Since being in New Orleans, I now see I did not really understand the deeper meaning of poverty. I did not understand how prevalent racism continues to be in this country. Nor did I understand the concept of "separate but equal" and the irony of such a sacrilege to humanity. The blessed people of New Orleans have taught me much and I am humbled to be so instructed.
I was in the Wal-Mart today... I seem to "see" things when I am there. Today, I was there buying some much needed hand sanitizer after a bout of intestinal virus (self inflicted - from not cleansing my hands then eating a snack by hand), anyhow I digress, I was in line and in front of me a young man and woman were buying 4 straw hats, a beach blanket, a fold-out chair, sunscreen and waters and getting a hundred dollars in cash. Behind me 2 men were buying 4 fold-out chairs and a cooler and other items for sitting out and enjoying the Jazz Festival.
And I couldn't stop my consciousness from wondering... have any of these people in line buying these items for "a day or two of fun" ever thought about the lives of the people who work at this Wal-Mart? Do thoughts enter their consciousness as they are buying whatever they need/want, that many of the people who work here cannot find work anywhere else in town? That their homes might still lay in ruins whilst they wait for help in gutting and rebuilding? That they have been living in a cramped FEMA trailer for almost 2 years with their families? That if they are African American, it is likely they will "subtly" be denied based on racism, fair housing opportunities in this city? Have any of the people who were in line today even gone down to the 9th Ward or St. Bernard Parish? Have they helped in gutting houses? Have they donated to helping rebuild a house? Are they aware of the suffering of their fellow New Orleanians? Even if they are "tourists" just here for the Jazz Festival - are they aware of the ongoing suffering occurring here? Do they leave the French Quarter or talk with the locals who might be serving them in the restaurants and bars or across the counters at the stores?
I won't be at the Jazz festival this weekend. I don't begrudge in any way those who are and will be at the Jazz Festival having fun. Fun is necessary in the balance of life. But when do we question the in-balance between those who "have" - who seem to have plenty of opportunities to rest and have fun and those who do not "have" who endure incredible suffering and poverty daily? What does it take for the "haves" to move out from their self-absorption and self-gratification to become aware of their brothers and sisters around them who are suffering? If they do not drive out of their comfort zones and "see" those who are suffering sometimes unendurably, and their consciousness' are absorbed in only meeting the needs of their own families and communities - how can a higher consciousness - a greater compassionate heart, ever be found in them?
Sometimes when I walk down the streets "Uptown" I want to ask, have you been down to the 9th Ward or St. Bernard Parish? Did you go down and help? Do you go down there and help? Are you aware of the suffering? But people "Uptown" are so well guarded, so well masked, that there are no opportunities for such intimacies.
Prayers for the suffering.