I wish I had written something about Spring Break in New Orleans sooner, but I suppose it’s better late than never, right? Here goes nothing…
Bus ride for 27 hours from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts to Gentilly Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana.
What has struck me so far is the beauty of the light and landscape. I woke up somewhere in Tennessee on Saturday morning on the bus, and it was all light golden sun streaming through the cracks in blue-gray clouds, over the green, rolling landscape dotted with cows and farmhouses. Friday night at Wellesley was light yellow sun setting over the lake, reflected on the waves, carried through the air and tinging everything slightly yellow. Saturday evening was the most gorgeous Mississippi sunset - we watched this bright yellow disk sink slowly past the horizon, changing from white-yellow to golden to orange and red, a grapefruit-colored hazy glow and purple-y wisps of cloud around it. It sank slowly, behind the silhouettes of tall, thin trees. The sky began as a wash of naples yellow and light blue, slowly intensifying to orange-red. The glow from that one disk reflected on everyone’s faces in the bus, so we, too, were bathed in golden glory. - Journal entry from Saturday night (March 19)
We sang songs, accompanied by E’s guitar. We slept in various uncomfortable positions. We ate and laughed and talked and watched the Lord of the Rings until finally arriving in New Orleans at around 9:30 Saturday night. And that was only the beginning…
There is something about sharing a space and doing good work that brings people together. Somehow, while we stood in line to take showers and spun around on the merry-go-round and helped ourselves to garlic bread and covered ourselves in paint, trust took shape. Friendships were made. Stories were uncovered.
Doors were opened.
I think faith is a beautiful thing, no matter what form it is in. It does not matter what you believe, I still think that faith is beautiful. I loved hearing people talk about faith, and God, and spirituality, and their personal journeys. We have all come so far…and yet we all have so many questions to answer and obstacles and battles that we are fighting. I understood, in New Orleans, that none of us are ever alone.
The comprehension dawned on me as we spontaneously sang hallelujahs and hymns for hours on our last night in New Orleans, outside by the church playground. It came in the form of all of our voices, blending together; in the form of our hands, holding fast to each other; in the form of the music and the stars and the humid air that stuck to us and held us close in that moment. It did not matter if you were atheist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or still searching. We were singing Christian songs but I felt like I was not singing something wrong or different. I was singing with people who I loved, to God, who I love. I was singing to express my joy in His joy, my peace in this peace He gave us. I was singing and I was immersing myself in a different faith tradition, but it felt like we were all unified in mutual respect and understanding and love. Like we were all the same.
It happened while we were at our worksite, too - I specifically remember one afternoon, sunlight streaming in through the windows of the house we were working on, hot breezes being carried through the open door together with the noise of saws and chisels and chatter. I was up on a ladder, painting, when “Sweet Caroline” came on the radio and suddenly the entire house was full of music and laughter as everybody sang along to the chorus.
Good times never seemed so good
SO GOOD, SO GOOD, SO GOOD!
The entire week was a refreshing reconnection with, well, life. Spirituality and faith, building with our hands, physically making someplace better for someone else - it was beautiful, it really was. I was touched by that experience and forever changed.