My visit to New Orleans has been an experience unlike any other for me. I received my invitation to the service trip much later than that of the original 11 other students and it came as a very unsuspecting surprise. I did not have a lot of time to really process what I was about to endeavor on in my time in New Orleans and when I saw the names of the other students on this trip I became hesitant. I did not know one individual (personally, that is), and some of the names I couldn’t even put a face to. However, now that I’m back, I can honestly say that I’ve formed bonds with these 11 students in one week that are similar to the bonds I’ve made with some of my friends of four years at La Salle. Each person was unique in his or her own way and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much as I did in those 7 days. Our smiling was contagious, and we were always enthusiastic about the day ahead of us (never heard one complaint!) This group truly brought out the best in me, and I cannot thank them enough for their kindness and encouragement throughout my time in Nola. I would not have wanted to be on this trip with anyone else.
I did not know what to anticipate for this trip whatsoever. Due to my late addition to the team I missed many of the meetings, leaving me basically clueless on what our duty in Nola was and how our days would pan out. I had never worked in construction before and had very little knowledge in the matter, so I initially walked on the site with a lack of self-assurance. Within one day of working though my apprehensions melted away. Our site manager was both personable and encouraging, showing wholehearted patience even after our third time of failing to put up the siding correctly. We eventually became more at ease with our work, and despite the scorching heat and frustrations that inevitably followed our amateur mistakes, we all still gave our 100%. This was a beautiful thing to see. On our last day on Thursday, we all expressed how sad we were to leave the project, determined to finish our partially-done tasks and blow off our free-day Friday to come back to work. Working on the site taught me the value of patience and gave me a new sense of sympathy – truly making sacrifices to help those in need.
After my return from Nola I felt renewed both culturally and spiritually. The city of New Orleans was incredibly refreshing – dissimilar to Rhode Island, every person who we encountered was friendly and waved to us for no particular reason at all. Almost like they were happy to see us and welcome us into their community. Even after the devastating disaster of Katrina and the prolonged process of rebuilding 10 years later, there was still an unwavering sense of optimism and unity. As far as my spiritual renewal, I never really was a very faithful person. I never contemplated the presence of God in my life and I never posed the questions that we were posed with every day in reflection. This changed during my experience on the work site. I saw God in all of my site members: I saw their passion, their patience, their determination, their selflessness, their compassion, and their kindness. This trip cultivated a love of service in me, and along with many local opportunities for service, I’m hoping to some day endeavor on a similar trip back to New Orleans. Even though we contributed what seemed to be so little in the grand scheme of the construction of the home, we were reminded that our “drop in the bucket” was still important. I was proud to take the time out of my life to help create a new one for someone else. I strongly advise everyone to apply for a mission trip because this was undoubtedly one of the most amazing experiences of my life.