Relearning the Meaning of Service

Two and a half weeks ago, Sun 6 and Earth 2 (two teams from AmeriCorps NCCC based out of Denver, CO) arrived at the Ablaze Lutheran Center in St. Louis, MO in response to the Good Friday Tornado that ripped across the northern neighborhoods of the city.  You can still see the ragged path of the tornado, through the fallen trees, uprooted stumps, snapped limbs and blue tarps that blanket one neighborhood, yet only dot the next.

While most of the nations focus was on the St. Louis Airport, which received a direct hit from the tornado and still has visible damage and boarded up windows, and some of the richer, more well-known neighborhoods to the West that received an immediate flood of volunteers and funding, many neighborhoods and communities have been untouched since the winds ripped though. 

There are houses that still have trees on and through their roofs.  Trees still litter the yards.  And for many people in these neighborhoods, the only physical help they have received has been the presence of private contractors quoting exaggerated prices and empty promises. 

These people don’t have money to pay for the extensive damage caused by the storm.  Their struggle to stay afloat has now become a daily struggle to survive.  Some are not capable of doing it themselves, due to old age, injuries, illness and the shear size and amount of damage. 

And that is where we come in.  Us in our gray and khaki uniforms, black belts and steel toed boots. 

Though it feels like it from time to time, we are not the saviors of this city.  We are just a bunch of kids who have gotten the opportunity to do something amazing.  We were in the right place at the right time and now we get to do hard work for long hours, six days a week. 

We work beside amazing individuals and teams from around the country.  We complain about doing the grunt work, but all of us know that we actually find some sick satisfaction of being too exhausted at the end of the day to take a shower. 

We struggled for the first couple days, the two teams from AmeriCorps NCCC, the “N-Trips.”  We came together thinking that we would eventually be going back to our actual teams, but then we found out that our shuffle round teams are now the team that we will be with for the rest of the year. 

Yes, we were angry.  Upset.  Confused.  We didn’t really know what to think.  But as the days passed, we began to come together, not just as individual teams, but as one big family. 

We go out and put everything on the line, each and every day.  And we love it. 

We have stories and experiences to share, that nobody else has.  We have seen things that have brought us to the verge of tears, to the breaking point, and we have become stronger.  We have grown to become someone many of our younger selves would never recognize (both physically and mentally). 

And though it may sound like we are having fun (which we are), we are also getting a lot accomplished.  Through the guidance of AmeriCorps St. Louis and All Hands, we have begun the healing process for this city. 

And though there is still lots of work to do, we are young and eager to face the situation head on. 

And for all of you wondering about the AmeriCorps NCCC’s response to the disaster in Alabama and the surrounding states, and the flooding of the Mississippi River, know that there are already teams on the ground, and more willing to come at a moments notice. 

God Bless and PEACE

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