Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Law of Inertia

In my time in New Orleans, I can't help but ask the big questions:

Why are we here?
Do we need to be here?
Why is there still unfinished work after (over) seven years?
Why are some areas less recovered than others?

After pondering over this for most of the week, I've reached a satisfactory (and, admittedly, unconventional) answer to reach a conclusion within my own mind. I'm not sure whether or not it will mean anything to anyone who may read this, but I figured I'd at least share in hopes of making some sort of connection. So here goes.

The Law of Inertia states that an object in motion will continue to stay in motion (and, conversely, an object at rest will continue to stay at rest) unless acted upon by an outside force. I feel as if this has a direct correlation to the current situation in New Orleans and where we fit in the picture.

When Katrina hit, everything went back to zero. Any forward progress came to a standstill. All objects in motion stopped due to an outside force. And they would have stayed there if not for other forces facilitating the rebuild. Like the Musjid-ur Rahim. Like Tony Wilson. Like Miss Joanne. Like Queen Mary of Vietnam. Even like Brad Pitt. It took efforts from everyone to restart forward motion.

But why, then, is there still such disparity? Why are some places still so behind in recovery while others are relatively close to how they were ten years ago? The answer returns to inertia. Some communities had large forces to push the area forward. But New Orleans is a big place; it's three times the size of Minneapolis in terms of land. A lot of people needed a lot of help, and some areas got cheated. Why? It could have been a lack of monetary funds, it could have been a lack of human capital, it could have been a number of other factors. Whatever the reason, some areas fell behind. So while some communities like the Vietnamese communities got a great head start right at the beginning and started moving quickly, others remained in a sad stagnation. Seven years later, the discrepancy has only been exacerbated; the communities that got an early start are now leaps and bounds those that struggled to regain their footing.

And that's where we as volunteers fit into the picture. A great force was needed to propel the communities at the beginning that now have such a head start. A greater force is necessary to catapult the struggling communities toward matching the level of progress. And that's why we're here. Each of us is here to add our strength in pushing these communities forward. One house at a time. One person at a time.


And with that knowledge, I am able to justify everything that we have done here this week. Through both educating ourselves and simply rolling up our sleeves and working, we are using the law of inertia to our advantage. I'm confident that with enough hands to push, we can propel lagging communities so that they will eventually match the pace of the communities that were so advantaged. All it takes is a simple push.

- Andrew Brady

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