Every once in a while we all need a shot of inspiration. So, last year in January, I accepted an offer from a dear friend to spend a week in Biloxi, MS helping to rebuild homes destroyed by Katrina. I've never been to the Gulf Region prior to that, but I quickly gained a deep affection and respect for the people of the area. Their positive spirit was so refreshing-even though quite literally every possession they had was destroyed, they still truly rejoiced in life. But looking at vacant landscape and clearly seeing where each home was before the storm is sobering. Most of the debris was gone when we arrived, but the empty foundations were eerie.
I went down to Biloxi to do some true volunteer work-to clear the cobwebs from the brain, and to do something that had nothing to do with life back home. I was expecting hard work and blisters (I don't ever swing a hammer any more unless the wife makes me), but there was also fun, great food, seeing New Orleans for the first time, and I got to pitch in with a bunch of strangers with fabulous attitudes. I thought it would be somewhat of a depressing experience, but instead it was amazingly spirit-lifting. My wife noticed the bounce in my step and a changed perspective when I got home.
As soon as I returned home I knew I was going to have to go back. There are still so many houses that need to be rebuilt and the debate of whether they should rebuild will go on forever. The sponsor group Project Rehab, under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity, knew what they were doing, and the whole effort was very well organized. I got to work with some terrific Americorps kids as well. In April of 2008 I was able to organize a group of 6 to go back down for another work vacation. Two strangers, a client, my attorney, my wife and myself made the trek down and had the good fortune to work with a Vietnam Vet whose home was almost completely destroyed. He managed, with the help of other Project Rehab volunteers, to get the home rebuilt and our team finished off the trim work, installed the kitchen cabinets and hung all the doors. Again, it was a very satisfying week and for those that have not participated in a work vacation I would strongly urge you to do it as it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.