No two days are exactly the same. Flexibility is the name of the game, and one of the hardest things to do. Seems that I have the ERV that keeps breaking down or has flat tires, and I'm constantly switching all my food and gear to a new ERV every couple of days. It's hard work to switch it all out, and frustrating, but I have to laugh. Never my fault, just bad luck.
3 months, and I still cry some days. I came down the road the other day, and one of the stops on my route was blocked off. They were tearing down the family's house. I sat and cried. I know their story, and how much that house meant to them, and the finality of tearing it down had to bring back all the pain and heartbreak for them. It's hard to look at a house laying in ruin, but the physical sight and sound of it coming down is hard to deal with also. The next day, I got down the street to see them, and we shared more tears. They are such a positive family, but it was such a sad day. As I looked into their eyes, I know they understand that I do more than deliver a hot meal. I truly care for them, their lives, and their pain. I have spent 6 weeks, every day, watching them battle the remnants of this storm, and I know they will win this battle with time.
Laughing is so important. And we do a lot of it. I'm a free spirit, and I like to have fun. My clients figured this out the first time we were down and would sing our announcements to them on the loudspeaker as we rolled down the road. Now I find out that most of our ERV friends sing to their clients too. It makes people laugh, it keeps them happy, and it is a great topic of conversation in the neighborhood.
Speaking of conversation. If there is one thing that comes out of this, it will be how close it has brought entire communities. I found out firsthand how fast news travels. I told one client that my last day would be Friday. By the next day, several people had heard the news and were already starting to say their goodbyes to me. They hear our horn, and come out for hot food, and while they are out there, they are greeting their neighbors, sharing news and information. People are helping people. It's a beautiful thing to see, and one thing that I hope lasts long after the rebuilding is done.
I had a mother come out to the truck and tell me a great story. She has 2 boys, about 3 and 4 years old. She said that she was watching them play and overheard their conversation. One said to the other "Lets play Red Cross today, I will drive by and you stand there and wave me down and say Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!"
I thought that was the funniest thing I had heard, and I will be very interested to see what the impact of Katrina is going to have on future generations. Will this generation of children be more compassionate? Will they realize the fragile state of life? Will they be less materialistic? It will be interesting to see.. I know for sure the Red Cross has made an impression on both young and old alike.
Today was my final day on my route. Since most of my clients are back on their feet, or have the tools to be back on their feet, it was time to close the route and use those resources in areas that are still in dire need. We went to see Waveland the other day. It is still untouched. Total devastation. Entire town wiped out. It was so utterly eerie.
People keep asking me how I can spend 9 weeks of my life down here volunteering. I couldn't do it without the family and friends I have. I have a wonderful husband who is holding down the fort and taking care of my house and pets. I have great co-workers who are covering my shifts. I urge people to take a risk. Give up a few weeks and come down and help out. Volunteers are so badly needed. The work is not done yet, in some areas it hasn't even begun yet. Just because it isn't in the news doesn't mean it is all cleared up. It isn't. Not even close. Can I afford to do this? Heck no. But when I go home, I'll have a home to go to. My bills will still be there, and I probably won't have much of a Christmas, but I'm taking home a sense of satisfaction that I did something to try to help. I didn't sit by idly watching. I can work, I have a job, house, pets and family. That is more than thousands of people in Miss. can say. I am truely blessed!
My clients knew it was my last day, and they were ready. I received gifts, letters, pictures, and well wishes. I shared more hugs than ever, and quite a few tears. I gave them a hot meal, conversation, and a shoulder to cry on, or someone to vent to. I am honored to have been able to be a part of their lives at this most vulnerable time. The lessons I have learned, the strength I have seen, will be with me for a lifetime.