When I first found out that I was accepted to go to the NOLA Gracenotes trip, I was ecstatic and I couldn’t wait to find out who else was going with me.  I was surprised to find out that I knew almost none of the 8 people going on the trip, so while I was excited to make some new friends, I was also a bit anxious to embark on a very intense, weeklong trip with a bunch of, technically speaking, strangers.

Well, we have been together for about 4 days now, and it’s hard to imagine a time when I didn’t know these people.  Each person is sweeter, funnier and more compassionate than the next.  There is not with one person on the trip that I would mind plowing away on a fence hole, having a deep conversation with over our boxed lunch while caked in sweat and dirt, or just taking a walk to the convenience store to stock up on Gatorade.  My new friends have gone out of their way to find me the best Muffaleta sandwich to deliver to the pool when I couldn’t walk any further, showed me how to wrap my water bottle up in “borrowed” hotel towels to keep it cold all day, and offered up multiple servings of the highest SPF sunscreen possible, all without a second thought.

This week has by far been the hardest physical labor that I (and probably most people in our group) have ever done.  We laid yards and yards of cement and sod, dug fence poles, mixed cement by hand to pour into these fence post hols, pushed wheelbarrows with flat tires full of said cement, pounded nails, dragged around heavy materials, and attempted to learn how to use power tools.  All of this was done in nearly 90 degree weather and blistering sun (not to mention blistering skin). However, it was honestly the most fun that I’ve had in awhile, and I’ve felt better about completing these tasks than any other job that I’ve done at my desk.

When I stop and look around me at the worksite, I have this funny feeling of pride as I watch my coworkers/new friends hard at work.  It is such a comfort to know that no matter what I am doing, someone will always come over and tell me, “Wow, good job, you’re killing at sanding that porch!”  Or “hey, you’ve been working really hard today.  Let me take a turn at that while you go take a break in the shade.”  But lo and behold, the biggest test of friendship is offering a hand to help jump over the swampy water that never seems to evaporate here.

I’ll write more soon about the actual experience that we are having in New Orleans, but I’ve just felt so strongly moved by the incredible people that I’ve met on this trip that I had to blog about it (that is, before we all get sun stroke and decide to kill each other)

Hats off to Gracenotes Volunteer Selection Committee.  You have truly outdone ourself because I am sure that my group is the best yet (I know this because I’ve seen us).