This I Believe

Dana - Dallas, Texas
Entered on May 17, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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This I Believe: Lending a Helping Hand

As wise man Albert Einstein once said, “only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” This quote emphasizes my belief in lending out a helping hand. I have always been a big fan of doing community service, but had never been as affected by helping others as I was this past August.

I woke up in an unfamiliar room, bright and unfurnished, with the exception of four un-sturdy cots. As I sat up to examine what surrounded me, I realized this room, with a ceiling made of wood-panels, windows made only of screens, and a bed-sheet for a door, was much different from my cozy and immensely decorated bedroom back home. I walked through the easy-access door to find that the rest of the house also followed this structure, had no electricity, and only one working toilet for twenty people. I felt a little deprived at this moment, but I had yet to discover the extent of my luck.

My church youth group and I had arrived in the suffering town of St. Bernard Parish (part of New Orleans), Louisiana at about 3:30 a.m. that morning. We had gotten lost on our way to the house, for the majority of the street signs had been ruined in the infamous Hurricane Katrina. We had come to New Orleans on a mission trip to “gut” a few houses so that they could be rebuilt, and to try to help the unfortunate victims of the hurricane as much as we possibly could.

“Gutting” the houses was very difficult for me to do mentally. With every wall I violently hammered down, memories and lives came down with it. I was destroying a home which had obviously been full of life in the past. There were times where I would walk through a room full of debris, and randomly come across a treasured personal item, such as a beat up teddy bear or a dusty family photo album, full of beautiful photographs left buried in rubble. This made me realize that I wasn’t just doing community service. What I was doing was more meaningful than just tearing down drywall; I was giving families hope that they could rebuild their lives, just like their homes.

This trip caused me to grow tremendously as a person, and made me feel so fortunate to be living the life I live; I have great friends, a loving family, a school, a church, and I live in a wonderful community. I never realized how fortunate I was until I saw how life was for people who don’t have those same luxuries. I now try to reach out to others in need as much as I possibly can, for I know a helping hand can do more than just fix one problem, it can change someone’s life.