My mom has been in town visiting and volunteering this week. I love having her here not only because she's my mom and she's fun, but also because she helps me get a new perspective on what I'm doing here. Living down on the Gulf Coast right now, working in disaster recovery, it's all you do, all you think about, and all you know. When an outsider comes in and reminds you that the rest of the world is still turning, it rocks your understanding of your place, the work, and the progress. The day before Easter, a couple of us went to a department store to find Easter outfits- the weather was set to drop 25 degrees overnight and all our little sundresses were not going to work. I remember feeling complete culture shock walking into that department store- people had heels and purfume on in there. No one was wearing boots or hats or PDA blue shirts and I was uncomfortable. In a freaking department store!
This week, I have been so frustrated by my ineffectiveness, local politics, long meetings with no tangible results, and the ever-present battle between locals and volunteers involved in the recovery effort. I stopped counting the number of times that I considered getting into my car and driving back to one of those places where they only talk about disaster recovery on the next big anniversary of one of these storms, tsunamis, or wild fires.
Last night mom and I chaperoned Brenna's after-school program's field trip to see a stage show. Brenna and I spent most of our time there with the kids frustrated by their refusal to listen, follow directions, and stay in their seats. On the way home, my mom reminded us both about how special a night it was for each of those misbehaving kids and that none of them ever would have had the opportunity to see a show like that if it weren't for Brenna's program. That new perspective changed our whole view on the evening.
This morning, again frustrated with myself and my failures to help access funding and assistance for Gulf Coast homeowners, I was sitting in my car listening to the many voice mail messages on my work cell phone when a man I've been working with tapped on the car. He was wearing his new Pizza Hut uniform and was headed to work. Not a month ago, this man had showed up at the door of the church, drunk, crying and hungry. We worked together to get him cleaned up, eating and eventually started filling out job applications together. Now he's working. And today, he turned my day around!
I'm reminded that it is a blessing that I can be here to help at all. It is a gift to get to see the Gulf Coast, the recovery effort, and my role in all of this, through my mom's eyes. It's also terrifying! There is so much work to do. There is so much dysfunction in the process. But it's also incredible that we've made it this far. It's wonderful that volunteers are still arriving on the coast every day, bringing hammers, nails, donations, help and hope! Perspective, perspective, perspective.