Flood of Hope

16 May

I got back very early this morning from our service weekend in Nashville for National AmeriCorps Week, and have spent the day being lazy and recovering. I’m surprisingly not sore from all the work we did – it was pretty intense! I’m glad I was somewhat decently in shape for it.

It was quite a long weekend! We left really early on Friday morning, so I didn’t go in to the Museum at all today. It took forever for us to get down there – 15 passenger vans plus people showing up a little late doesn’t really make for good time! Not only that, but we kind of had to wait on everyone so we could go in a caravan down there. At one point, one of the people driving their own car had some transmission trouble, so we had to rearrange people and luggage so we could fit everyone in fewer cars. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it did cost us quite a bit of time. Not to mention that people drive so fast on the interstate, and getting those vans back up to speed on a slight incline wasn’t the happiest moment of my life! I’m just so glad that I wasn’t driving! After such an adventurous and time-consuming trip to Nashville, we finally made it. There wasn’t much going on that night, just some welcoming meetings, dinner, and discussion about what we would be doing the next day. We split up into service sites and played some ice breaker games – definitely something I’m used to!

One of the best things about this weekend was getting to spend some time with Akinya. It wasn’t very much, but it was really nice to see her again. I’m so glad we’ve kept in touch in the last year since Governor’s School. It could have turned into one of those things where you get to be good friends with someone for a short while, and then don’t really keep in touch, and certainly never see each other! But I really like her, and I think we’ll be friends for a long time. She drove to downtown and met me at our hotel. We were there for a bit waiting on some other people from my group to leave and go out (which took a while – you know how it is anytime you travel with a big group!). We finally made it to downtown, but we didn’t really have a plan for what we wanted to do. It’s really touristy down there, and that’s not really where she likes to hang out. We finally decided to go to Flying Saucer, which is this bar downtown where they have 200 beers on tap. It’s pretty awesome inside – plates all over the walls and the ceiling! They even have the UFO Club, which you can join and sample all the beers they have. If you complete that mission, you get your name on a plate on the wall. I’d love to be immortalized like that. There were a couple other AmeriCorps people there with us, so we just hung out and had some drinks and chatted for a while. It felt a little awkward, because we’re good friends, and the rest of the group didn’t really know me or each other, but it was still nice. Definitely a good bonding time.

Saturday morning we got up super early. Kelly, our leader, wanted to leave the hotel about an hour before everyone else did, so we would all have enough time to pack up, eat breakfast, get our cars, and get checked out before everyone else staying there did. Most of the AmeriCorps volunteers for the weekend were all at the same hotel, so it was a good idea to avoid all that chaos! We left the hotel and drove back to the Martha O’Bryan Center, which was acting as our headquarters for the day. There was quite a bit of waiting around before we all got loaded up on buses and started our service for the day. And once we got off those buses, there was more waiting around as we all had to go into this church and sign waivers and wait for instructions about what we were expected to do. Everyone had to go through this briefing session, which basically meant they took us into a room in groups and talked about what we would be doing, where we would be going, etc. It was kind of semi-organized chaos. Lots of waiting, not much doing, though. At least not enough for me.

When we finally left for our service, we went up to north Nashville where some of the worst flooding occurred. There wasn’t any water left where we were, but the ground was kind of sloshy and you could definitely tell there had been water around everywhere. There was debris in fences and caught around houses and trees. We turned down this one street, and almost every single house had piles of garbage out in front of it. My group, of about 10 of us, all went to this one house to work on gutting it and getting all the moldy drywall and insulation out. It was a sad sight – mud and debris everywhere, everything completely ruined. There was a water line at least three feet up on the walls, and even back to the studs. Not for nothing do they say water is the most destructable force on earth. We ripped out drywall and insulation, tore out kitchen cabinets, swept up tons of dust and dirt and wood, and worked on ripping out the floorboards. It was heavy, dirty work. At one point I found myself carrying out a kitchen counter and some cabinets. Almost nothing is salvageable, because there’s so much black mold growing on everything. I was glad we were there and could help a little, but there’s still so much work to be done. It just didn’t seem like we were doing enough. I definitely wish we’d had more time there.

The lady whose house we were in was sitting out in her backyard, with tables full of supplies that have no doubt been donated to her. It’s probably the extent of her possessions. She said that she and her neighbors were all up on top of their roofs when the flooding hit, because it was just so much water so fast. They didn’t have time to do anything. It’s really sad to see what’s going on there, but the good thing is that the city is really working together to get everything back on track. There is lots to be done – houses to fix, necessities to replace – and it will take months and millions of dollars. But it’s great to see what a small group of hardworking, dedicated people can do in just a short amount of time. The love that was coming out of that area, and the willingness to help, really was impressive to witness. It made me really proud to be part of an organization that will respond willingly when called to action. It’s so important to help out those around you who really need the support. Anything you can do – whether it’s monetary donations, prayers, manual labor, whatever – is appreciated. Because you care enough to help your fellow man, you can really do some amazing things. That sense of accomplishment you get when you know you’ve done something truly worthwhile – there’s nothing else like it in the world.

It was both a long and a short weekend. Lots of travel and time in the car, not enough work time. I wish we’d been there for several days, because we really could have gotten a lot done. But our little impact really helped, in the best way we could at the time. I hope we don’t forget about Nashville, and we can help to get these people back on their feet!

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