused to remember who hung the stars.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at