Lately, I’ve taken to wondering why I do the things I do for New Orleans. Why do I write, take pictures, participate in various charitable and non-profit activities and fight so hard for my adopted city? I could just as easily go home from my 9-10-hour work day, lounge in my recliner, watch TV/movies, read a book and go to bed. Especially after days spent covering the Coliseum Place Baptist Church fire and the UNOP process, hours in meetings with local non-profits and time spent helping, driving and reassuring others, I am a bit drained and ask myself: What’s in it for me?
One of the answers is obvious: I can’t sit still. DOing is such an innate part of me that if I DO not, a minor explosion may occur. All of this energy has to go somewhere. It’s not boundless, however, as some have begun to think.
Another is not so conspicuous: New Orleans is my home and it is a mark of responsible citizenship to participate in as many activities as possible that will make one’s city better. This is not socialism or altruism – if you help make your surroundings better, you end up living in that much better of a place. What some don’t understand is that by dragging their town down, doing nothing or relinquishing responsibility and decision-making to others, it is they who ultimately suffer.
A third aspect of this puzzle is a quote in Plan For Serendipity attributed to Audre Lorde: “And when we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.” You know where Ms. Type A goes with that one.
Finally: For better or for worse, as an American and a global citizen, I love New Orleans and want to see her potential bloom into an exemplary reality. This place is only a lost cause or a cesspool if we want it to be. So, we all do our parts. Today, Adrastos posted a link to my pictures from Sunday. This is a response he received from Valerie Savoie:
To say the people of New Orleans are a special breed is insufficient, though any description attempted would be, so we’ll just leave the fact of this plainly said.
This is a truth as certain for the Native as for, let’s say, the Relocated Native. Wherever one may have been physically born, there is a spiritual birth in New Orleans unlike any other place, anywhere. If you have lived here, and have faculty of your senses, you are here forever, wherever you are.
This is a mysterious and insidious phenomenon. I have witnessed it in those having lived the span of their lives here, in those who arrived later, and yes, even in those who have moved, geographically, away. We can call the latter of this group, the Otherwise Located Natives.
Perhaps it is the very nature of our terra, currently, infirma, which causes the roots of our soil to grow upward. Slowly, and as much as without the consciousness of the air as we breathe it in, these soft tender shoots, say of the Bougainvillea variety, rise up and bloom prodigiously within the unsuspecting heart.
The pictures provided us by Maitri the Magnificent are testimony to this. Witness Maitri’s first picture, the black and white one; it is worth a thousand words.
Waiting, as has become a routine of surely everyone’s existence here, in the ever increasing swelter of our summers, under the defoliated City Park Oaks standing as symbols of our beautiful, but crippled City, to participate in earnest pursuit of finding a way to resuscitate Her from near drowning, is testimony to, what else, but enduring love.
The need to revive New Orleans is as much as anything, the wish to mend the broken hearts of each of Her loyal citizenry. Thank you to each and every person in that line, under the broken Oaks, in the oppressive heat, determined to stand your ground, and Her ground, ground that cannot be divided. New Orleans is in your heart, and you, whatever your Native designation, are the heart of New Orleans.
Thank you from all of us who know what it means to love New Orleans.
Only New Orleanians can write prose so poetic in praise of their city. For the goosebumps and pride Valerie’s note evoked, I will keep doing what I do – meeting people, attending meetings, speaking my mind and writing – on behalf of New Orleans, this nation and fellow lovers of justice and progress the world over. I know what it means to love life.