Today, I went with a group to clean up a park. Although it was mainly stated yesterday that there was a big tree that needed to be removed, upon arrival, it was apparent that we were supposed to clean up the entire park(!). Well, okay, maybe it wasn't that clear, but that's what we did. I wouldn't have believed it would have looked the way it did by the time we left had you asked me when we got there, but it sure did look cleaned-up. Later on, when we were driving along the highway, the park stuck out as a "sore thumb" in an area that was messy, to put it nicely, as it was clean (yay).
After returning around 2:30, I grabbed some of the lunch I had prepared for myself (I had had a banana after davening shaharis, and a granola bar around 10:30, yet was only kind of hungry for lunch), then was about to wonder what to do when I saw Max, who was about to go drop off some clothes and toys, so I went with him. While there, we saw a fellow Hands On USA volunteer, who was happy to see us as she needed a ride back to HQ. Also, while waiting before unloading, a fellow with quite some accent shared with me a little derash (perhaps he heard it from his preacher(?)) on Pss. 23.4 that in order for there to be shade, there needs to be a light - a light from the above. I thought that was interesting, though I'm not quite sure of the metaphore, though I'm assuming the light to be God. Anyways, while there, I realized the awesomeness of the situation and recognized the need to thank God for not needing to be in such a situation. But more than that, I felt very humbled by people coming there to get basic necessities like food and clothing, even other things, having near to nothing - I don't quite have the words to put to the sense (not emotion, not thought, certainly nothing intellectual) that I realized - but it was impressive on me of the human situation.
Anyways, after that, we took a little detour to the end of the island where the bridge was downed (you'll know which picture this is), and saw more of the damage that Katrina/God wrought to the area. It's amazing how much damage there has been to the area - and that's just what I've seen. There are some scenes I've heard described to me that are quite amazing. It is at this point in my post I want to make a statement: COME DOWN HERE, SEE THE AWESOME DAMAGE THAT HAS BEEN DONE, AND VOLUNTEER TO HELP OUT. You won't regret it. I'm very glad we're taking this opportunity and really, really glad that we've been given it (thanks to Michael Schultz for the idea, thanks Rabbi Linzer for allowing us to go down, thanks YCT for whatever, and muchas gracias a Dios!).
One last thing for this posting is that last night when Michael was asking if we might be uncomfortable with this or that, I thought for a moment (okay, a few moments) about bringing up a slight uncomfortability I have - though it was neither the time nor the place. And that slight uncomfortability is something that I will be trying to deal with over the next few years and will be transformed after I graduate. And that is my social intercourse with gentiles. Although this was an issue I danced around, but didn't quite spell out in an earlier post, it was in the background of the posting. Yes, I grew up going to public school; yes, I went to IU for four semesters; etc., but I still find it not as comfortable as I do around all Jews. However, this isn't so weird, apparently, as there was a girl in the class I took at Columbia this past summer who had said that she feels more comfortable around people when straight people aren't around. Same, too, for me, though you exchange "straight people" for "gentiles" and you get my comfortability - people are more comfortable around people who are not dissimilar to them. This is an issue that will remain with me, though is not that massively huge.
(Oh, and also, there's a blog, too, for Hands On USA, not just their website.) Also, for more pictures from our trip, I have set up a Yahoo!Photos page to view.