I love those chance meetings that blossom into beautiful experiences. Ann turned out to be an angel. Not only warm and committed to spreading the word about New Orleans, but also HELPFUL! One day, she came to the house with the intention of taking some action photos. The first thing she did, however, was ask for a pair of gloves! Ann grabbed a shovel and helped me remove ALL the debris in the shed. What a blessing! Paulette had flown back to NY the day before and my mother’s back is not so good, so it was gonna be just me shoveling. And it had to be done that day (FEMA stopped providing construction debris removal that Tuesday, but failed to notify the public*. Fortunately, since I’d made an appointment that Monday, I was still in the queue.) So I wanted to make sure I got everything out ASAP. It was a LOT of stuff. But we finished in a couple hours! And then, just like clockwork… or magic… or something, the sky opened up and IT POURED, suddenly and intensely. Unreasonable amounts of water fell from the clouds, y’all. I’m talking zero visibility, flooding, traffic accidents, etc. If Ann hadn’t been there to help, I doubt that I would’ve gotten all that debris out before the rain. And then it would’ve been a soggy, heavy mess. Oh, how grateful am I.
* I just read an article in today’s paper saying that FEMA will stop removing construction debris on June 30th. I am confused and will call tomorrow… cuz I now have more debris.
Ann and I shoveling debris into the wheelbarrow
Ann ended up hanging out with us almost every day until her plane took off on Tuesday. My mom and I both told her our stories. We talked about life before and after the hurricane. I told her about my goals for this part of my life in New Orleans. A couple days before her departure, she offered me her car free of charge. She’d bought it during her time here and had been trying, unsuccessfully, to sell it. I guess she thought I’d be a good person to whom she could donate. I thoroughly appreciated the gesture, but I declined the offer, thinking of the added expense and responsibility, not to mention the pollution. Later I mulled over whether or not that was a good decision. I thought of two things: One, people want to be able to bless other people. Turning them away denies them that opportunity and makes them think you don’t need help. The second thing I thought of was something I’d heard a while back I only remember the gist of what this guy said - “Never turn away a gift. You never know what could happen.” He’d been led to bigger and better things with each acceptance.
Needless to say, this got me to thinking. Coincidentally, a few days before, Paulette had suggested that I create a place for PayPal donations on my blog (she'd been getting lots of positive feedback from talking about her New Orleans experience on myspace.com.) Again, I said “No.” This is my email response verbatim:
this house is an investment for me. it wasn't my primary residence. i wasn't displaced by the hurricane. i didn't lose my home and all my belongings. i just lost money as a result of the hurricane. i actually was quite lucky; who gets to file such a big claim after having paid for just one year of insurance? granted, i didn't get any money for flood damage, but i think i can make the necessary repairs with what i have.
there are other people who REALLY experienced true loss as a result of the hurricane and the failure of the local and federal govt to protect the city. THEY need more help than i do. i'm young; i'm eager to work and learn; i don't have the emotional attachments to the whole situation that other people have. i don't feel like i was a "victim" of Hurricane Katrina.
so i wouldn't feel right asking people to donate to ME. maybe i could collect donations to support friends and family who really DO need it. or worthy organizations that i know for sure are using the money to help Katrina victims. but outside of that, i think it would be misleading to categorize myself as a Katrina victim and ask for donations when there are SO many people who really do need assistance and are not getting it.
So, while I was willing to accept help in the form of volunteers, I wasn’t comfortable with accepting monetary or material donations. I was thoroughly conflicted over this issue; I talked to my parents about it; I sat and thought about it a long time.
This is the conclusion to which I’ve come: I am committed to doing my part to revitalize my neighborhood. That is my entire purpose for being here. Merely witnessing the state of the neighborhood (and New Orleans, in general) strengthens my resolve daily. Right now, there is literally NO ONE living on my block. One house across the street was renovated and has been “For Rent” since I moved down here in March. And my next door neighbor periodically works on his property. Besides that, all the houses are basically “lying in state.” I am here to finish my house and create a safe, well-lit presence on my street. I know that other neighbors are waiting to see what everyone else is doing. But what can actually be accomplished if everyone is waiting on everyone else? I am young; I am eager; I am not depressed or suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of Katrina. I am fresh and ready to work; ready to revitalize. I walked away from a well-paying, comfortable “dream” job in New York and moved to New Orleans with my young daughter. We live in my mother’s one-bedroom apartment; I sleep on the floor, my daughter sleeps on a comfy cot. My dad bought me a bike and that is my main mode of transportation, besides riding in my mom’s car. Mama and I work on either my house or her house every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesdays, I help my friend Maela with her house. On Thursdays, I volunteer rebuilding homes with The St. Bernard Project. This is not a vacation. I am here to work, to help. For that, I am willing to accept donations. I have decided to Just Say YES.
So, Paulette, I have set up a PayPal account under firstname.lastname@example.org. And I will figure out how to add something to my blog page to allow for PayPal donations.