Today we went to Marathon and partnered with Habitat for Humanity of the Middle Keys to help rebuild homes that were destroyed by Irma. I spent most of the day installing the subfloor in a home that suffered severe damage because of the hurricane. Laminate floors will be installed on top of the subfloor once they have been completed. I was able to meet the homeowner, a friendly older woman named Lois (I’ve included a picture that I took with her). She has lived in the house for 42 years and recounted her story of how Irma passed over the Middle Keys and devastated her home. Several parts of her home had just been replaced prior to Irma’s run through the Keys. As Irma’s bands radiated across the Keys, bringing relentless wind and heavy downpour, her floors were washed up and her ceilings were brought down.

Ryan offered us some advice at the beginning of the trip, telling us to be curious. He suggested that we learn about the people we serve. Reflecting on this and a conversation I had with Lois, I came to a revelation regarding the nature of service that is a bit paradoxical in nature: it really does not matter what you do to help. This may sound a bit strange, so allow me to explain. In my conversation with Lois, it became increasingly clear that exactly what we did to help was relatively unimportant to her. We could have simply swept the sawdust from her home and she still would have been incredibly grateful. Everything is relative. When you are reduced to very little or nothing, what seems to be the most miniscule in importance can take on a new significance. The notion that how you choose to help does not matter can be scary, but in my eyes, it is exciting. There are no wrong answers. Find someone in need of help and ask them how you can be of assistance. With this guidance and good intentions, it is hard to go wrong. Ultimately, our lives can be reduced to stories. These stories are of love and happiness and of despair and gloom. Service offers the opportunity to build a wealth of stories and experience. As I see it, there is nothing more valuable than building relationships with others. Such things are central to the human condition. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you to go out and do something. Make an impact on someone. As we like to say at the Ryan Nece Foundation: if not you, then who?

– Connor Mann