Final Reflections on New Orleans
My reflections on New Orleans begins with a calender. Why is this calender so special? That begins with where and how it was found. In the post called, “She Died in the Doorway”, I told Patsy’s story. Her house had been untouched since Katrina. Everything on the inside of the house preserved in their post storm condition, including this calender. If you notice, it’s stuck on the month of August, 2005, the month of Katrina, which hit on August 29th. It’s also the day that Patsy died in the doorway of her house as she drowned in the flood waters from the breached levees.
My crew of atheists and Christians cleaned up the inside of the house. Refrigerator, stove, broken shelves, couches, beds, clothes, books, and a petrified cat. They tore down the mold encrusted walls, ceilings, and carpet. The house has been completely gutted and ready for the reconstruction crews. This house will be made livable again for a family that doesn’t have house, something we did for another house during the week. Trinity buys these houses, fixes them, and sells them. Then, with the profits, they do the same thing for another house. No one makes a profit from the sale except the family who gets a refurbished house.
Hopefully, those in Patsy’s house will remember her. We will with this calender. It represents all the hard work our crew did. They really worked hard on those houses doing some amazing work in the space of four days. They contributed a ton of man and woman hours to rebuilding of New Orleans.
If you notice, we all signed the calender and framed it.
The importance of these signatures are obvious. They are atheists. They are Christians. People who have vast philosophical and theological differences working together. I talked about the talks at Lafite’s, but that was only a small part of the talks I heard. Talks in the cars. Talks on the work sites. Talks walking through French Quarter. Christian and atheist discussing, arguing, and laughing. It was truly Shalom. I have been on a lot of service project trips. Navajo Nation. Tohono O’Odham Nation. Ireland. With respect to those groups, I have never been a part of a group that gelled so well together. I’ll be honest, I had no idea how the group dynamics would work. It’s one thing to sit around at Ohio State for a few hours and quite another to work hard together for eight hours straight. Even in the best of groups, this can often be a formula for conflict.
Not so with this group. I can honestly say there was no tension in this group at all. Everyone in the group has plans to hang out at Ohio State. There is no doubt that the relastionship between the two groups went to another level with this trip.
So, this framed calender is going to hang at the Cloister at Ohio State. Ashley and I will probably take it places we speak together. Hopefully, people will be inspired to do the hard work of Christian/Atheist dialogue. Hopefully, they will see what is possible when everyone is willing to be humble and put themselves in uncomfortable positions.
When we do, Shalom is created. When Shalom is created, interesting things happen.