Wednesday, June 14, 2006


It's hard to separate music from the Hurricane Camp experience. It plays in the kitchen when people clean and cook. It plays when people grind out mold. It plays in the evenings, the mornings, and the afternoons. I mean, when you have a NCAA-style, 32-song tournament bracket to determine the best song of all time, you know music is part of our core.

What's great is that the volunteers listen to all sorts, bringing in hundreds of albums on on iPods and computers. So, we get exposed to lots of different stuff. Some folks groove to the zydeco, others the classic rock. Still others dig the oldies. There's even a small few who swing to the big band sounds of the 40's. My personal favorite, though, is the underground hip hop.

One day, there was a group from Colorado in the kitchen. I was about to turn up my music to drown out what sounded like bad music. I listened a little bit longer ... it had a funky retro beat laced with some modern hip hop. The guys singing had strange, but enthralling voices that you couldn't forget. Rather than play my music louder than the kitchen's music, I jammed to it.

When the CD finished, I raced straight down from my room (yes, you can hear everything in the loft ... even noisy people at 4am) and asked, "who is that?" "Gnarles Barkley." "Really, can I borrow it?" "Sure."

This is Hands On, of course, how could anyone not share? I burned a copy of the disk and have been listeninig to it pretty much non-stop since. It's just an awesome album that combines a lot of different styles that I really like.

The whole reason I wrote this post was because I was listening to it and it made me think of the little world that is Hurricane Camp. You have motivated, dedicated, inspired folks who come together with raw passion and a determination to rebuild the Gulf Coast. There's so much potenial and talent in the volunteers. It's only natural that ideas will be shared and the conversation and companionship will create a vibrant, tight-knit community living in a "compassionate commune" as the President said.

I guess I see the blending and sharing of music that inspires people as a metaphor for what happens with ideas people bring to Hands On. There's some aspect of rebuilding and life down here that unlocks a passion and a drive in each volunteer. In the same way we all bring different tastes in music, we also bring different skills and approaches to rebuilding the Coast. The different ideas combine, react, catalyze and precipitate into Hands On projects.

How often do you get the keys to a housing development handed to you, a recent college graduate, to perform a systematic mold remediation study? How often do you get to rehabilitate a large, delapidated park into a space that will help knit together a community that was fractured before the storm came to break houses? How many "project managers" are given almost free reign to piece together five single-wide trailers into a modern-looking, temporary, primary care clinic?

It's the freedom within structure that allows people's creative potential to solve real-world problems here on a storm ravaged coast. Sometimes the minutia of keys, people's frustrating personalities, broken sewage pumps, and loud late-nite noises in the kitchen cause me, in particular, to miss the grand human experiment going on around me.

I don't know how to wrap up this thought other than to say that for me, the music that I hear around the camp audibly represents the diversity in creative thought and expression that makes Hurricane Camp a vital rebuilder on the Gulf Coast and the place that people have a tough time leaving.

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