19 December 2005

Day One In Biloxi

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.


Aliza "La Jewminicana" Hausman said...

I am so glad you're down there helping out. Certainly, my hands would be useless there so I am there in spirit thanks to you. Still, to address your point about gentiles, I do not think this is something that you should beat yourself over. In fact, it's interesting to note that as I learn more about Judaism, I feel less connected to gentiles for many reasons. There is a big part of me they cannot relate to at all, that's a big deal. Also, most of the gentiles I know lead very different lifestyles but still, this can be said for some of the Jews I know, too.

People feel more comfortable, in general, with people they can connect to or feel they can relate to for whatever reason. There are rare times when I feel connected to someone because I'm Dominican, then I will feel connected to someone because I'm (almost) Jewish, then there are times when it is as simple as having curly hair or sharing a love of Barnes and Nobles. I think as long as you acknowledge that you know what makes you comfortable but perhaps are inclined to try to bridge the gap to try something that might make you uncomfortable, you are doing just fine.

Hinda said...

Wow. That's all I can say.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

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.

How long are yall going to be there?
I have a winter break coming up...

Drew Kaplan said...

We will be down in Biloxi through tomorrow morning before we move on to New Orleans until Sunday, when we return to New York.

Anonymous said...

Jewminican and Steg (and everyone else)-
Please come down here (I'm in New Orleans), and yes, your hands would be useful here. This past week with Chabad on Campus we have been split up into several groups and have accomplished a variety of things - the most touching: clearing out all of the sforim (and mezuzot and finding an unfound Torah!!) from a shul that was destroyed and then burying them yesterday (got nat'l AP coverage, I'll post the link here later). Some people are breaking down houses like Drew did, while others are helping pack up stuff in (former) public schools so they can open up in January as charter schools. There's so much to do to help, and the smallest amount of time goes so far! Jewminican, know that you're free to crash at my place, and Steg, Chabad is doing another break the first week in January: http://www.chabad.edu/templates/articlecco.html?AID=313474 ~ everything (room and board) taken care of, you just need to figure out transportation. It is mostly college students, and I don't know where you are in life, but either way it's a great opportunity to help out!
P.S. - I'll take anyone who comes and visits down to Bourbon St. ;)