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Nov. 18, 2009
New Orleans—A Look Back
Katherine just got back from her week in New Orleans. She was one of the nine Clif employees who went to the Big Easy as part of In Good Company. Read on for more from her last day there and what In Good Company means to her...

Today's my first day back in the office after my experience in New Orleans with In Good Company. It's also my puppy Charlie’s first day in the office—ever.

Arriving at work very early, I spent the morning catching up on e-mails while Charlie spent the morning exploring the nooks and crannies of my desk space. But now I pause to reflect for a moment—and, of course, to grab a second cup of coffee.

Since being back in Berkeley, I keep returning to the same image of last Thursday afternoon in New Orleans. I have come to call it (so far in the privacy of my head) my “hinge image.” For the better part of four of my days in New Orleans, I worked with a crew to help rebuild Ms. Cousin’s home. Ms. Cousin is a 79-year old wheelchair-bound woman who lives with her two granddaughters—one of whom has Cerebral Palsy and is also wheelchair-bound. She has a wonderful sense of humor, a sharp wit, and a huge heart.

So, last Thursday, I carried a door into the house to hang.

A crew of three had been working for days removing doors, painting them, and re-hanging them. As this particular freshly-painted door clung strongly to its hinges and I hammered the last pin in, I had a bit of an epiphany. Up until that moment, I feared that, to borrow a co-worker’s phrasing, I was too small to contribute any significant change, to spark any significant shift towards improvement. However, as I hung this door, I felt very differently.

Here I was, hanging a door I had worked on all morning for Ms. Cousin and her granddaughters to open and close for years to come. It was a closet door. Perhaps she would keep her favorite coat on the other side. Or maybe she would open it to retrieve a photo album boasting memories from her life. I realized then that I, and the 27 others I’d been working with, can make a difference.

My experience in New Orleans has taught me that community has infinite layers. We have the community of our families, our work environments, our friends, our cities, and beyond. Within each layer, we can make efforts, small or large, that will spark a change, even if we might not immediately witness it.

So, I hinge upon my hinge image. It's a take-away that I hope to hold for years to come, just like Ms. Cousin’s closet door.
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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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