The 2017 Companions service immersion trip to New Orleans over winter break embodied every imaginable aspect of community. Whether it be as simple as cooperating on meals, playing basketball on the street corner, or touring the beautiful city as one big group, all nine of us guys grew to become a close band of brothers. By day, we were a well-oiled machine committed to our service work, and by night, our substantive reflections served as the truest example of our openness with each other. The spirituality aspect of the trip really came out in full force during those reflections. Nevertheless, watching this community gradually develop was an amazing thing, for by the eighth day of the trip we had developed fascinating bonds with each other. Every one of us could feel the powerful difference from the time of our initial arrival in New Orleans to our very last night of reflection.
The simplicity of our living was key. We learned to ration our food for meals, share laundry loads, and even sleep in the same room. All this was done without any electronics, which actually made the entire experience that much better. One phrase kept showing up as well throughout our time together: "Simple fun." Basketball at the street corner till sundown, lounging on the patio talking about life, playing cards till midnight, all of this was pure, simple fun. Seeing firsthand how the other half of the world lives, however, was quite emotional. Both our individual and group encounters with the poor and disadvantaged of New Orleans put on display the true definition of social injustice. "The luck of the draw" was how we summed up two important lessons: We must thank God each and every day for our blessings, but must also understand and act upon the unfairness that others will endure throughout their lives.
All of us guys were able to see a different part of society through our hard working hours at service. Our first three days were spent on America Street near the destitute Lower 9th Ward, an area devastated by both Hurricane Katrina and the continued situation of poverty. We collectively put forth every ounce of effort we had each day for eight hours digging dirt for a driveway and walkway, leveling the front and back yards, painting the siding, caulking the doors and windows, and putting down an entire truckload of cement. One of the most beautiful moments of the trip was seeing that completed driveway. However, the following four days were a little less sweaty. Our group manned the soup kitchens and food pantries of the Ozanam Inn and NOLA Mission. We even managed to squeeze in some free time to tour the city.
The incredible moments we were privileged enough to share with each other will be a long lasting memory of an unforgettable, eye-opening experience. From toiling at this Habitat for Humanity project to lending a hand at the Ozanam Inn and NOLA Mission, the nine of us were exposed to the injustices of today's world and discovered the right ways to take action. Now, we are #RuinedForLife.