Labor and Neighbor. Team Rubicon Wraps Operations in Alabama

Mike Lee

Mike Lee, a native of Chicago, graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Creative Writing. At LMU, Mike developed international and domestic volunteer trips and served as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Student Veterans Organization. Mike’s professional background is in advertising and marketing, and has experience in executing large print and digital campaigns for non-profit and tourism clients. He lives in Los Angeles where he thinks a lot about dogs, bourbon, and the Chicago Bears.

“This is a job for 20. How many are in your crew?”
The work coordinator for the disaster zone did not hesitate: “Three of Team Rubicon? That should do it.”

Team Rubicon established a “Groan Index” on this mission, to measure how sore we feel at the end of each day. We also discussed a “yawn index”, for our early morning starts.

Perhaps everything I strive to prioritize in life falls into two categories: The value of work, and the value of neighbors to each other in time of need.

That’s what I love about volunteering. It stands as a witness to the value of labor, independent from a paycheck. Team Rubicon not only works hard for free, but also works smart, by innovating in the field, to solve problems that others leave untouched. For Operation Roll Tide Part Deux, we not only belayed each other over pitched roofs to patch them, but also belayed logs that weighed hundreds of pounds down steep inclines. This is because after disaster, heavy equipment can be in short supply. But when we do gain access to the heavy equipment, you can bet we will find a way to use it that the engineers never imagined. That goes for front end loaders, ATV’s, and our personal pickup trucks. Anything to move debris.

Volunteer work also showcases the value of people to each other in the face of crisis. “Redistribution of wealth” is a fine phrase to start a fire in national politics. But when it comes down to a household that has been shattered from natural disaster – when it is no longer abstract economics but simple human decency – there is no question about what should be done. I am not wealthy, but I have the time and know-how. I am going to redistribute what I have in plenty to those who lack. I can serve my fellow Americans, and Americans can serve the world. To me, that’s part of what “bridging the gap” is about: going to where there is the most need.

And I know that we will not always be the lucky ones who are spared from disaster. How many are in your crew?

Team Rubicon wrapped operations in Alabama this weekend, as thousands of volunteers poured into tornado-stricken areas. Alabama is still highly mobilized, on the heels of the historic storms that tore through the state last April. Many storm victims from 2011 now “return the favor” to their neighbors.