After a terrible misstep in Congress Tuesday, the perpetually orange House Speaker John Boehner and his Tea Party cronies saw the light and approved a $9.7 billion Band-Aid (bill H.R. 41) for the victims of Hurricane Sandy on Friday, 66 days AFTER the storm. Never mind that the victims of Hurricane Katrina saw their much-needed aid begin to flow a mere 10 days after the storm. We’re from Jersey and NYC—we’re all rich. Who needs government handouts?
Anybody tuning into the media after Tuesday’s blocked vote was : “Disaster relief is something you don’t play games with, but in this current atmosphere, everything is the subject of one-upmanship.”
I have to hand it to our Big Gov. His popularity has soared since Sandy, mostly because he seems to be one of the few politicians willing to put party aside and work for the people of the Garden State, be they Democrat or Republican. Shouldn’t we all be willing to do that?
Right before Christmas, members of the First United Methodist Church of Moorestown (FUMC) were ringing the Salvation Army bell outside the Acme on Lenola Road. A man approached one of the bell ringers and asked if he knew of anyone (any place) that needed a truckload of free church pews. Kind of an odd question, but FUMC had already sent several teams of volunteer workers down to Atlantic City to help with post-Sandy cleanup, so the bell ringer told the man he’d ask around and get back to him. Phone numbers were exchanged and emails were sent.
As it turns out, one of the buildings the FUMC team worked on was near an Atlantic City church that flooded during the storm, destroying everything inside. The building itself made it through the hurricane, but with no flood insurance, the church had little hope of being resurrected anytime soon.
This is when Max Fisher, aka Mr. Taylor Rental, connected the dots and drove down to Atco to view what he hoped was the solution to one church’s problem. When Wayne Bryant, owner of a trailer lot in Atco, opened the 45-foot trailer, it looked promising.
“It looked like everything you’d need to start a church,” Max said in a phone call to me last Wednesday. He went on to tell me that another group of Mo’town volunteers was going to Atco on Saturday morning to dig deeper into the trailer in order to help refurbish the devastated church in Atlantic City.
I decided to be the lone female representative amongst the men. I wanted to tag along to witness and chronicle the big reveal because it seemed to be the exact antithesis of the partisan politics being played out in Washington. It was all about people helping people, without regard to affiliations either religious or political, ethnicity or any other category people get thrown into.
The entire endeavor also spoke to me about how everyday citizens actually live their lives. Think about it. In our day-to-day lives, there is no such thing as Democrat and Republican. If we acted the way our elected officials are acting in Washington, nothing would ever get done.
When you donate food to the food bank at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, do you stipulate that the peas and canned corn go only to Democrats? That the Republicans get only powdered milk and baked beans? Do you only patronize stores known to be of your own party? Do you choose your friends according to their party affiliation?
If we do not live our lives this way, why then is our government run this way? What’s wrong with our political system, and what can we do to change it? For starters, let’s not re-elect any of the clowns who aren’t helping storm victims, including uber-ambitious Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s would-be veep. He voted against the flood insurance bill, claiming there was too much “pork-barrel” spending tacked on. Thanks, Paul, but when you make your run in 2016, don’t look for my vote.
I followed Max and the Mo’town men down to Atco on Saturday, to a tractor-trailer graveyard filled with hobbled and rusted receptacles, old tires and now, with our arrival, a bit of hope. Max led the caravan to a listing trailer filled with the makings of what we had been told was a storefront church.
Doors flung open, the contents looked promising: oak chairs upholstered in red velvet, a regal pastor’s chair, Bibles, several lecterns and stately tables, a church organ and some boxes. Lots of boxes. With the first layer of usable furniture stowed in one of Max’s trucks, we found 30 feet of boxes, mildew, a shag rug and the contents of what must have been the parsonage—but no pews.
The church was still grateful and will put all the rescued furniture to good use. They will also get a group of volunteers from Moorestown when they start to rebuild in the spring. This group will be Republicans mixed with Democrats, men and women of all colors, liberals and conservatives, both skilled and unskilled. No one will be standing in front of the church with a clipboard, segregating workers according to their party preference because in the real world, nobody cares. If you are driven to help, you help. It’s that simple.
Now will someone please send the message down to Washington? They don’t seem to get it!
(Thanks to Max Fisher, Brian O’Donnell, Gary Braxton, Joel Bewley and Al Cope for letting me tag along.)