The morning of August 25, 2005, I was on the phone with a songwriter from the Northeast who had collaborated with me on three blues songs. We worked in a songwriters site called Songramp and at that site there was a Writer's Room. I often woke in the morning with little lyrics dancing in my head and would post them in a rough draft form in the Writer's Room in hopes of gaining criticism to possibly strengthen the lines or in hopes of a songwriter dropping by looking for a writer to collaborate on a song.
Ed and I had worked on and completed three blues songs and an amazing collaboration of four musicians called Lonely Highway which I still love as one of my all time favorites. This day we were leisurely talking on the phone about this and that but mostly the horrendous damage of Katrina as television stations had made their way into the city of New Orleans and began sending out images of the unbelievable devastation. While we were both watching an early evening news report, a helicopter image appeared of another helicopter crew air lifting a tiny boy thirty feet above flood waters in a basket up into the aircraft. Ed stopped in mid-sentence as he listened to the news commentator was stating that it was hard to believe in this day and time that there is no communication with the city to the outside world, but there is NONE. Ed's tone of voice immediately changed and he said, "Peg, I need to be there! I have to go. Let me hang up. I developed a portable IT transmission station that would make it possible for them to communicate. I need to call my boss and if he won't let me go, I am going anyway! Let me go! I've got to see what I can do!"
It wasn't until a few days later that I somehow learned from Ed, with a day or two of preparation and delays caused by impassable roads, he had made it into the city of New Orleans with his communication system and was working with Mayor Ray Nagel and staying in the Holiday Inn next to the Superdome. The windows of the hotel had been blown out by the storm. The heat was oppressive. The humidity was stifling. To access the room there were stairs only. To flush the toilet it was necessary to get water from the pool. I have no idea what he found to eat. It was no luxury stay but more a mission of the heart.
I would not describe Ed as a Christian but as a truly spiritual man. He was able to take a small team of his who agreed to jump into service for others. They did not know what they were walking into, and yet, they followed him because they knew Ed. His goal was to set up communication for Mayor Nagel enabling him to talk directly with the President and others who could begin the "after the storm" recovery and rebuilding worked without a flaw. He was not only the voice in a storm but a light of hope. He had honed this spirit of walking into danger as an Army Ranger in Vietnam. He is a natural born rescuer for those in harm's way. His life is so unique, as is each of ours. The experiences each of us have lived have brought us to a place that allows us to serve in unique ways. Ed is a rescuer from head to toe. In quiet times, he is a musician by soul, a husband and father and grandfather. He is New York classy and reminds me of the Dos Equis ad with the silver haired gentleman in the velvet lounging jacket giving us the impression of someone so relaxed and worldy. But beneath that smooth surface there lies a warrior ready in a heartbeat to fight for those who cannot defend themselves.
He is a warrior on both a small and earth moving scale. He came to my defense on a day I will not visit here except to say that because of his alertness and his caring for those who cannot care for themselves, he called and gave me a three step plan for the short future. I do not remember anything from that conversation except the sound of his firm, kind voice and the question near the end which was, "Now, can you tell me the one thing I want you to do today?" I had reached that day when I could not think. I was numb in my own home and struggling puts it mildly. I cannot explain his phone call. It was totally unexpected and I can only categorize it as an answer to my whispered prayer. With that one goal I made it through that day and I was moved into action to find my own way. God moves! GOD MOVES!
When I remember that moment in the midst of Katrina when I heard our friendly conversation evolve into a declaration of determined action, I have no doubt that our God, our Creator moved him to action. Life's experiences tell me that God more often whispers and nudges and suggests and guides but in a hurricane, God MOVES! Since this disaster, Ed has been called by that voice to move to action again and again. He was encouraged to chronicle his experiences in his book, "After Disaster: An Insider’s Perspective from the Heart of Chaos". It is available on Amazon and I hope you buy it for your husbands or dads or brothers for Christmas. Within the lines of his book there is this gentle whisper to act in those moments when we feel compelled to serve others.
I have not spoken to my friend in several years. Life has moved in different directions, so like so many others , we prefer communication on Facebook from time to time. It is an easy way to leave a word of praise or encouragement or celebration for those who have touched our lives as we keep them in our thoughts and prayers. He is well and happy and loving life and music. His family is vibrant and active and loving their dad. If you had the joy of meeting him, it would never give you a clue that in a world disaster, he moves into action. We are each blessed with endless experiences and endless gifts that are in place to serve others. Ed serves others in danger and has no fear of walking into the unknown to make a difference. I have been blessed to see God move him into action.
But we are all given those moments when something tells us to get up and go. What we do with those moments is up to how we respond with open hearts to serving and caring for others. We have gifts of love and encouragement and compassion and empathy. Where have we walked? What have we experienced? What have we seen and known and felt? All those experiences prepare us to serve. Be aware of the moment when God moves and respond with determination to make a difference. The opportunities are there for us everyday. Does the Humane Society need food? Does a family need a contribution because their house burned down last night? Does a homeless person on the corner need a gift bag or blanket? Does a child need tutoring? Does a summer camp for handicapped children need someone who is a wizard at arts and crafts? Does an elderly couple need an electrician to add a light to dark room where they are likely to fall? Does a neighbor need a ride to the doctor? What experiences and gifts do you carry inside your unique soul? Stay connected to life. The secret to joy is a giving heart. There is no joy like the one that comes in giving all you have for someone else. Start watching for opportunities to serve and start being in tune with God when he needs to move you into action. Amazing things happen....to others....and ultimately to you.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We are often told that if we want to hear you speak, we must remove ourselves from the distractions of life and become one with you in mind and heart and soul. Let us never forget that with all You have given us in our lifetimes we are totally unique individuals. With those gifts and blessings we are so capable of serving others. There will be times when we experience your moving through us in a call to action. Move us to respond with loving, giving hearts and not to hesitate. You know complete joy and peace will be ours through giving. Speak to us God. We are listening.
In Jesus' Name,