What a day! You know you've done something right when you're both physically and mentally exhausted by 9:30 at night. Never have I felt so elderly.....
Today was a beautiful day, in every way. We woke up and got ready, then had a sleepy breakfast. The apartment we're living in is very small and we're on top each other all the time, but I am so grateful for this group and their patience, flexibility, and understanding. We make it work in close quarters without any issues, and that's impressive.
After breakfast, we got assigned to our site. We worked at Miss Jeanette's house, just a few blocks from United Saints. Miss Jeanette is beyond inspiring. She bought a historic home in Central City in the 80's when everything was being destroyed and rebuilt, and she's been renovating it. She is so involved in her community and devoted to improving the conditions for the people in her city who have the most need. For example, she is working to turn lots that were left vacant and cleared in the Lower Ninth Ward after Katrina into garden space for members of the community. She has a method of teaching people to garden that makes it so they know how to grow their own fruits and veggies after just six months. It feels good to give to someone who is so committed to giving herself. When the tornados hit right after Katrina, Miss Jeanette saw a lot of the work she had put into her house set back, so we're working to renovate it.
I spent the whole day working on the back wall. This house is massive, so I spent most of my hours up a fifty foot ladder, painting with the original peach color. I love being up high, so when our site leader Twiggy asked for "fearless daredevils to go up the giant ladders," I was all over it (although I don't typically consider myself a daredevil...Maybe I should!) Once you get used to the way the ladder sways when the wind blows, it's actually very peaceful up in the air. I definitely got into what Twiggy refers to as the "painting zen." Nur, Anthony, and I were the dream team on the back wall, and we primed and painted almost the entire thing! It was day spent in warm, sunny weather, jamming to the radio, getting to know my group, and getting absolutely covered in paint.
During lunch, I stopped inside to use the bathroom and ended up talking to Miss Jeanette for a good while, one-on-one. She showed me a flyer she was working on for her project, and in our conversation, she told me "I don't want to help people. I want to be a part of people learning to help themselves." I think that is a beautiful way of approaching service and community work, and talking with her was an invaluable experience for me.
After cleaning up the site, we cleaned up ourselves (I definitely had to scrub for quite a while to get the paint off), and went to dinner. Yay Taco Tuesday! Then we did a great reflection where people presented on an object they had brought that is meaningful and representative of themselves. After that we had free time. A group of us went to explore the French Quarter some more. We wandered aimlessly down the gas lamp-lit streets, stopping into candy stores and voodoo shops and watching musicians play on the corners (some of us even danced in the street to their songs). The trolley's are always fun, and just in general, our group gets along very well.
I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to learn from the people in New Orleans, and to be a part of their ongoing efforts. I have a great team by my side-- people who make me laugh, challenge me to think harder, engage me in passionate conversations, and are willing to be open. Twiggy said at the end that he forgot how much Hamline gets done when they come down. He was genuinely very proud of our work, and impressed at our ability to work as a team. It makes it all so much better when you have a group as awesome as this.
The trip so far has been great! Thanks for checking in with our endeavors!