Sunday, January 20, 2008

Day Thirteen: January 2008

Day Thirteen: Sunday, January 20

What a warm and balmy morning we had this morning! We awoke to find that the temperature was 27 degrees. Ouch. We knew that it would be cold, so we were pretty ready for it. Still, as soon as the air hit our faces, it felt like quite a chilly slap. Our breakfast crew, Chicas and the Men, made pancakes for us and we drank much more hot chocolate than usual. The BLOKEs prepared breakfast as everyone figured out what their warmest work clothes were.

We were all at Rosie’s house again today and because it was clear we could actually make some progress in the yard. We waited to do so, though, as this morning we took a special break: most of us went to mass with Rosie. It was a real treat for us, but an even bigger one for her. Things all just aligned perfectly, as today’s theme was a celebration of service, and today’s hymns seemed like they were speaking right to us. The first hymn was “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You” and it featured lines about opening to the sun and melting the clouds. Another line says, “Teach us how to love each other” and a few of us glanced at each other knowingly. An even more striking hymn was “The Servant’s Song,” which starts with the line “Will you let me be your servant?” and has another verse that says: “We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’lers on the road, we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.” We not only glanced at each other on that one; we got teary-eyed.

The whole service was a special one as it was a celebration of the deaf and all parts of the service were done in sign language. It was also special because the church (Francis Xavier Seelos – a blessed but not yet sainted New Orleanian) is very beautiful. The church suffered an awful fire in 2003, it parishioners were relocated for about a year, and then Katrina hit in 2005. Happily, the church only sustained damage to its floors, which were quickly restored. The building has wonderful stained glass windows, some of which were dated to the 1860s. We see why Rosie loves her church so much.

The priest called Rosie up to the altar and asked her to introduce her friends. She called us “California Angels” and talked about how much we had done for her houses, but how much more we had done for her life and her spirit. They asked us all to stand and they applauded for quite awhile; we just bowed to them and thanked them.

After church we kicked into high gear and capitalized on the sunshine and clear skies. The air was crisp and very cold, but if we moved around enough we could handle it. Today was Jack’s last day so he cranked the kitchen cabinets into place in 4009 before he headed for the airport around noon. Our student experts jumped all over the trim job in 4011 without any guidance from Jack. Others stayed on the arduous job of sanding the porch; we really look forward to seeing the fruits of those labors.

Still another group kept plugging away at the huge backyard that we have now emptied out. Our friend Jean Fahr from Parkway Partners (the greenspace agency that was our first major work contact when we came here in January 2006) gave us some trees and other plantings to contribute to Rosie’s whole new world. We also got a boost from our dear friends at Happy Hollow Elementary, the sixth grade class taught by Shawny’s sister Sherry. When they heard that we had no budget for Rosie’s yard, they took up a collection to add to our materials. With all of these sources combined, we have now planted six young trees and lots of other plantings in both the front and back yards of Rosie’s houses. We still have tons of work to do there, but this is another place where we look forward to the fruits of our labors (hopefully literally).

Throughout our day we were reminded that today is the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of Rosie’s neighbors, David, played tapes of some of King’s most famous speeches on a public address system for most of the day. David’s house is easy to spot in the neighborhood, as he went around after the storms and collected all of the musical instruments that he found. He placed them all over his house, especially on the roof, and turned his entire property into a tribute to New Orleans and its musical culture. Today, his tribute turned to the life and work of MLK. Though tomorrow is the holiday celebrating King’s life, we got a nice day of reflection about his important ideas in advance. Thanks, David!

As for our labor today, we tallied about 254 hours, bringing our running total to 3399.

Matt and Aaron show off the NOLA ping-ping ball they found while moving dirt outside.

Mark takes the measurements to cut the window trim in the 4009 house.

Bri sweeps the front porch, which was covered in paint chips after we sanded the awning and doorframes.

Emily, Katie, and Bryan worked hard all day shoveling dirt outside of the houses. With the new tree and less dirt, the front of the houses look brand new.

Justin and Aaron lay bricks and cinderblocks outside of 4009 and 4011 to make a planter for a tree.

There were a couple statues outside of Rosie’s church that reminded the group of how important faith is to the people of New Orleans.

Rosie appreciated the members of the group who joined her for Sunday morning mass.

These are the new cabinets that are going in Rosie’s rental house.

David is working at sanding down the walls and prepping them for paint as Justin works on trim.

Aaron and Justin work on leveling out an area in front of Rosie’s rental house for a planter box.