Mary - Altoona, Iowa
Entered on September 17, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: change, place
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I never pictured myself as a roofer, drywall installer, or house gutter; however, when my church youth group took a missions trip to New Orleans I found myself filling those roles. At first I felt uneasy because I didn’t think the people of New Orleans needed my personal help; however, a snowy spring in Iowa didn’t beat the idea of a Spring Break in the sun.

I went to New Orleans with the mindset that the fault laid on the citizens and that damage was minimal. What I saw was opposite of expected: entire neighborhoods flattened, houses on top of cars, and numerous streets filled with white FEMA trailers. At first I felt overwhelmed, but soon found my nominal skills could be of great importance.

Meeting someone for a week and then never seeing them again can change a person’s life. I met Leonard.A married man in his 60’s, our group was assigned to fix his house and, needless to say, Leonard was at first very unappreciative. I suspect Leonard acted this way because the oldest person in our group was 25 and we didn’t look very experienced; nevertheless, when I found out I would be working at Leonard’s on the last day I was disappointed. Roofing had never been my forte and doing it for someone who’s unappreciative doesn’t make the experience any better. After working half the day in the hot Louisiana sun, I was completely at a loss for words when Leonard came up the ladder and set a portable radio on the roof. Listening to some classic Fats Domino definitely lightened my mood. This was an unexpected, greatly celebrated random act of kindness that instantly changed our relationship with Leonard. As we left his house with jars of homemade blueberry jam, and a plethora of old Mardis Gras beads I had a new understanding of how quickly people can change.

I now understand the people of New Orleans were simply the victims of a natural disaster out of their control. Leonard was proof that people can change just as quickly as the city of New Orleans changed after the hurricane. Watching your city be destroyed must be like watching your friends change, sometimes it takes a long time to rebuild and the process is never fast and painless. After watching how much a city can change in one day and a man in a week, I now believe change may be scary at the time but it’s always for the better. Leonard showed me it’s impossible to hold a grudge against someone forever, and the city of New Orleans taught me no matter how painful it is to watch something one love’s change; the new relationships and experiences brought forth from it are definitely worth the pain.