After a twenty-eight hour bus ride, I stepped down onto solid ground. It was great to finally be at our destination in New Orleans, Louisiana. I was there with my Michigan church youth group to be involved in the National Youth Gathering, or NYG, which is a gathering of Lutheran high school students. Our goals for the week were to learn about Jesus and help communities that were still not fully recovered from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
We settled in for the night at the Loews hotel and learned that our service project for the next day was to be planting bushes and fixing up a park that was devastated by the hurricane. At six-thirty the next morning, my hotel room got a wake-up call and the two other teens in my room groaned. I told them to get up and be happy about being able to help other people. An hour later, my youth group and I were back on another bus and going to the park that is known as Blueberry Park. Unfortunately for us, our bus driver got lost and so we spent an hour and a half trying to look for the park. When we finally got there and stepped into the hot and humid weather, we looked at the park, stunned. The park was about fifty yards by thirty yards and had a single piece of playtime equipment: a swing set with four swings. At this point, I realized how bad the conditions in this neighborhood must have been and still are, and I felt sorry for them. Next, an older looking man drove up with some shovels and thirty bushes in his truck. He informed us where to dig up the dirt and put the plants. I helped dig a few holes and put some bushes in. Even this small act made me feel like I did something to help this unfortunate community. At the end of our project, the man with the supplies explained that there was ten feet of water right where we were standing after Katrina hit. He told us that several of the houses up and down the street had to be majorly repaired and some rebuilt. He had lived in this community for a long time and said that the park that we helped to fix up is used as a gathering place for the community. He expressed his gratitude to us for improving the appearance of the park and was certain that everyone else would be happy as well.
Later, on the way back to the hotel, I thought about what I had done to help make this community a better place. I realized that even the smallest deeds can be commendable and make a difference in other people’s lives in the long run. Also, I realized that I should be making more of an effort to be doing helpful tasks, even if it is as small as holding the door for an elderly man or woman. I also recognize the need for everyone to become involved in their communities in order to better society as a whole.
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