Sunday, March 5, 2006

Leading the Pack

by Lonnie Zingula

March 5, 2006 -- Screaming down Interstate 55 en route from Memphis to Gulfport, Van-tasia leads the Coe caravan for the second day in a row, or so it seems. Somehow, after seemingly leading this amazing race for most of Saturday, with our partners Van-imal House in hot pursuit, we were the second group to arrive in Memphis.

I blame one too many pit stops. They tell me it’s not a race, but it will be no surprise to my family that I treat it otherwise.

Our brief stay in Memphis was a nice reward for the week ahead. The Idlewild Presbyterian Church was a gracious host for the evening and I can’t imagine finer accommodations for the money – $25 for the entire group. We’ll stay there again Friday – if they’ll have us back – on our return trip.

Shortly after arriving in Memphis we unleashed the students on Beale Street with the simple instructions to meet us at the appointed place at 11:50 p.m. I’m pleased to report that everyone was present and accounted for without incident. I think that speaks to the character of the people who would sign up for such a mission, as well as Coe students in general.

Group leaders were treated by College Chaplain Kristin Hutson to a fine dinner at Isaac Hayes’ restaurant. Thanks Kristin! I savor the Memphis barbeque and suspect it will have to sustain me for a few days.

While meals will be provided at the workcamp in Gulfport, I’m keeping my expectations low so not to be disappointed. Likewise, we’ll have shelter and showers at Orange Grove Presbyterian Church, but I don’t expect any comforts of home.

As we make our way through Mississippi, my mind wanders back and forth between inconsequential things – like whether Mississippi’s own Brett Favre will retire or return for another season as quarterback of the Green Bay Packers – and the unknown – like the week ahead.

My excitement about the important mission we are about to embark on is tempered by anxiety over things I cannot control – like the emotions we’ll feel and the group dynamic that will develop as we lend our hands to the massive Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery effort.

More on that in the days ahead.

Lonnie Zingula is associate director of marketing and public relations at Coe College.