After the kids opened their gifts, we headed out to the playground with them, and began to attract more people who hadn’t even been at the party. If we had walked out of the bed and breakfast with ten kids, at least fifteen to twenty were at the playground. They immediately attached themselves to us, and treated us like lifelong friends. We held piggyback races, played football, and pushed them on the swings. Even though we hadn’t known these kids more than an hour earlier, each and every one of us was sad to leave. We had made their day, but they’d had an equal part in making ours.
DAY FOUR: Arden, Meg, and Ella
This morning, we gathered at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast. Unlike other mornings, we had to pack up all of our stuff for the transfer to a new hotel. We took our bus to Oxford, MS. It was about a two hour bus ride north. Immediately from the bus, we went to the Rowan Oaks, the home of author William Faulkner. It was really interesting to see his study and his own handwriting on the walls. It was definitely a portal into a different time period.
After the tour, we took a long walk to the town center where we ate tacos, gelato, and even explored the town square free from our chaperones for a half hour. We then walked to the Ole Miss college campus. We toured the civil war monuments with a history professor who had been working there for about 20 years. We viewed the stained glass in the old library of the campus. In viewing, he explained the story of the stained glass: the Civil War from its start to its end, each stained glass panel representing a period of time during the war. This stained glass happened to be made by Tiffany’s and was donated by the Delta Gamma sorority. We also sat by the monument to James Meredith and gave our opinions about its design and learned its history.
We then took a bit of a longer walk to the Confederate soldier cemetery, where we learned that not only did Ole Miss act as a war infirmary, but they were closed during most of the war due to enlistments and disease. We also learned that although the number is unknown, there are at least 400 soldiers buried in this area. An interesting theory that some people still believe is that black groundskeepers removed the headstones in order to cut the grass, an idea that historians have long rejected.
After learning a brief history of the campus and its relationship to the confederacy, we were really able to ponder all of the interesting facts we had learned. We could attempt to imagine what James Meredith had been through as the first black student at the university. Looking around, several of our peers noticed the small numbers of people of color on the campus. It was particularly striking because of the shift from the nearly all black population in the Delta compared to the nearly all white population at Ole Miss.
We then made our way to the Oxford Middle School where we all worked together to create Love Packs. Everyone ran around laughing and racing to distribute the food in organized piles. As we tied each Love Pack for the children, it was heartwarming to know that we were helping lots of children to not go hungry over the holidays. Love Packs is a certified non-profit that packs small kits for children who have food insecurity. Often, the breakfast and lunch at school are the only meals that they will get in a day. Love Packs works to change this.
DAY FIVE: Cami, Ben, and Elizabeth
We left the Ole Miss Inn at 8:00 a.m. after breakfast. We drove into Clarksdale, the home of blues music, where we visited the Delta Blues Museum. Clarksdale is at the intersection of Route 61 and Route 49, which are the crossroads where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil so he could be a great guitarist. We arrived thirty minutes before our appointment with the museum, so we took a walk around town. There was a lot of creativity and art in the dilapidated town. We stopped in a small coffee shop called Meraki. Meraki was similar to the Atomic Cafe in Beverly, but it was also very musical with a piano and guitar for the public to play. We went back to the museum for the 10:00 opening where we learned about blues musicians with local roots like Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Ike Turner, and Sam Cook.
After we finished at the museum, we went across the street to Ground Zero, a restaurant and blues music club owned by Morgan Freeman. It was very cool inside; the whole room was covered by signatures each diner had written on the walls. There were two pool tables at the front where everyone enjoyed either watching or playing a game.
There are many mixed feelings about going home. We are happy to go home to our families and our own beds, but we are also sad that we have to leave this amazing experience. The whole trip was very eye-opening and left a big impact on all of us. We all saw the racism and segregation that is still very manifest in the South to this day. However, there are signs of hope, like the Confederate statue on the Ole Miss campus which is being moved to a more appropriate place. We were also able to see how welcoming a community in deep poverty was to people as well off as us. Being in the community is different from doing service behind the scenes, like raising money at the PID dinner. We were able to see what the people whom we are helping are really going through, and that gives us a better understanding as to why we should be completing the service.