Wednesday, March 15, 2006

From my "good bye" comments at Hand-On Biloxi

The night before the students left Biloxi I had the opportunity to speak to everyone at the nightly Hands-On meeting. I was asked for some comments for the Board of Trustees meeting.

It is obviously paraphrased:

"This is not "good bye". It is "until next time". I am sure I (and many of our other volunteers) will be back. But don't think
you are going to get off that easily, I am still going to take
the opportunity to speak for a few minutes,

First of all, thank you all. Thank you to the Hand-on leadership and to all of the volunteers. You are the best. That you stay focused in such a stressful and changing evnviroment is amazing. Thank you!

I also want to remind everyone from my students to the long-term volunteers, that this is about more than just your time in the Gulf. It is about more than a week. There is something magical about this place.

I have tried. I have had endless conversations with past (and present) volunteers about what the magic is. I am still looking for the right words. While I don't know how to define it, it is something that makes us all better people. I would encourage all of you to appreciate that, to enjoy it, to take it all in. But also to learn from it.

These nightly meetings are among my favorite parts of the day. I love to hear what other groups did and to hear how the time here affected others. On my second trip here, a volunteer said something at a meeting that I remember almost every day, and not coincidentally, something that may explain the "magic".

He said that he was a better person when he was here. He cared for people, he didn't swear, and he was nice to his fellow volunteers. More importantly he challenged us all to be that better person when we go home. I offer you the same challenge.

We did not put this trip together for the week. It was not a vacation trip. It is a learning experience. The time you spend here should be felt long after we leave the region.

Of course the people you have helped will be eternally grateful and to that degree, we can say the trip has been a success, but the real impact shoule also be felt back at home.

No matter where home is, you can take a piece of Handson with you. You can take that magic. Be that person you wish you could be: help others, care for your neighbors, volunteer at the local humane society, help out at the soup kitchen in your town, or just take the time to listen to those in need. If you do that, this trip will really be a success!"

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