Before I begin to blog about my day, I want to make a little report on what I have seen. While there are houses that are completely destroyed, and some that are semi-destroyed, there is damage abound. Many businesses were hit hard. However, the buildings which are being rebuilt are the casinos and hotels - seemingly, perhaps, because they have enough money to do so. Houses and smaller businesses, however, are not there yet. Ok, now to me.
Last night, we made some pasta - think macaroni and cheese with some spaghetti, as well - kind of weird, but whatever - as a group dinner. See, we decided that we would do other meals of the day each guy for himself, but dinner together. After dinner, was the HandsOnUSA meeting, then we had a reflection group after the meeting. That was last night.
Today, I went out to do work with a demolition of interiors team. I had coined this activity yesterday as a little boy's dream. Having taken part in this activity, I can say that I was right(:)). We ended up taking apart most of the insides of two houses (one smaller and one bigger) - i.e., we removed the wallpapering, the drywall, the insulation in the first, a lot of walls, windows in the second, random nails, cabinets, cupboards, etc. Pretty much everything, leaving just the skeleton of these houses. I want to state officially now that I enjoyed my day today - doing that physical labor just spoke to me - it was kind of spiritual, actually. Hmm, come to think of it, I would say that physical labor is a spiritual endeavor for me, whereas learning in the beis midrash is not, practically devoid of such a thing (more in this post on this topic later, though I posted three months ago about my relationship to, and understanding of spirituality in an earlier posting, though I think this experience furthered my personal experience).
Anyways, although handling a sledgehammer was great, the part I enjoyed most was destroying drywall. In fact, I would suggest that it's now a new hobby of mine to break up dry wall - yeah, it was fun.
For lunch, we stopped at "The Point" - the end of the peninsula that's part of Biloxi and where we could see the enshambled Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge (see the picture of Meir and me). We sat on these steps right by the water where the water would calmly lap up against the sides and we were eating, while seagulls flew over the water and we looked at the bridge. While most people were talking, I took the time to enjoy my food, and was able to experience something that was going on there. I was struck by the juxtaposition of the calm water and the calmness that surrounded me with the downed bridge - this same water that was thrust so mightily against it and did a number on it, was now calmly lapping around its supports. Something kind of neat.
I had a realization as we were returning to HQ after finishing up our work for the day was that I have been experiencing or encountering or thinking of God in these few days more than I have all semester in the beis midrash. Just think how it will be by the conclusion of the week (!). However, not that that's really saying much for batei midrash (Jewish study halls) - for me, I don't experience God there - I experience Jewish learning and textual study. It's something to which I will have to get used. I experience God in the world, not in the study hall. There may be a connection there to my intellectualizing there, while out in the world of activity, it's more of an experiential - doing, that is - thing.
After having a learning session with Maurice this evening after the after-dinner meeting for Hands On USA, we will be going to sleep and waking up early to leave at 6:00 am tomorrow to reach New Orleans in the morning and start to help out there.