During the week of the 4th, Hands On slowed down. To give the AmeriCorps members and volunteer leaders a break, we closed to short-term volunteers on the 4th and 5th. For the entire week, we had maybe one or two volunteers, so the base was pretty empty.
It was weird to come into work in the morning and see no one around. There were no folks huddled around the back awning getting their morning smoke. There were no cars lined up ready to go to work. The few people eating breakfast in the morning were swallowed up by the empty, cavernous main room.
On the 4th, a couple folks hosted barbecues. There was one at Eddie and Sheli's, one at Sara and Caitlin's, and one over at Doug's. Folks kinda migrated between the festivities, before migrating to the beach for fireworks. I was exhausted, so I passed on the fireworks display.
I heard it was a little wild. Lots of folks on the beach, drunk, with explosives in their hands. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. This was the entire beach and the entire population that turned out for the fireworks display off the west end of Deer Island. I even heard about the ridiculousness from my landlord.
Thursday was nice and chill, too. Still, one of the comments I heard when we returned to work this week was that it was good to have people around. There's a certain energy that comes with all of the people who come into the building. Though there are often complaints about long-term volunteers not making short-term volunteers feel welcome, I don't think the relationship is as simple as that.
When we all come down here to serve, the folks who are here for a short time bring energy that reinvigorates all of us. I'm not a psychologist, but I can see how simply coming down to work helps keep our long-term volunteers going. The trip to the Gulf helps validate the commitments we have all made to rebuilding the coast. We're sorta like the residents. Simply being here shows you care and that's really important to us.
Perhaps with many of us now living off base and having been here almost a year, we are like the residents. Though we're only temporary, we're still residents. The psychological impact we have on long-time residents is the same the short-term volunteers have on us.
So, keep the energy up. As I write this, I know I've mixed my audiences between everyone and those who aren't going to volunteer with us until they grow mold. For the short-time volunteers, keep coming. We need you. The Gulf Coast needs you. For the long-time volunteers, keep it up. What you do day in and day out is impressive both from the physical accomplishments and the psychological impact of bringing hope to those who have little.