The first Friday of each month, the YAVs and I get to get out of our normal routine and explore other areas of the city and the variety of needs that persists in the city.
In October, we met with Rev. Jennie Thomas at Ochsner Hospital to talk about stress and spiritual coping and develop resiliency plans as we face the challenges of the year ahead. Then Ford Deith, lawyer extraordinaire, gave us the grand tour of New Orleans, and we ended the day with snoballs on Plum Street! Yum-zo!
In November we started off the day at Feeding America (formerly known as Second Harvest Food Bank). We packed food bags for their Backpack Program, which are distributed to local schools for children who lack access to meals on the weekend. That afternoon we gathered near the Labyrinth in City Park and read an excerpt from Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution. As we introduce the idea of “simple living” into our lives, Claiborne reminds us,
“Simplicity is meaningful only inasmuch as it is grounded in love.”
As 2009 rolled in, we were invited to serve with Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans. Their mission is to help “academically capable and motivated children-in-need to meet their full potential and become men and women for others by providing value-centered, family-like homes, opportunities and education through college.” The Girls Hope hope received considerable damage from Hurricane Katrina and is now in the process of being rebuilt. Reminding ourselves to lift with our legs and not our backs, we cleared debris and organized the lumber at the work site. After a much needed burrito break, we headed over to Furnishing Our Neighbors, a non profit foundation that provides furniture and decor to help turn the houses of disaster victims into homes.
Just last week, we ventured over to the West Bank to learn more about New Orleans’ most famous party at Mardi Gras World. In the next couple of weeks, the city will literally stop (especially the traffic) for parades, balls and from eating too much king cake. We stopped for lunch at the Contemplatives in Action Home, a lovely urban retreat center in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans. The rest of the day belonged to Covenant Presbyterian Urban Ministry Institute (CPUMI), who provides a variety of services to its community, such as after-school tutoring, food pantry and distribution and a mobile health clinic.
These days are long and exhausting, but the reward of developing relationships and giving of the blessings we have received drives us to get out of our comfort zone each month. Check back next month to see what the YAVs have planned for us to do in March!