For those of you who have followed this blog with any regularity over the past 16 months or so, you may have noticed that new additions have been made far more seldomly this year than last. (Thanks for the reminder, Mom.) By no means does that indicate that I’ve less to say, it’s just that, in all honesty, this year has been hard so far. And, while I can acknowledge well enough that it’s been hard, I do think that it’s been a challenge to put it into words. I also want to preface this post, however, by saying that these comments are in no way a plea for sympathy or an effort to stress anybody out. It’s merely my best attempt at sharing an honest portrayal of my year in New Orleans. So here goes nothin’.
It wouldn’t be very honest of me to say that this has been a difficult four (ish) months without mentioning work. By no means am I saying I’m the only person out there struggling with working in a hospital chaplains department, but it’s kind of a new thing for me to not love what I do every day. It has been a challenging thing for me to realize that maybe I’m notgoing to be super thrilled about going to work every morning, and that maybe I’m not meant to be a hospital chaplain when I grow up. But I’m also trying to remember that I am meant to be here this year. We’ll see where this part of my journey goes, but maybe that conversation is for another day.
What has been affecting me (and I venture to say most of my house) more, as of late, is the crime that seems to be creeping in closer and closer to our little intentional community. It is no secret that New Olreans isn’t the safest city in the world, but over the past few weeks several members of our community have directly experienced, whether as victims or witnesses, instances of violence. In addition to that, reports of other events near our house have had everyone on edge. And while I know that violence is very much a reality in this world and in many cities, as someone who grew up in a pleasantly small town it has been especially hard to stare it in the face. It truly breaks my heart that people find themselves in positions in which violence and crime seem like the only option, and it breaks my heart that people I love are being hurt physically and emotionally. And I think all of these events have slowly but surely chipped away at our ability to feel comfortable in this city that is our home for the year. You want some cash, but you’re afraid to walk by yourself across the street to Walgreens even in the middle of the day. Or you had a bad day and want to just sit in your car for a while when you get home from work, but are very aware of the fact the gravel lot by the house is pretty isolated and awfully dark by the time 5:30pm rolls around. I think we’re definitely past that “honeymoon phase” they kept talking about at orientation. Culture shock much?
While we are obviously very conscious of traveling in groups, always locking the house, and making other safety-conscious decisions, the fact is that, at least speaking for myself: I’m just tired. I’m tired of seeing a constant stream of crime reports on the news, I’m tired of feeling the need to speed walk just the short distance from my car to my house, I’m tired of being suspicious of almost everybody I see on the street, and honestly, I’m tired of feeling guilty for having all of these feelings (I know a whole lot of people have it worse off than I do). But it is so hard to feel at home in a place where you feel as though your guard needs to constantly be up. And even though it seems like Christmas is coming at us with the speed of lightning (which in education land means the year’s half over), we’ve still got two thirds of our YAV years to go.
All of this being said, we’re hanging in there. Our little baby Christmas tree and some stockings are doing their job of bringing holiday cheer to the living room, and we are looking forward to the chance to visit with family and friends over Christmas. This past Saturday was our monthly community day (in addition to our Tuesday night meetings), and we spent the morning planting trees. I know it was therapeutic for me, and I suspect a lot of my roommates feel the same way. It was a wonderful thing to be away from the city in a little bit of nature (even though I could still hear the cargo ships on the river), and to be physically, visibly improving the land around us, and just to get a little dirt on our hands. I mean plus I saw an armadillo, some cool bugs and a cute little swamp melon. It was a welcomed break from “real life.” And New Orleans is still full of so much beauty and character, if we can only remember to look for it.
So as I said before, I don’t mean to alarm anyone with my words here. But I do humbly ask that, if you’re the prayin’ type, you keep our community in your prayers, that we can find hope and peace of mind as we’re making our way through this rough patch. During the closing prayer after our community dinner Saturday evening, one roomate read Psalm 23, and it was fitting enough that it brought be to tears. So, whether you need it right now or not, I’ll leave you with those words.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.