I’ve wanted to see New Orleans since I was a child. I would watch films with a setting in NOLA, and get a sense that this was an exquisitely unique and joyful city. My family and I felt disheartened when we learned of the devastation ravaged by the storm of Katrina. How does a person survive body and soul through an event that rips apart their home and the support systems around them?
Years later, through Duquesne University’s Cross Cultural Mission trip to New Orleans, I was given an opportunity to help one courageous woman, Miss Vera, literally and figuratively rebuild her life. Due to the logistics of the university’s spring break lining up Mardi Gras week in NOLA, our mission team was only able to put in three full work days at her home. Many of us wished that we could have been able to give more of our time and efforts to see her home to completion. That particular work week, of which we were assigned to, was responsible for the finishing touches of drywall application and the mudding of gaps between drywall boards. Even though our steps were necessary to the completion of her home, it was difficult to see how our small actions would add into the bigger picture of the successful restoration of her new life in the neighborhood. Yet on the last day of our assignment, a visit from Miss Vera, helped our team to see how we were able to contribute to the quality of our homeowner’s life. Miss Vera has not only been subjected to loss of home, but also to loss of loved ones taken too soon. The courage required to survive tragedies of such weight, is impossible to measure. Yet Vera holds up her crosses to a height that is impossible not to look up to.
When I met Vera, there were many smiles and hugs exchanged. I felt a sense of stability, peace, and hope in her embrace. I think a small part of this strength, has come from seeing the gradual progress of her new home. Even though our group was only able to see and give a small contribution to her home’s rebuilding journey, Vera seems to have confidence that her new home will be completed well and with love. It was comforting to me to know that she had some comfort in her life.
I’ve wanted to see New Orleans since I was a child, because I felt a sense of their unique joy, but I did not expect to encounter a city of unconventional hope. There is nothing that can compare to the overwhelming feeling of worth that is experienced when you look into the face another person and see that you were able to make a difference in their life. I almost feel selfish that I can admit that I may have gotten something more of this mission than Vera did! Yet without exaggeration, I have confidence in saying that experiencing the joy of giving is something that cannot be simulated or bought. There is no stronger feeling of hope than knowing that you may have given another hope. Faithlynn