The trip to do post-Katrina work in the Big Easy was everything I expected and nothing at all like I thought it would be.
As expected it was:
Lots of Work
Full of Surprise both good and bad
What didn't I expect?
I didn't expect to walk out of All Souls to greet the visiting group of Episcopal Youth from a different diocese and run into my friend Eric Travis. Proof positive of how small our church can be. Add to that listing the fact that Fr. Wright knows my aunt. They got a chance to reconnect when she came to see me one day.
Out of 38,000 Lutheran youth and leaders I didn't expect to even see someone I knew. But I saw Jason Yelder leaving Cafe du Monde while I was there. It was too noisy and we were too far away for me to say hello.
I didn't expect the overwhelming and heartfelt appreciation of average New Orleanians for the work of volunteers to come and help them re-build. It wasn't a polite, quick thank you but sometimes effusive thanks. They would share their stories and emphasize how important volunteers were to the future of rebuilding the city. They would share stories with us and take some time to thank us again. And it happened all over the city, not just in the areas hit hardest.
I wasn't prepared the level of still existing destruction and disorder. This is one of America's great cities and four years later parts of it(large parts of it) are still a mess. I know it's a big project and we were never going to get it fixed overnight. Somehow it feels like we ought to have done better than this. Blame seems to be spread over the city, state and federal levels. I don't care whose fault it is, it needs to be fixed.
I didn't expect to fall back in love with the French Quarter quite as much as I have. It reminds me very much of old European cities in some ways and I desperately want to come back just as a tourist with my lady wife and stroll its streets, listen to its music and eat its food. Yes it's dirty and touristy and all the rest in many places but that's fine. The real world is a little down and dirty.
That may be the biggest reminder/lesson of all this. The world isn't this nice clean orderly place. Suburban Buffalo or life in a small village isn't really reality in some ways. We are blessed, even on our worst days. The worst blizzards I've experienced over the last 25 years didn't do the kind of damage Katrina did. Our lives are very safe and quiet and secure. We should cherish that more than I think we do.