Rather than blog throughout the trip I kept a journal going in a word document. When we arrived back at FSU I took a look through at all the wonderful memories I had documented. It seemed like so long ago when Alex and I were sitting in Mad Willies for 2 hours after being kicked out of the dorms. It made me realize how much we accomplished in such a short amount of time. I decided the best thing to do would be to write about my favorites.
The first full day we spent in Joplin was one of the most emotional experiences of the trip. It was unreal to see how much damage occurred in such a short amount of time. The only way I can put it into words is to compare it to a bomb. There were areas of the town that were completely leveled, no trees, no homes, nothing. I cannot imagine what it is like to be a resident of Joplin and drive through town seeing that everyday. It must bring back so many memories that people must want to forget. The last leg of our mini tour was to see the high school. Being there hit me harder than anything else. It made me think of my high school and what it would be like to go home and see it as a pile of rubble. A high school is typically the heart of a town and to see the high school in Joplin destroyed was heartbreaking.
Meeting Rhonda and spending time working on her house was inspiring. To see the debris that had blown into her yard from the hospital down the street put into perspective the power of the storm. It felt so rewarding to help someone who needed it and to see how grateful she was that we were there. I loved watching the house change day by day. I helped to build a garden in the front of her house so she would have something beautiful to look out her window at. Seeing how happy she was that we were there touched me. It made me realize even more that the smallest person can make the biggest impact in the life of another.
Our day off in Branson was a blast. I had never been ziplining before but it was the coolest thing ever! We all had a blast and even Joplin got to go (twice). After ziplining we spent time in the Branson landing. We got to walk around the shops and take in the sights. For dinner we went to the Dixie Stampede. We had to eat with our hands which bothered me, but I put on a smile and did my best to eat. The show was pretty entertaining and so different from anything we have up north. The best part was watching our fellow ASBers race around the arena representing the south. It was an experience I will not forget.
While there are many more incredible experiences I could write about, there is one thing that sticks out in my mind even more; the people of Joplin and all that they taught me. Being surrounded by devastation made me think about my own life. It really made me realize that materials and possessions do not matter as much as we normally think they do. Some people in Joplin lost everything. However, they are grateful and resilient and just happy to be alive with their family. This made me realize that it wouldn't matter how big my house was, where my house was, or how much money my family had. All that matters is that you surround yourself with the people who love you. As long as you have them by your side everything will be alright. Joplin proves that by sticking beside one another, you can overcome any obstacle life puts in your path. I am so thankful that my life was touched by the residents of that community. I truly believe that they impacted me, more than any impact I or ASB as a group could have had on them.