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Now is the time to give of yourself

Like everyone else, I've been closely monitoring the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and have watched with utter disbelief at the misery the storm has inflicted on those in Louisiana and Mississippi.

While the death toll has yet to be told, the impact of this monster storm will be felt for a decade, if not a generation. With impact events such as this, the best, and sadly, the worst of human nature emerge. With help slow to filter in to places such as New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport, I can understand if people turn to looting to get the basic necessities of life to feed and clothe their family and themselves. If it came to that, I would do the same. But the image of thugs and thieves roaming the streets robbing and looting for the sake of stealing is unconscionable.

One televised report Wednesday told of looters entering people's homes and stepping over dead bodies to loot the departed occupants of their belongings; even stooping so low as to steal from children's piggy banks. I'm convinced there's a special kind of Hell for people like that, and my hope is they'll find their way there soon.

Amongst the pain and suffering, there are stories of bravery and faith. There are stories of people sacrificing to save others, giving of themselves to help those less fortunate.

I found one of those people yesterday at a local service station. I noticed her Mississippi car tag and asked where she was from.

"Gulfport," she answered. She didn't have to say anything else. After last year's emotional rollercoaster with Hurricane Ivan, I understood a tiny bit of what she was feeling.

A look of despair and sadness crossed her face as she told me that while many had lost everything they owned, she was one of the lucky ones, only losing a few shingles off her home.

Her eyes brightened a bit as she raised the hatch on her SUV, its cargo area stuffed with gas cans, coolers, cups and other basic necessities. She explained that she was on a "mercy mission" to take items back to Gulfport to help those less fortunate. To help her neighbors. To help her friends.

What was her only wish? To find a place to take a shower. How small and insignificant I felt as I finished fueling my truck, but I was comforted by the fact that there are many, many people such as she who would embark on such a mission to help those in need.

I urge you to do the same, to find a way to help your neighbors and friends. While they may not live in Butler County or even Alabama, our kin are suffering and we need to help them. It's the right thing to do and deep in your soul, you know you must.

Whether it's a dollar, a dime or a prayer, please do something to alleviate the pain and suffering of those who need it most in this time of need.

In today's issue of the Advocate, you'll find information that will direct you to sources where you can provide help to those in need. Please use it. Please help.

Dennis Palmer is publisher of The Greenville Advocate. He can be reached at 382-7104, ext. 125, or by email: dennis.palmer@greenvilleadvocate.com.