Before this summer I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life. I always had some sort of an idea but it was never as clear as it was after I returned from my life changing trip to New Orleans. The trip started out as something I was forced to go on by my parents so it would look good on college applications (such as this one). After fundraising for two years, my youth group of sixteen kids along with four adult chaperones boarded a 7 a.m. flight to New Orleans, Louisiana. We were headed to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) National Youth Gathering which brings over 36,000 youth together every three years to “praise God and further our faith.” Having recently lost a good friend of mine in a car accident only a couple months before the trip, God and I were on pretty rocky terms so I wasn’t sure how well this would go.
We arrived Wednesday evening and walked out of the hospital into a complete culture shock. Literally everything in that city moves at a slower pace. Everyone is completely friendly and pretty much always have a smile on their faces. You would never know at first glance all the troubles they have faced in the past couple years. The first few days were filled with fun activities, but it was Saturday, our work day, that really was the turning point on the whole trip. We boarded a bus at 6 a.m. and headed out of the city into some of the most damaged parts of the town. Our work sight was in St. Bernard’s Parish which is an area that was completely submerged by water after the levees broke. We were taken to a park that was completely overcome by vegetation and debris as a result of the flood.
As we worked through the day, the hottest and sweatiest day of my life, many people from the neighborhood came out to help us and tell us their stories. It was then, right there in that dirty smelly hot place, that I realized how much I care about people. Every single one of their stories struck a spot in my heart. I wanted to know more, I wanted to help more. The strength of these people showed me how amazing human beings can really be. After losing everything they all picked themselves up, put smiles on their faces, and started to rebuild. None of them are afraid of what tomorrow will bring they are just happy they have what they have today. All of these people helped me to figure out exactly what I want to do to with my life. I want to continue to help people rebuild, emotionally of course, the whole physical labor thing really wasn’t for me. I want to help people find the strength in themselves to pick up the pieces of their broken lives and start to put things back together. I want to be a psychologist. I discovered my ability to care this summer, and I believe it is my best and most prominent ability that I have and I honestly can’t wait to pursue my interest and start my future.
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