Reflection on AmeriCorps Week
I had forgotten what it was like to wake up at 6 a.m., acquire enormous amounts of dirt on my person, sweat like crazy, and go home to take a cold shower. Which is pretty much how life is in AmeriCorps NCCC.
On Thursday, I had the pleasure of working with three NCCC corps members and a group of volunteers from Vanderbilt University on a home in Violet, La. through the St. Bernard Project. Hurricane Katrina damaged every home in St. Bernard Parish, where I was stationed for my first project in NCCC two years ago. I hadn’t been back to St. Bernard since I finished NCCC, so I was amazed to see the progress the parish has made in those two years. The streets are less deserted, the FEMA trailers are largely gone, and businesses have opened back up. It’s not completely fixed, yet, but it’s getting there.
The homeowner, Darren, stopped by to thank us for the work we were doing. Darren was asleep in his bathtub during the storm when he looked down and saw his home was flooding. He was rescued by boat from his roof.
Day after day of construction can get pretty rough, but when you see someone like Darren begin to get his home back after five years, you think, “Man, that’s why I got up this morning. That’s why I’m here.“
After stapling insulation all day (thus the cold shower), I got in my car to head home. I turned down one street over from where I was working, and something about the street name sounded familiar. As I drove, I realized, I’ve worked on this street. There are about 5 or 6 Habitat for Humanity houses on that street alone, and I think I worked in every one of them. Now, though, instead of abandoned skeletons of homes and loose dogs roaming around, there are families. A kid was riding his bike. Cars were in driveways. Grass was trimmed. A whole family sat on their front steps.
It’s one of those memories that grips your throat a little to think about. It made me realize how much of that experience I’ve internalized, how much it’s become part of who I am today.
And it felt empowering to tap back into that huge network of volunteers in gray shirts, even for just one day.