In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of the Gulf Coast, including regions we were surveying during our Mississippi trip. Five years later, the BP Oil Spill took place in this same area. With these facts, I had expected its people to be wanting to leave this region. However, it was surprising to see the amount of faith and trust the people have in the community.
Most of the people we surveyed had said although there were faults with the community, they love it and expect it to be better five years from now. One of those surveyed compared his neighbors as his sisters and brothers and wished people would look after one another more. I was genuinely touched by this. Although they may be of low socioeconomic status, they had big open hearts that were ready and willing to accept and help others.
A community is not defined by its demographical information but by its people. Every house is a story within itself and every person is a book that is not to be judged by the cover. We are not defined by race/ethnicity or income levels or educational levels, but by ourselves and what is inside. However, as we dive deeper into academics and spend more time in our offices looking through data than out in the field, we tend to forget this. We examine the various graphs and charts generated and we analyze the numbers, but we overlook the fact that these numbers represent people.
Since most of my surveys were done in Biloxi, Mississippi, I was able to learn a lot about the region, and about how people moved around and changed addresses. However, in the end, they would come back and stay. Although some left because of Hurricane Katrina or the BP Oil Spill in 2010, they came back to this region, because they believe the community will be better and because it is their homes.
And as we would say up here in Michigan-those who stay will be champions.