I love the passionate pulse of New Orleans where you never know if the person next to you is going to laugh with you, cry with you, hug you, or hit you. Where rituals aren’t only about religion; they’re about belonging to a tribe -- right now, the Who Dat Nation. Where the chant, “Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints “begins at one end of the city and travels as a wave down the length and breadth of the throngs lining the parade route -- miles and miles of chanting believers.
This is a city that embraces God and fears nothing; where people dressed like the pope parade with signs saying, “Bless you boys” about their favorite football heroes. New Orleans believes in the power of group prayer and the power of group play. Hurricanes are coming, gather and pray; Saints are playing, gather and pray; Saints are champions, get your group and make a joyful noise unto the lord.
New Orleanians mock the powers of Zeus and Toth and the other mythical gods in their Mardi Gras. They mock the power of death with their voo-doo and their cemeteries called “cities of the dead.” They know the difference between adoration and admiration; they cheer for their team and bow to their God.
Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) marks the beginning of Lent, forty days preparing for spiritual rebirth. “Dat Tuesday” (also dubbed Lombardi Gras) marks the end of over forty years preparing for the city’s rebirth.
This is a city that celebrates all of their blessings and graciously accepts their sorrows. It’s loud in its joys, and prayerful in its pains. A common response to tragedy is, “Oh, Dawlin’ What you gonna do? I’ll be praying for you” as friends and families roll up their sleeves and begin doing for one another.
Even everyday meals here are small celebrations. The restaurants are full of locals embracing the gift of great food and the talents of the people who prepare them. It’s quite common to observe everybody at any table eating off of each others plates for the sheer joy of sharing good food with their friends.
We’ve cried for New Orleans for over five years, even as we all rolled up our sleeves to help them keep the faith. Many times it has seemed that we were caught in a rip tide, and the harder we fought the current, the less progress we made. There’s a new energy in New Orleans, a renewal of their basic belief in the power of the positive. There’s a new mayor to lead them; their VA hospital is being rebuilt; their beloved Saints are Super Bowl champions. New Orleans is, once again, smiling from one end to the other.
Let the good times roll.