Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Impossible is NOTHING!

This spring break wasn't the first time I was in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina and the flood. I was in the city a year ago and got to see closely the damage in the city and the need to help those affected. And since I had been there before, I thought I'd be prepared to face the experience, but my life was changed in ways I couldn't have imagined.

It's been hard putting into words what a couple of days of gutting houses did to me. I just know I'm not the same. And how could not be changed after connecting with the people that lived in the houses we gutted just by looking at their house and helping them a little to get their lives back together, to get themselves back home.

I came back from New Orleans full of hope and love for those who are dispersed around the country working for the moment when they are able to go back to their city and feel at home again. I felt honored to be part of the team that will make their homecoming a little easier. I can't imagined their hearts if they were to have to start from nothing, from getting their damaged belongings out of the house. They've already gone through too much, and it's up to those of us who can, to help them.

The experience let me connect on a personal level with the homeowners, even when we didn't even meet any of them. Their stories were being told by the posters they had in a room door, the suitcase with colorful dresses found on a bed, the pictures framed, and the little details that made the lives of those who lived there. Those things that were ripped out of their lives by the tragedy 18 months ago.

When helping out with gutting houses one is able to trace life stories, and that's what happened to me. I was trying to picture the people who lived in one of the houses we gutted. Each object found gave me a clue of the life behind it, and I found parallels to my life. In that house I found drawings and paintings of the homeowners. And I paint, and that touched me. Those paintings could have been painted by me, with my brushes, with my paints. And that's the moment in which the experience went from doing volunteer work to becoming something more human I can't explain. At that moment I knew that helping that family was a privilege I was given.

I only witnessed pieces of lives, and I listened to pieces of stories. But they will go with me wherever I go. And I'll tell them to others, because the losses of cause by Katrina and the flood are our losses. And if everyone realized this the recovery could be so much quicker.

We had the chance to listen to people who are back in New Orleans working hard to getting their lives back together, experiencing so many obstacles. One of the neighbors at one of the houses took the time to come and share with our group his experienced. "I have a sister" he began, and went on to telling us how his life has completely changed after the flood. He lost family members during the hurricane, and still now Katrina is costing lives of his family members that are dealing with the losses, with the struggle to get back home. Sitting by the pile of debris he shared part of his life with us and gave us hope.

I admire the work Katrina Corps has taken over. And I am so honored to be part of this effort. Much more help is needed, but I am hopeful. There are people that still need to cry their loss. A lady living next door to a house we gutted said, looking at the pile of debris, that she hadn't cry the tragedy yet, that she still could not believe that so many people's lives and homes had been destroyed so easily. As humans, we need to be there for her.

We tried to save some of the photos and the paintings found in good condition, and I know when they find those paintings waiting for them at their house they will know there's hope. Katrina Corps is doing a wonderful thing for the people of New Orleans. Helping them save their houses and their spirit.

Needless to say, the team of volunteers bonded and more than a team became a family. I'm amazed at the courage and heart of the people I met during my week in New Orleans. Each of them is special and a great example of commitment to service. Thank you for leaving that example in my life, I will always remember.

New Orleans 2007 Flickr photo set

1 comment:

Coco said...

helping others gives oneself a "purpose" in life...
in helping others, you are doing God's work...
in helping oters, you are helping yourself...


i finally heard j mayers...
and yes, you were correct,
i did enjoy his music : )