One piece of Garlic Bread

October 28, 2010
By , Overland park, KS
Growing up I always wanted to be needed. Whether it was by my mother in the kitchen, my sister in the backyard, or my dad in the basement I loved the feeling of being required by someone in order to accomplish a task. As I grew up, I found I continued to have that want to be sought after and in the summer of 2010 I had that exact opportunity. I became a necessity, a “fountain of hope” as one put it or a “servant of the lord” as another said. I had the opportunity to bring life back into a city of destruction, to bring love where there was none, and to bring hope when all was gone. After traveling sixteen hours in a fifteen passenger van I was determined to change lives, unaware it would be mine that would instead be changed forever.
I was in New Orleans, a city that had looked death, destruction, and devastation in the eye and yet decided to pull together and help each other out in whatever means necessary even when many of them had nothing left to give. Although it had been five years since Hurricane Katrina had tragically taken everything from the majority of the people in New Orleans, from the look of the city it could have just happened yesterday. The houses were still spray painted from the National Guard’s inspection codes of “TFW”- toxic flood water, “2 B 1 D”- two bodies, one dog, or “EO”- electricity off. The streets were dirty with paper, mud, weeds, and just about everything else imaginable- the yards overgrown, the houses deserted, the neighborhoods childless. New Orleans had lost its vibrancy, its color, its hope and its life, all of which we hoped to help restore.
We came to devote an entire week solely as servants of God. We picked up trash, demolished houses, fed the homeless, cleared lots, had a carnival, gave away free clothes and much more all the while learning about faith, perseverance, hope, love, spirit, and determination. The congregation of our host church, Carver Desire continually taught us to always have hope even when no one would blame us for having none, to always have faith in God because everything that happens is part of his plan, and to always have love for ourselves and each other as in the grand scheme of the world we are all a family and all God’s children. However it was not until the sixth night of my trip, when we served dinner to the homeless in downtown New Orleans, that those lessons I had been learning all week truly hit home.
I had never seen so many famished, exhausted, dirty people in one place as I did that night. They came by bike, bus, and many by their own two feet desperate for anything we could give them. Men, women, children, teenagers, old men, and babies came in tens, hundreds and thousands. From among all the people I met and stories I heard, one man exceptionally stood out: A man by the name of David. He was A tall gray-haired man, who looked like it had been weeks since his last meal. We offered him everything from spaghetti and meatballs, Caesar salad, cookies, punch, and bread, all of which he refused besides a tiny slice of garlic bread. “That is all I need” He said, “Save the rest for the children or for the people who really need it.” Never have I ever been so amazed, astounded, or flabbergasted than I was that moment when A man who had absolutely nothing decided to take the bare minimum when offered a full meal. He had nothing to give yet in that moment he gave everything to one more man, woman, or child who would eat that night because he refused it. When we asked him how he would make it, as it was apparent he had not eaten in weeks, he just looked up at the sky and responded, “I’ll make it through the night, I have him” and turned to leave with his single piece of garlic bread and a smile on his face. The rest of the night I continued to hear stories of hope, hard work, and faith but nothing came close to my encounter with David. I could not stop thinking about his generosity and faith in God’s plan.
Although at the beginning of the week, we began as two separate churches and two separate communities in the end we became one. Rich or poor, black or white, female or male- we were one because as author of Greek fables, Aesop said, “United we stand; divided we fall”. Not only did I return home with a few souvenirs a bracelet one of the children made me and a New Orleans shirt to commemorate my trip, but also a sense of unity, faith, and hope. Immediately when I arrived home I exclaimed to my mom, “I know what I want to do with the rest of my life!” I had decided I wanted to become a biomedical engineer so I could devote my life to helping people and have the opportunity to be a new sense of a “fountain of hope” for those suffering from cancer, heart disease, or incurable diseases. I wanted to give everything to someone who was on the verge of losing hope and faith just like David had done that summer night in New Orleans. I wanted that utopian feeling I felt that week to continue with me my entire life as I continue and forever will want to be needed.

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