Reflections on Joplin

Rutgers Hillel Alternative Spring Break

Doran Shapiro ’14, March 19th 2013

Over the course of the past two days I, along with eight other individuals, tore up carpet, spackled ceilings, removed a toilet and ceiling of a bathroom, and cut up additional pieces that will be replaced by new ones. Although this can be seen as one type of support, we have also heard and listened to the experiences of several individuals; this action of listening also consists as a means of support. Moreover, by expressing our own personal feelings and understandings, we inadvertently come to know what it means to be stricken with disaster via a tornado, as was the case in May of 2011 here in Joplin, Missouri. Additionally, while money is a great means of support, time–something which cannot be replenished–is just as great, if not greater.

In the past few days I have learned many life lessons; a result of both my actions, and those of others surrounding me. Specifically, I have come to understand these lessons within the context of disaster relief in the community of Joplin, Missouri.  I’ve learned the value of money vs. time, of community support, as well as the impact and strength one individual can have within a community. Additionally, I’ve learned, explored, and experienced the multifaceted nature that support can have. Support at its core is based on a reciprocal relationship. This reciprocity based relationship is based on both physical and verbal actions, patience, understanding, and tolerance.

In helping others through the donation of our time, we must integrate a keen sense of patience for others and their will to learn, regardless of the mistakes which may follow this learning. By understanding the situation and experiences of children, adults, and the elderly, we are then privileged to scratch the tip of the iceberg into the horrific nature and power that comes along with a natural disaster. Furthermore, the impact of one’s will goes a long way; I’ve come to gain a profound understanding of support as expressed between one volunteer and another, as well as support expressed between a victim and a volunteer.

Although a volunteer may be participating in the support and rebuilding of a community – whether that be through money, time, or moral support by simply listening – through similar actions to their coworkers/ counterparts, personalities will always differ. An individual’s unique characteristic traits will always prove to be a significant aspect of their contributions. Unique characteristics include such things as humor, as Darlene, a victim of the tornado has said: “we learn to cope and move on through humor.” Although we may have different senses of humor and varied personalities, we all have the obligation to help our fellow man in times of need, and can all do this through the very real impact of will; the will to listen, to learn, to support and to interact on a very fundamental, important, and special way.