I spent two days in New Orleans this week for business, topped off by a fun dinner with my son and daughter-in-law. It’s an old romantic city, steeped in French culture and influences, known worldwide for its food and festive spirit. Its neighborhoods are walkable and feel European in that there’s a sensible mix of residential and retail businesses that make the communities walkable. It’s how cities should be built. As a person that loves all things French, New Orleans suits me well.
But like Memphis, my home town, there’s vast poverty, hopelessness and crime. It’s a city that has known more than its share of pain, yet an esprit de corps amongst its people always rises to the top. Despite its setbacks, people are proud of their city and love to live there.
Climate change and the erosion of its wetlands are bringing unique challenges to south Louisiana and its people. So is rising income inequity and the long term forecast is not promising. I have a personal stake in the outcome, as I’m now joined to Louisiana via the marriage of my son to a wonderful Louisiana lady and her sweet family who are residents. My business interests are largely located in Louisiana.
When I was at the lowest point of my career, people in Louisiana literally saved me and gave me new life. I feel as much camaraderie and kinship with the people of Louisiana as with my home state of Tennessee. Perhaps more.
On Wednesday, I took the time to visit St. Louis cathedral on Jackson Square. It was quiet and cool in the church, a magnificent building adorned with statues, including one of my favorite saint, Joan of Arc. Sitting in the pew, I pulled down the kneeler and decided to pray. I prayed for all of my family members, each by name and always including the pets. All of my extended family, the nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters and cousins. For my business partners and all of our co-workers. For friends that have meant so much to me over the years. I prayed for strength and for wisdom so I could be a better leader. To be more generous and kind and not be so quick to anger and judgement. I prayed for the ability to deal with my shortcomings which are many.
Is God there? Is anyone listening? No one truly knows the answer to that question, but it’s difficult to comprehend the complexity of the universe coming together by chance. I’m exploring ideas that support this, scientific, philosophical and mathematical. It’s a long shot for my limited intellect, but it at least helps keep the mind sharp. But even if I’m wrong, it doesn’t matter. Prayer is a form of meditation, and it’s good to sit or kneel quietly and say the names of the people you love and to contemplate your hopes for them.
Au revoir New Orleans. Que Dieu source de la paix, soit avec vous. Amen. (Goodbye, New Orleans. The God of peace be with you.)