Bill George: Volunteering in New Orleans

As I went through my Lenten journey this year, I could not stop reflecting on my trip this past February with IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) to New Orleans.  I knew that my journey through Lent would not just be a physical struggle with prayer and fasting, but would be provoked by issues I had come to contemplate from my time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. 

My week in New Orleans did not afford me the opportunity to see the areas hit the hardest by the storm, but hearing peoples' stories and from what I heard on the news, I was able to piece together an accurate picture of the devastation that occurred.  The intense storm and how the residents responded made me realize I could use their experience to understand my struggle through Lent.  Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the countryside just as my spiritual journey through Lent is battered with temptations to sin.  Just as some houses were left untouched or others completely destroyed, certain temptations are harder to drive off than others.

Everyone who went to volunteer went with high spirits and the desire to accomplish as much as they could.  Each person had varying skills, from those with construction experience, to others that had never lifted a hammer before.  Yet each person, working together, was able to contribute to building a house.  This taught me that I must talk to others and learn from them about how to deal with my temptations during Lent.  Everyone has different experiences during Lent and each can lend some wisdom to help me rethink and rebuild my fasting and prayer.  That is the basis for my Lenten journey.  Even though I may break my fast during Lent, I can ask for help, find ways to correct it, and look forward to the Paschal celebration. 

The people in New Orleans know that it is never going to be the same, but instead of complaining or worrying they continue to work hard and with the help of others they will make their future even better.  My trip was not at all what I had expected. I went knowing I was going to work hard to help others, but I returned home feeling I had received more from my journey than I had given

by Bill George