Thursday, June 26, 2008

Perspective

Hi everyone, Jeff here.

I am 3 days into this trip and I can honestly say I am a changed man. Here's why.

I grew up in a middle-class family in Maine. It was me, my older brother and my parents. We lived in a modest ranch-style home with a pool in the backyard on a quiet street. We would go on family vacations every summer. We owned 2 cars. There was no crime, no poverty, no natural disasters. It was a very comfortable existence.

We never worried about things like where our next meal would come from, where we would sleep at night, our home, or our health.

The people who used to live in the 9th Ward of New Orleans lost everything. Many people know this, but they never really understand fully what that means. I had no idea until I walked past a house that had been destroyed and examined the contents of the "garbage" pile in the front yard. Once I saw a little girl's doll...a frying pan...a television set...a stack of books...I realized what it really meant.

If I could have one wish, it would be that everyone in America come to the 9th Ward in New Orleans and see for themselves what is going on. Walk through the neighborhoods like I have. Talk to the people. Experience this reality first-hand and really get a sense of it unlike any television story or news article you might read could provide.

The people here are wonderful. They've lost everything and they are wonderful. I am forever humbled by their show of fortitude and graciousness. It is ironic how in these times of tragedy, the essence of the true human spirit shows itself in all its glory.

But is it really ironic? My experience here has me thinking otherwise.

I walked past a group of people in the 9th Ward the other day near our work site. At first I thought they looked somewhat sketchy and I wasn't sure what to expect. As I walked by, I looked at them and just smiled. They immediately smiled back, asked me how my day was going, and wished me well. These people were hanging out in front of their house which was little more than a shack, but they wore bright smiles, kind eyes, and genuinely talked to me.

Last week I walked down Mass. Ave. in Boston and I passed a guy wearing an expensive suit getting out of his Lexus. Again I just smiled at him but he frowned at me, answered his cell phone and started arguing with the person on the other line.

We live in a very materialistic culture. We identify and find comfort in our possessions. This is a shame. Think of everything you own and hold dear to you. Now think about losing it all and not being able to do anything about it.

It is my personal belief that when you strip away all the superficiality of material possessions and identification with status, wealth and the ego, people are good natured, generous, and happy. I also believe that most of us in America are extremely fortunate yet we lose perspective on just how good our lives are. We become so wrapped up in our own lives we lose perspective and spend lots of time and energy worrying about inconsequential things.

I've realized only 3 days into this trip that perspective is so important to us all. We all need reminders of how incredible our lives are regardless of our status, wealth, success, material possessions. I know that this experience will forever remind me how fortunate I am.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jeff brought up some great points in this post:

"We live in a very materialistic culture. We identify and find comfort in our possessions. This is a shame. Think of everything you own and hold dear to you. Now think about losing it all and not being able to do anything about it."

"I also believe that most of us in America are extremely fortunate yet we lose perspective on just how good our lives are. We become so wrapped up in our own lives we lose perspective and spend lots of time and energy worrying about inconsequential things."

"We all need reminders of how incredible our lives are regardless of our status, wealth, success, material possessions."

When Jeff mentioned the man he saw in Boston last week getting out of his expensive car in his expensive suit it made me think how many men & women live day in and day out just like he; working around the clock in order to purchase materialistic objects to project their status in society, not to mention being quite unfriendly.

The Berklee group in New Orleans, along with everyone who has come before them, is there now beside them, and will come in the future to continue what work they have started, are the ones who have truly succeeded. It's not about how much money you have in your bank account but instead what you are willing to give back to the community. Why spend your life trying to impress society when you can instead spend your life helping it?

Congrats to all of you, I look froward to hearing more of your stories, seeing more of your photos & videos, and hopefully one day being able to make the trip to New Orleans, or another area in need, to pitch in & give families back what they've lost.

~Alana

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff!

I just want you to know that I'm proud of you and the rest of the crew, doing your best down there to pick someone else up. You've done a great service and even your Berklee family back here in Boston is better for it. Be safe and - Thanks!

Josh

Lisa said...

Such a beautiful post, Jeff. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. I will try and never forget your wise words.