The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


September 23, 2005

'This land is your land, '

...this land is my land
from California, to the New York island
from the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
this land was made for you and me.'

And it's this folk song that Woody Guthrie wrote in the 1950s that's been playing in my head these days as we hear about the people who live by 'the gulf stream waters' coping with the aftermath of Katrina as best they can and worrying about Rita. Peter, Paul and Mary sang it in the 60s — and so did we who came of age in those years of hope and promise.

A Chicago girl whose family always vacationed in a cabin 'up North,' I didn't know about the actual places we sang about till years later. And not until last October, in fact, did I put my feet in the gulf stream waters when my husband and I spent a few days in Galveston. We walked the coarse sand beach, letting those waters lap our legs as we collected shells. We dove into bowls of spicy shrimp in an open restaurant perched on a pier extending into the gulf. We admired homes that had withstood the hurricane of 1900 —  and in years since obviously had been cherished and lovingly, even lavishly, restored. We worried about the ramshackle cottages, just blocks away, and the people who lived in them. We marveled at the stunning view of the gulf from the window of our hotel.

And today we read in the Chicago Tribune about the evaculation of the 60,000 people for whom this narrow strip of earth on the gulf stream waters is simply their land. Will it be there after Rita comes to town?

We're receving reports many times each day about the homes — from South Carolina to Minnesota — being opened to Katrina evacuees by Lutheran congregations and agencies. About ELCA members going to the towns along the gulf stream waters to help, bringing their chainsaws.

We who don't live on this land so battered right now can't know the fear and sorrow of those who do. But we can remind them, and ourselves, that this land is, indeed, all our land to care for as its people suffer. And that so many others places, from California to the New York island, are, in fact, 'this land...made for you and me' that is our home where all are welcome.

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Embracing diversity