Friday, January 06, 2006

Goodbye New Orleans!

It is 7:15 on Friday morning, and the group is preparing to depart from our beloved city, New Orleans. Last night at our final reflection, we each spoke about the lessons we have learned during our stay here, and how this experience has impacted the way we think about poverty and social justice. For me, this trip has shown me how the strength of faith and love can overcome any kind of disaster. The victims we spoke to this week talked about how they have realized, more than ever, how unncesssary material possessions are, and just how important and meaningful family is. This may sound simple, but this week we watched families throw out everything they owned. Everything was destroyed -- pictures, furniture, toys, Christmas decorations, clothing, houseplants, lamps, shoes .... and yet, as these families stood and looked at their belongings laying in a pile of trash on the street, they were able to see and understand that these things did not matter- what mattered was that their loved ones were safe and standing right beside them. Their faith in themselves and their family to get through the tragedy and return to a normal life was inspirational.

At the beginning of this trip, Matt told me that our goal was to learn to walk in the shoes of the poor to understand poverty. At first, I thought this was too abstract- I wanted to know exactly what our work would be like this week, down to each and every project. But, as the week is ending, I know that I have truly walked in the shoes of the poor. I have held their hands as the entered their homes for the first time after Hurricane Katrina, talked with them about their losses and goals for a new beginning. They have shared the little they have with us, strangers they graciously allowed into their homes and into their lives. Only after we can walk in the shoes of the poor can we truly understand poverty and work closer to achieving social justice.

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