The past week seemed to be immensely rewarding for each of the participants. It is hard to assess the impact one short week of effort by our little group had on this city still recovering two years later from the trauma of Katrina. In some ways, our presence alone appeared to have as significant an effect on the residents as did the weeds we pulled, the nails we hammered, or the food we sorted. And, even though we paid Hands On New Orleans for room and board for the week, we brought to the trip additional financial resources by purchasing a good deal of food, drink, and souvenirs, and through charitable donations.
For me, the experience was an interesting contrast of the close quarters and strenuous effort for six days among adults with my many past weekends spent at weekend district youth conferences. As the week progressed, we learned a good deal about each other and many friendships developed. We spent much time in the common lounge area at Hands On talking and sharing. At the same time, the living quarters presented unfamiliar challenges that created moments of modest tension. Living in bunk beds in a room with 8 to 16 people, and sleeping in the Southern heat and humidity, fosters forces that bind folks together in shared intimate exploit, but also produces strains that accentuate the differences that can separate us.
A lesson that this week strongly reinforced for me was the importance of assuming the good intention of others. Affirming and promotion the inherent worth and dignity of every person entails an appreciation of the very different personalities we all possess. When these personalities clash, we can avail ourselves of many tools to resolve conflicts and reunite in common purpose – a caring thought, humor, a gentle touch or a hug. But, most important, I believe, is the discipline of walking in another’s shoes just long enough to see the world from their perspective, and hopefully understanding the influences that produced the person as they are today. Just a moment of reflection can help all of us see the basic goodness that lies in each person.
Living in a human society, our lives intersect which each other on a daily basis. At school, at work, and at church, our interactions can create moments of shared joy and wonder. But, crossing paths can also generate friction. When that happens, before we look for the hurtful cause, or the evil in another, it helps to first assume the good intention of others. Finding the good in others may also help us intensify the good within ourselves.