When I was a small child my parents told me that you could make the best out of any situation and whenever something went wrong I was always told to do just that. I took their word for it, but did not come to truly understand the meaning of what they said until I was sixteen years old, in the summer of 2006, eight months after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. I went on a mission trip down to Mississippi with a church group to help rebuild the houses of some of its victims.
As our van neared the beachfront, the landscape was barren. There were piles of rubble and broken trees strewn about. Concrete steps that led to nothing stood in the place of where there used to be a house. There seemed to be no sign of life and it was only when we went several miles inland that we saw the hundreds of FEMA trailers huddled together in a makeshift community. The following days we spent working on the houses, demolishing the moldy sections, putting up drywall and other structures, as well as restoring the electrical and plumbing systems.
Later in the week we put together a dinner during which I was finally able to speak with the community’s residents, hear their stories, and learn about what had happened to them. I was very nervous since I had expected all the people to be bitter and resentful, as could be expected of someone living in such horrid conditions. Instead, they were almost the opposite. They spoke to me naturally, without any pretense. The people wanted someone to talk to who would listen to and show interest in their stories. They were grateful for the help they received and were optimistic about their futures. Clearly, they were not completely happy, considering the position they were in, yet they had a welcoming aura about them. They looked beyond the past and forward to the time when things would become normal again.
The situation amazed me, as all the people, some of whom had gone from living in mansions to living in the FEMA trailers with one bed per family, were able to be optimistic. They had lost everything they owned and some even lost loved ones, but they were still moving on and making the best out of what they had. The people used every resource given to them to its fullest potential and the children created toys out of rocks and scraps of rubble. They utilized everything and took nothing for granted. It was on this night that I truly came to believe that we can always make the best out of any situation.
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