Friday, October 19, 2007

Tell Me Something Good

A funny thing happened this afternoon. It wasn't how much we did. We finished mapping about 12% of the Lower Ninth Ward today, with about 8-10 people in the field (on average).

Yet today felt like the beginning of something good.

The 6 law students from Washington Univerity served as the core of the field team this morning. In the afternoon, I didn't send two of them out so that they could work with me a bit. When the others did a partial afternoon a field walking, I didn't send them out again when they came back.

Fortunately, one of the Tulane students (her name is Cole) arrived with about 8 additional AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteers to help map in the afternoon.

While the VISTA volunteers were in the field, there was a 20 minute period when I was sure that the Wash U students were feeling underutilized - except for the two who had stayed back with me and helped set up a check out/check in system for mapping assignments.

I don't know what changed what I was experiencing. Looking back now, I'm trying to recall the saying about how strength comes from enduring long silences. There was a bit of surrender on my part -- I didn't want to keep the Wash U team there if there was nothing for them to do...

But then it all seemed to quietly and gradually fall together. I showed Amanda how to make assignments, and she put her Excel skills to use finishing a project that I had hoped to finish today but could not. Melissa was making some refinements to the check-out system. Andris and Brenda were within earshot of her -- was my conversation about the project useful to them or was it "too much information"? Meanwhile, I settled Brittany and Natalia in the office NENA gave me to use, and they began entering the field data collected today.

Then a new volunteer named Claudia showed up, and began helping to input data. And John, one of the NENA design team members, picked up speed after what I had been showing him in pieces throughout the day about preparing mapping assignments.

And the whole time, Nilima and other NENA staff members were there - doing whatever was needed to help and keep things moving. A resident, Ms. Tilton, arrived for transportation duty in the afternoon, although she had for a time locked herself out of the house and (thus) had an excuse not to return if she wanted one.

Something feels good about all this, and I look forward to tomorrow.


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