As part of living in intentional community, my roommates and I gather one Saturday a month for a service project somewhere in the city. In December we planted trees and learned a little more about wetlands restoration. For our January day together, we helped clear a vacant lot in the 7th Ward.
First, just a few words on why lots need to be cleared in the first place. In the months and years after Katrina and the following evactuation of New Orleans, many people have returned and were able to piece back together their lives. Others, however, were forced for one reason or another to abandon their homes here. After a while, the city and other organizations began to tear down houses that had been deteriorating and empty since the storm, leaving vacant pieces of property which quickly filled up with weeds, litter and other debris. While these vacant lots may be better in theory than a deterioriating house, they’re still rather unsightly and aren’t safe places for the kids in the neighborhood. So projects like the one we participated in don’t only aesthetically benefit the area, they make it a safer place to be. Win-win!
The manual labor was a change of pace for almost everybody (sorry Eric), and it was strangely therapeutic. Granted, we were still in the city, but it was a nice change of pace to get outside and do something physical that is visibly making a difference. Plus, you can find all sorts of stuff in a lot that’s been vacant and untended for at least a year. Treasures we found included: a mattress, a disintigrating metal grill, some scary movie DVD, a door, and (drumroll please) a pile of dead fish!
Even more satisfying than the physical, visual difference we made was the spirit of the neighbors we saw. The man who lived across the street from the lot walked right up to us and told us if we needed anything, anything at all, to not even think about worrying him and just ask. The owner of the lot dropped off a bucket of bottled water and sports drinks. Folks driving by would slow down, wave, and honk their horns in appreciation. Not, of course, that we did it to be thanked, but it’s always encouraging when your efforts are so openly affirmed.
So all in all, it was a lovely day. Here are a couple pictures of our project, followed by a link to more photographic evidence.
For more pictures from our day of service, click here. (Also feel free to like the PSL YAV page on Facebook. Because, you know, we’re pretty great. Quite humble, too.)
Hopefully a Mardi Gras post coming soon!