Saturday, I went and volunteered my time for flood relief. It was truly amazing and it was so good for the soul.
My friend and I went down to the neighborhood called Mission, and they had a great volunteer tent set up! There was a tent for first aid, a tent for food, a tent for cleaning products, and tents labeled "registration" and "job assignments". This guy would come on a microphone and say "we need __ amount of people to go with this man here to his house." then we heard "we need 30 people to go to ___ Street". we hopped up. They even had transportation for us! That morning, as they were setting up, they were called for 100 volunteers to help somewhere, and the microphone guy had ran out into the street and stopped a bus! He said about 15 minutes later they had 4 buses for the day! Isn't that just awesome?
So we pile into the bus. Looking out the window, the view changed from clean homes with no (more) damage, already cleaned up and ready for the next phase in all of this, to homes that have volunteers running in and out wearing hazmat suits and/or neon vests. THEN we turn down this street. Before we left, the microphone guy said "i'm not sure what happened over there, but today, we are being bombarded with calls form this one street". I know what happened, they JUST got to go back home! There were still water pumps, pumping out basements! There was dump trucks everywhere and lots and lots of mud. It was awful. I almost burst out crying right there on the bus. They told us to just go door to door an offer our help. So that's what we did. Plenty of homes were full of help already, so it took us a while to find anyone who still needed help.
We found a family, and never even got to learn their names or their story. We just jumped into work. We helped them clear out their yard. the lady of the house told us that earlier that day, the yard was a huge pile of personal belongings and the dump truck had just left not long ago. So what was left was a yard full of hard mud and stuff embedded into it. I found cups, and toys and pieces of paper (probably remnants of books) There was also lots of wine corks (my kind of people!!) (which made it instantly that much sadder). We dug up the yard for almost 2 hours. We even dug out their garden, which was still somewhat intact under a layer of clay. Then we went into the house to offer more help. It was stripped bare! all the way to the frames. I didn't go upstairs or downstairs, but I could tell the house was going to be almost completely gutted. So we helped keep the floors clear, so that they can dry properly (at the same time that they were ripping down walls, we were shop vac-ing after them). By the time we left, I was exhausted. I felt so bad for them, because I was leaving, to go home to my kids. In my dry clean (sort of...lol) house. And they were going to be there. For a long long time. With no walls, or toilet (we saw that being removed too) or furniture.
As we left, the lady of the house came over to thank us, and gave us a hug. She said "Thank you strangers who showed up on my lawn". It was so sad. And also uplifting. they had pretty good spirits despite what was going on around them. She had said "well, the end is in sight". And that's true. Soon, they'll be picking out new cupboards and fixtures and furniture. And maybe even getting a little excited about it. Picking out things they'd had their eyes on for a while... changing little things around the house, crossing off that dream list. Who knows.(at least that what i'm hoping for them).
Once we left, and walked around to find the bus, I saw the whole neighborhood a little bit differently. I'd always known it to be a nice, rich area, with huge homes (it was and is...) with river front properties. I'd always looked at it from afar, with this sense of jealousy and maybe even bitterness. (I'm always praying to the lotto gods). They have (had) such nice homes, and they lived in a quiet area, by the river and not far from downtown. But now, I see hard working people, trying to put their lives back together. Hard working people, who have kids, and have jobs (doesn't matter what kind of job really. A job is a job.) They don't necessarily have it better than me. (except maybe the square footage and ... storage.. and annual vacations... OK whatever they just don't ok!?). People who've put time and effort into their gardens, and into homes, and now they have to start over.
Helping out that day, was so good for the soul. It made me realize a few things about other people, and also i realized that I have it pretty darn good.
The end (haha i never know how to end these things...)