Continuing week two of Self Portrait Challenge "Self portrait as...." Admittedly, I'm feeling the Tuesday slump that wraps its clammy hand around me and squeezes off any manner of creativity that I might otherwise generate on a better day, say Thursday.
This month's challenge has SUCH possibility. And I have these ideas, but no time to execute them. Here goes:
Self portrait as Volunteer. All fresh and clean, ready to get down to work. I'm standing in front of the Algiers Regional Branch Library in New Orleans, Louisiana Tuesday, June 27, 2006 at 10:12 a.m.
There ares two meanings to my being a Volunteer. First, I'm a native Tennessean. We're known as the Volunteer state because during the War of 1812 the volunteer soldiers from Tennessee, serving under Gen. Andrew Jackson, displayed marked valor in the Battle of New Orleans.
Whoa. I did not know that. I thought it had something to do with the Alamo. But it seems that Tennesseans and New Orleaninans have a long and special relationship with each other.
Here's a bit more taken from the Tennessee Encyclopedia:
During the Mexican War many "men of the western waters" rushed to fight for new national territory. Their reach for land was so spirited that when the government called for 2,800 Tennesseans as their quota, 30,000 presented themselves for enlistment in the service of their country. Some of those who were turned away reportedly offered $250 for the opportunity to join the fight. Their readiness to take up arms confirmed Tennessee's reputation, dating from the War of 1812, as the Volunteer State, which has endured not only through subsequent wars but has become the identifying slogan for much of the state's athletic, social, commercial, and political life.
I've mentioned before that I'm a librarian. The last week of June I was in New Orleans for the American Library Association's annual conference. My colleagues and I stayed an extra day which allowed us to participate in a Volunteer (we paid $10 each to do so) Opportunity. I signed up for the Habitat for Humanity project. Then when Tuesday came round, there was a mix up and I didn't get to do HFH. Instead I went to the Algiers Regional Library Branch at Algiers. That's across the Mississippi from New Orleans, mostly residential. They didn't have as much damage and devastation as other parts of the city.
But, the library branch was gutted and used for storage. Thousands of people from all over the nation sent books to New Olreans Public Library System after Katrina. Those books were stored at this branch. I forgot this woman's name. See those stacks of books behind her? The center of the building was piled with boxes of books.
At the end of the day, I was very sweaty. We unpacked boxes, sorted the books into three piles, repacked them, and stacked them against the walls depending upon their final destination. The best books were slated for Better World Books. They will sell these books and give the money to NOPL System. The mid-grade books were labeled ALA/FEMA. I think they were to be redistributed somehow, but am not sure. Then the last bit of books were "Thrfit." Don't know if they were being sent to thrift stores or being sent for pulping. But, the center of the building was cleared.
Still, I feel as though I did so very little for the community. I yearned for something hands-on, like building a house, but things happen for a reason, and Algiers Branch is where I toiled. I did some good, but not the kind of tangible good I had hoped for.
Please remember the people of New Orleans in your thoughts and prayers. And, if you have time or energy to volunteer this summer or fall, there are so many opportunities through Habitat For Humanity, Operation Helping Hands, Common Ground, etc. And, there are always ways you too can become a Volunteer via craigslist.
See all the self portrait as... Self Portrait Challenge. They're a heck of a lot more creative than I.