By day 3 we were a well-oiled machine. We knew what had to be done - where to cut and tear the drywall, the most efficient way to roll up soggy insulation, how to finesse the wheelbarrow down the patio stairs, how to pull out nails quicker than we can count. It was our second day at the same home, so we knew the project well enough to just get after it.
For those of us that have been living in California, there would be no getting used to the heat and humidity. The sweat dripped and puddled, and everything we were wearing looked 2 or 3 shades darker from being soaked.
But we had new backup to encourage us - John and Leila, who were using their Saturday to volunteer in the cleanup. After we finished for the day, they headed to IKEA for some casual (sweat-covered) housewares shopping. A friend of The Earthquake Bag drove down on Saturday to work with us, and we got after it. There is nothing like grinding manual labor with a few of your best friends to make you feel good about a days work.
By the end of the day, most of the demolition stage of this house was over. Next would come sanitation - bleaching and treating everything in the home to kill the mold. Then would come the rebuild. All in all, there was still weeks (or months) of work to do on the home.
We felt good about the three days we could contribute, but we totally humbled by those that were taking weeks and months out of their lives to help these perfect strangers. We'd likely never see each other again. Sometimes, the volunteers never met the homeowners they were working to help out. But it didn't matter.
Every day some volunteers would leave, and others would show up. The workers would say hello, learn each others stories quickly each morning, and then get after it. The names and faces change daily, but the spirit of volunteerism and giving is there, in a new form, each morning.
We hope we were able to do something positive for others. In fact, we got to see an immediate impact. But a disaster the size of Hurricane Harvey can feel totally overwhelming. There is so much more than one person could ever do. In today's world, where it's easy to make ourselves the center of the universe, it's hard to see a solution.
But we left with something far greater than we were able to give - true inspiration. A reminder that so many of those people we encounter each day truly are giving, caring, and want to make the world a better place. A reminder that our small bit of effort does make a difference, and it's worth contributing. And a reminder that if we all do what we can, and encourage those around us to do the same, we can meet any great challenge together.
We left inspired to pitch in again soon, and motivated to encourage you to come along with us next time. You won't believe how much you have to gain from giving.