New Orleans. You may recall the times I have mentioned the Crescent City. Most recently, it was in a column opening with: “Lagniappe is a word I heard frequently while a New Orleans resident. Some people claim the word originated with the Louisiana Cajuns, derived from the Spanish phrase, la napa, which means, ‘the gift.’ The word is commonly used to refer to a bonus or extra-added value a person may receive.”
Another column began: “While in graduate school in New Orleans, I counseled in a home for unwed mothers. Susan, sixteen years old and seven months pregnant, tearfully said, ‘Mother wants to see me at Christmas, but Daddy doesn’t.’ I wrote a letter to her father that included, ‘Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Christ, who brought to earth an unconditional love – not a love that says, I will love you, IF…’ ”
The memories of New Orleans are many. While studying three years at New Orleans Baptist Seminary, I also taught speech, English, drama and coached football at Curtis High School. I was youth director at Kenner First Baptist Church and served as an area-wide youth coordinator, working with schools, hospitals, churches of various denominations and other institutions – including a coffeehouse in the French Quarter. My work also took me to Pass Christian, MS, where I served as a leader for two summers at Camp Kittiwake.
My wife (Jean), our young son (Carl II) and I moved to New Orleans not long after Hurricane Betsy hit the area. Two months after we left, and settled in the Great Smoky Mountains, Hurricane Camille dealt its blow to the coastal region we once called home. It was a blow that included the leveling of Kittiwake, which was never rebuilt.
And now, Hurricane Katrina has leveled an almost unbelievable amount of things – and people. I have attempted to contact by cell phone some friends and associates there. The recorded message simply informs, “All circuits are now busy. Please try your call again later.” At the “People of Passion Celebration” that Louise Mandrell and I recently co-hosted at her theater, we had some folks from Grand Isle, LA. Great people. Heaven only knows their whereabouts.
And it’s heaven we need to call upon for all of these victims, along with calling upon ourselves. We are advised to contact the Red Cross or Salvation Army, organizations that will channel a large percentage of donations directly to the devastated areas. There are other such organizations that wait with open arms for material and human assistance to help those affected in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and other states.
In the midst of my wide-ranging work in New Orleans, I often discussed with Jean the diversity of the inhabitants. Living in close proximity with the affluent and middleclass, about 40% of over a million and a half residents live in poverty. This magnifies the tragic situation and magnifies the desperate call for help. Thousands need it, including those who are struggling to save their lives and the lives of others, as well as those who are taking advantage of the situation to loot and exploit.
It’s rather easy to love the lovely and help the helpful. But the extra-added value, lagniappe, is realized when we exhibit the unconditional love the unwed pregnant teenager so desperately needed from her father. The looters and exploiters definitely need discipline and restraint. They also definitely need help.
My most recent trip to New Orleans was to speak to a business group meeting in a French Quarter hotel. A couple of us went for an early morning walk and saw several people sleeping in building entranceways. My exercise companion remarked, “Something ought to be done to get these people out of here.” Well, something has been done. Hopefully, with our assistance, we can help them and others to have hope for the future.
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at 865-436-7478 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on www.carlmays.com and Amazon.com.
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