Today’s Team Rubicon assignment left me with strong contempt for linoleum removal, and more importantly, an immense amount of respect for the individuals I have the honor of calling my teammates.
Our work day began with an impromptu second line parade with a homeowner around the only piece of dry land on Ms. Alberta Washington’s property. The compassion, positivity, and dance moves of the Greyshirts brought a bit of laughter and levity into the world of a homeowner who is otherwise bearing the burden of destruction and devastation.
Our day ended with a truck full of battle-tested badasses belting out Gloria Estefan’s top hits before unloading the drywall-coated evidence of a hard day’s work. But the real magic happened in the hours in between.
Over the course of the day, my fellow Greyshirts gutted out a living room and exhibited super-human strength to drag a behemoth of a flood soaked carpet out of the home. But more importantly, they channeled their compassion and concern into action and impacted the lives of absolute strangers.
For example, at breakfast, my Strike Team Leader Ruben asked me to pack some extra food for the homeowner since he knew she did not have access to food throughout the day. My fellow teammates, John and Genee, continuously checked in on the homeowner’s physical and emotional well-being, as the stress and exhaustion began to take its toll on her physical and mental state.
All three team members would emerge from the home drenched in sweat and floodwater, exhausted from intense physical labor, and yet they focused on ensuring the homeowner was taken care of before taking any semblance of a break.
When we noticed that the homeowner had been wearing the same clothes for days, we headed to a nearby donation center to pick up clean clothes for a woman who had no possessions to her name. I watched as Ruben, a powerhouse of a man, gently sorted through clothes to find something durable and comfortable for her. Genee, mindful of the contamination and elements around the worksite, sought out supplies to ensure the homeowner would feel clean and safe around her home.
Shortly after leaving the donation center, we encountered an accident on the interstate. A mattress had flown through the windshield of a vehicle. My three fellow Greyshirts saw the accident along with a distraught driver and pulled the truck to the side to administer assistance. One tended to the victim, one checked the vehicle, and the third protected the perimeter by directing traffic. There was no discussion of execution prior to pulling the truck over. These warriors in grey knew what needed to be done and made it happen.
Eventually, our work day came to an end, and Strike Team Delta had to return to base. But as Gloria Estefan blared in the background, we had one final encounter that exemplifies the character of these Greyshirts. A homeless man approached the vehicle and all three TR members instinctively reached to their side to get a bottle of water to offer to a man who clearly needed it.
Ruben, Genee, and John represent the best of us. Their actions are driven by a genuine desire to help and to serve. They make me proud to put on the grey shirt every morning.