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Tikkun Olam - Noelle in Biloxi
Writing about my work trip to Biloxi, MS
Tikkun Olam

Every night at dinner at HOGC,  new arrivals would introduce themselves, and those about to part would speak a little to their experience and say their goodbyes.  For our Seattle group, this is when Jaxon gave his famous speech and lead us in a sing-along of Lean on Me.  

One of our first nights there, a man named David was celebrating his 60th birthday by volunteering with his family in Biloxi.  He wrote a little something and share it with the group.  His words were extremely powerful.  I feel very fortunate that he typed them up and posted them on the HOGC blog:  

"I want to say a big thank you to the long-term volunteers and staff for creating this incredible place and all the structure that goes with it – organizing the projects and pulling together the tools, supplies, and money that make all this good work possible. There’s an important principle in Judaism – it’s a commandment of Jewish law – called Tikkun Olam. Tikkun Olam means to repair the world. The Talmud says: “It is not up to you to finish the work, yet you are not free to avoid it.” No one can fix it all; but we all have a part to play. What’s going on down here could not be more important as an example of Tikkun Olam.

"I say that for three reasons. First, of course, it makes a huge impact in repairing the lives of the people that receive help from Hands On.

"Second, it makes a huge impact on the volunteers, repairing our hope and giving us all a taste of what is possible when people share a vision and a common purpose and learn how to work together.

"Finally, it repairs the wider world. The broken homes and broken lives that lay in the wake of Katrina were not caused entirely by the storm. Gutting these mold-encrusted houses reveals what ramshackle affairs many of them are. Their sad condition is a legacy of the racism and poverty in this country – a culture that says it’s OK for the poor to live in houses that are nearly falling apart, that are vulnerable to severe weather. Katrina peeled back the veneer that hid this neglect from our collective view. I believe that the work that’s going on down here tells the wider world that broken houses and broken lives are not acceptable, regardless of whether the damage was caused by hurricane, massive societal neglect, or both.

"So when I come to Biloxi, I remember Tikkun Olam. Healing the world: it’s not just a good idea – it’s the law."

Ryan, Ryan, Julie and I went to Langston Hughes Theatre last night to see  Katrina: I Too Am Worthy.  Written by a local author, Dante Felder, the play looks at a struggling Seattle family, where the father figure, played by Felder, is in New Orleans after the levees broke.  An intense play- but that I'm really glad I saw it.  Not a typical way to spend St. Paddy's Day, but I'm glad we did.

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