I live in New Orleans; city of festivals, Mardi Gras, tourism, Cajun food, and jazz music. The one year anniversary of taking faith steps of moving here is around the corner. The city and I have become good friends, quickly. I slid right into step with the culture. Although I’m not native I am proud to now consider myself a local. I can give you directions and tell you the best places to eat. I have bowls of beads on my table. I know not to wear flip-flops to the quarter. I’ve experienced roaches bigger than my dog and been swarmed by termites. I’ve also become pretty much ok with being soaked with sweat any given day of the very long summer.
Put Me In Coach!
Over the last year I’ve been waiting patiently (mostly) to discover God’s purpose in sending me here. Initially I thought that I was going to find an opportunity to serve in the human trafficking community either as direct support to survivors, program management, or public advocacy and awareness. I almost immediately began networking. I took tours of restoration homes, I signed up to volunteer at Covenant House teen homeless shelter on the frontlines of fighting trafficking, and tried to build a Written on Your Heart chapter. My heart jumped out of my chest when I found that the Human Trafficking Task Force was looking to hire a coordinator to organize and bring key players to the table. This is it! I thought, here’s the crescendo of my story… but that position was meant for someone else.
While working through my disappointment, I attended a service at Vintage Church. Josh Cook led a sermon called Embracing the Kingdom by Following God’s Call. In a room full of people, once again, I felt that I was being spoken to directly. Josh told a story about how when he coaches youth soccer, he taught the team members to stop asking to play goalie but instead ask “Coach, put me in where you need me.” Got it. I hear You.
I started to apply to other positions in my wheelhouse of expertise. Only one position really interested me. It was a non-profit start-up that technically hasn’t launched yet. After a 3 month interview process that had several layers to it, I was hired. I am now coaching first generation college students who are graduates of the New Orleans charter schools. I’m serious… I am now a COACH. That’s not an intentional play on words.
Seeing another dimension
Everyone knows the struggle that New Orleans has with the education system, poverty, and crime. Drugs, gun violence, murder; we know it’s here but truly lose awareness. It’s real because the paper says so when you bother to pay attention. Another interesting tidbit about New Orleans that I’m finding is there are really no “bad” or “good” areas anymore. It’s almost like there are multiple dimensions to this city that overlay. If you are privileged you see an entirely different world than those who are below poverty line, speak with a different-thicker accent, or wear a minority skin tone. Even so, we all still mostly share the same neighborhoods, streets, and spaces.
I think it’s hard for people to see the different dimensions we live in, especially if your dimension is a little more comfortable or safer than other ones. This other dimension is becoming very apparent to me in these recent weeks. I’ve never seen someone murdered. I’ve never had someone close to me, like a sibling or family member murdered. The youth that I get to share life with, who’ve grown up here, have. To them the violence is just another Tuesday.