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Trip to New Orleans
Happiness is available where most would never expect to find it. In fact, pure joy is hidden, just waiting for you to find it. Over my summer in 2007, I was lucky and blessed enough to get on a plane with 50 other teenagers and begin my journey to New Orleans. Now, finding your way through the airport and keeping track of 50 teenagers is definitely not an easy task. We lost track of people at times, and the flight was long and tiring. None of us knew that this would be the best trip we could ever imagine by far.
Most teenagers think of a dream vacation as going to Hawaii, Europe, the Bahamas, etc. Any teenager who has been to New Orleans will tell you they long to go back. I do not think I need to remind anyone that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and left it as a total disaster. This made our trip all the more amazing and worthwhile.
As our plane landed in New Orleans, the feeling was indescribable. I did not know what to expect out of this trip – I would be there for an entire week! As I gazed out my window, I noticed two things:
It was raining.
New Orleans looked nothing like I imagined.
I expected the city to be torn apart. I expected everything to be beat up. I did not expect to see so many people out and about. I thought we came to help rebuild New Orleans, but, to me, it looked as though it didn’t need any rebuilding.
We all piled out and gathered our belongings. We were planned to stay in a hotel for the night. Tomorrow we would drive to the church we would be staying at all week, and we would get assigned our jobs. We pulled into the hotel and all 50 of us scrambled around, trying to find roommates and trying to get the best room. Then we ate dinner, had devotion, and went to bed.
The next morning, we all got up pretty early to eat breakfast. I am quite sure we were all anxious to get started. We drove to the church. As we unloaded all of our bags, sleeping bags, and pillows, the humidity drove me crazy. We split off into girl/guy dorms and put everything in our rooms. The hosts at the church described everything we needed to know to us as we all sat listening quietly.
We got our jobs the next day. I was put on the roofing crew. I happen to be very terrified of heights, so I was not happy with my task. However, I decided to suck it up. A flashback from the beginning of the trip plunged into my head – before we left, my youth leader said,
“When you think you cannot take it anymore, you just think to yourself, ‘That’s just the way I like it.’ You are going to be put in situations this week where you want to scream. You are going to get sticky, sweaty, slimy, dirty, moldy, and everything you can imagine. But you have to remember, this trip is not about you. You need to put others ahead of yourself. If it’s too hot for you, it’s just the way you like it. If you have to climb through six layers of mold, that’s just the way you like it.”
That saying touched me. I’m not always the kind of girl to put others in front of me, but who is? Almost all people have a natural instinct to think “me”. But I decided I wanted a change. I needed this change. I hated the humidity. But that’s just the way I like it.
I climbed onboard the “roofing van” and thought of what was to come. We started on our journey to the ladies’ house that we were going to reroof. As it came into sight, the first thing that came to our minds was, “this house does not need a new roof.” The roof looked like it was in great condition. We had a guide to show us how to start taking off the old roof, and we also met the lady who owned the house. Her name was Ms. Barbra. In New Orleans, that’s what they call everybody. If your name is Lisa, your name is Ms. Lisa. I actually liked the way they talked down there.
Through the week, we saw that the roof was not as good as we thought it was, and it was a good thing we were reroofing it. I conquered my fear of heights, and that was just the way I liked it. It rained a couple of times as we worked on the roof, but it passed over soon. We liked the rain because it was SO hot and humid, that we would pray for rain.
We eventually finished the roof. We finished the day before we left. It was a long process, and it took hard work. I was amazingly proud of the work we accomplished. It felt so good. Ms. Barbra was probably the nicest person I ever met. I can only hope that I will ever see her again.
Through the week, I discovered that I met some of the nicest and sweetest people I have ever and will ever meet. It touched my heart. After everything they went through (some lost everything they owned), they can still be so kind and forgiving. It amazed me. There I was, living in Park City, Utah, and all I did was complain and think of things that I didn’t have, rather than appreciate the things I do have. I felt so selfish.
That week was the best of my entire life. I came back as a different person, and everyone could see it in me. I would no longer complain (because that’s just the way I like it), I said please and thank you more often, I made efforts to be kind, I reached out to kids I never would even think of talking to. It made me realize that life is so much more than we give it credit for. We only have one life. Why would we worry about the clothes we wear, being “popular”, fitting in at school? There is so much more than that. Happiness is where you would least expect to find it. So try digging deeper. Break that surface layer of life. Enjoy it; embrace the moments!