Blogging New Orleans, III

October 22, 2008

I wore unmatched socks today.  The curse of the early riser, when you’re living in a gym with sixteen other people, is getting dressed in the dark.

When I noticed I had two completely different socks on, I was a little uncomfortable.  But then I realized that my team, lovely people all, wouldn’t mind.  And as Dawn said last night at worship, “This isn’t about me.”

Last night at worship Kelly divided us into three groups.  His challenge was for us to think of six things that made us comfortable, then three things that give us discomfort.  Our choices had to be unanimous.

The groups animatedly discussed our comforts: a nice bed, our bathrobe, a cup of hot chocolate, comfort food, etc.  When the groups reported our respective findings, we found that we concurred on many of our warm and fuzzies.

Next we addressed our discomforts. We reported such displeasures as hostile people, chaos in our workplace, never-ending unjustifiable war, radical religious extremist groups, etc.  We could all easily come up with situations that made us very uneasy.

In the discussion that ensued, Kelly challenged us to be more specific in discussing what made us uncomfortable.  One of our teams recounted their tale of discomfort at their worksite that day.  On arriving at their site, they joined a small group of other volunteers who were less than welcoming.  After repeated attempts at befriending the group and being continually shunned, the team members gave up in disgust.

Kelly told us that he had observed that while we were working on assembling our discomfort lists, we worked more loudly and passionately than when we discussed our comforts. Then he stated that he considered it a good thing that we were uncomfortable!

Before we could be offended at his audacity, Kelly explained that he hoped this trip was challenging us to move out of our comfort zones.  Sacrificing our privacy, our comfortable beds, and facing the unknown challenges of this mission trip, he suggested, would help us in some small way begin to understand the horrors the people of St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward have experienced.

As the week progresses, and we hear more and more of the victims’ stories, we can’t really understand what they’ve been through, but we are struck by the vast disparity between the despair that struck here and our comfortable lives at home in Kansas City.

As we returned mucky and dusty today from the worksites to our warm showers and safe shelter, several of us commented about how good the shower felt.  Jackie said when she looks at the images of the muddy children of Haiti who recently experienced terrible destruction from a hurricane, she often wishes she could just send them a shower!

And now we are basking in the afterglow of a marvelous meal which the ladies of the church prepared for us this evening.  Yum-Louisiana Jambalaya, melt-in-your-mouth lasagna, Southern style-praline bread pudding, and warm fellowship!  What a comfort! 

And the team who experienced the less-than-friendly co-workers yesterday?  Well today, Dawn, Kelly, Laura, Susan, and Jodi ventured way out of their comfort zone, and forced themselves to overcome the feeling of rejection that had so insulted them yesterday.  “We made friends with them today,” Jodi said.  “And guess what?  They really are nice people!”