Ever since volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in middle school, I wanted to “help build it” as their fancy t-shirts advertise. During my junior year I finally had the opportunity to do what I had waited years to accomplish. In a group of 10 girls and 2 teachers I traveled to New Orleans to work with Habitat for Humanity. While our work seemed menial and insignificant in the long run at the time, I know now what an impact it had on its community.
Before we had even exited the plane a woman thanked us for coming, and the “thank you”’s did not stop there. Everywhere we went, everyone thanked us for coming and for serving their community, even if at the time we were just buying an ice cream or walking down Bourbon street. Everyone was thankful for our care because even though their city was hit 6 year before our visit, there was still a lot of work to be done and healing to occur.
By the time we began to do the service we were being so profusely thanked for I was afraid. Even though I worked with Habitat before, I had never done construction. Fortunately for me, the only difficulty surrounding our work was hitting the nail and not my fingers. My thumbs were sore, blisters were beginning to form, and all of us constantly had to stretch out our hands because of the extended time gripping the heavy hammers.
At the end of every day, two of us lead a reflection activity. For ours, Prianca (2013) and I asked everyone to create friendship bracelets. This would be an experience that we would all share for a long time, and it would only function well if we worked together and allowed each other to become braided into our lives, like the colored strings of our bracelets.
Throughout my time in New Orleans, people were thanking me for coming. The way they were so grateful was so normal for them, they said “thank you” the way I would say “hello”, but at the same time it was genuine. However I never got the chance to thank them. They gave me a space and opportunity to help and grow, to help those in need but are not needy. Their genuine gratitude only impelled me to want to return and continue my service.