With 12 others from St. Thomas I spent the week before Christmas in New Orleans.
There have been some changes in New Orleans - cars have been removed from the Lower Ninth Ward, many houses have been bulldozed there, and there is more life in the city. But we were told that there are still about 6000 houses that need to be gutted.
We worked on three houses -including spending two days on a house on Clabourne Street that we couldn't finish. It looked like an easy job but, as one person noted, it was symbolic of New Orleans. We kept uncovering things that needed to be. Behind the wood walls there were 2x4s and plaster and lathe; above the ceiling was an other ceiling and on the inside of the roof was plaster and lathe! The last surprise was that there were at least 8 levels of flooring. And so despite two long hard days of work (by a hard-working crew) we left the house unfinished.
At that house we encountered many sides of the complexity and tragedy. The owner was a 91 year old woman whose daughter had lived in the other side. A son, 67 years old, was the only relative in New Orleans and so was beleaguered, with relatives asking him to look after their houses. He looked worn out but was most generous to us - buying Gator Aid twice and then Cajun shrimp! Life is hard for these people but some are so generous.
Again this experience - good hard work - touched my heart and reconfirmed my decision to go to Honduras next year.
We had some very good reflections.
I realized again that New Orleans is a kenotic experience for me - as we emptied the houses, I too was emptied. But then I remembered the passage from Philippians 2 that I love - where Paul speaks of Jesus "emptying himself" and becoming human. The kenosis of the incarnation of Jesus has been an important part of my spirituality and now it is pulling me to be with the poor.
God is good!