Friday, October 09, 2009

Gowanda Essay: Thanks for being here

October 9: Remember back 6 weeks ago I said I would be writing a series of reflective essays about our work in Gowanda? Well, between school starting, other BonaResponds events, a finance club trip to NYC, and some family things, I got side tracked. But I would like to share at least of the thoughts with you, so I will write them up as time permits.

Gowanda August 23, 2009

BonaResponds has traveled the country to help people recover after natural disasters. After these disasters we have helped people by gutting houses, cutting downed trees, putting on new roofs, building sheds, drywalling, painting, and even occasionally helping people move back into their refurbished homes. The interesting thing is, that almost without exception, those we are helping tell us, generally fighting back tears, that our just being there was as important as the work we actually accomplished. That our presence gave them hope and the energy energy necessary to fight the next round of battles in the long road to recovery.

This message has been drilled into volunteers on every trip: talking to the survivors, listening to their stories, and just being there is important. As the leader of BonaResponds, I understood the importance, but I confess I never truly believed it. Oh sure, I knew psychology mattered and talking helped, but the real real reason for us being there, the way we really helped, was the dirty, physical work. Or so I believed.

Today that view was forever changed. I was on the other side of receiving help. I had over-committed BonaResponds. Expecting more volunteers that we got, I committed to several jobs around town, but the first (and largest) was mucking out an enormous basement down on Main St.

After about 2 hours of struggling with the eight inches of mud that blanketed the three giant rooms, it became apparent that we were not going to be able to finish the job, let alone the others that were waiting.

And then, almost miraculously, help arrived in the form of the Community Gang #103 from the Collins Correctional Facility. And a funny thing happened, as the crew lifted buckets of mud, they also lifted out spirits. As they pushed wheel barrows, they pushed us to do more.

Sooner than could have been imagined, the job was done. As we all shared a meal on the front porch, we thanked the work crew for all the help. I hope they realize we were thanking them for more than just the physical effort. We were thanking them for being there and for giving us the energy to continue on to the next job.

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