Thursday, May 03, 2007

Front Yard People

In our Post-Katrina world there has been great attention paid to economic development, political reform, rebuilding of levees and the reestablishment of city services in the New Orleans metro area. While all of these things are necessary and in much need of attention, I thank God for some of the more intangible things that are coming back in to our area.

While our neighborhood wasn’t hit as badly as many parts of New Orleans, we received enough flooding to displace hundreds of people who lived in the apartments that surround us. After personally being displaced for about 3 ½ months following the storm, we were able to buy a condo right next to our old apartment that did not flood. Though we loved our new home, the neighborhood seemed like a much different place than it had been prior to the storm. Many of our previous neighbors, who had become good friends, evacuated never to return. Each family that didn’t return left a hole in the fabric of our community. I didn’t realize how much the tearing apart of community had effected my family and our neighborhood until recently as it has gradually returned.

Over the last few weeks I have found myself on Sunday afternoons sitting on a lawn chair in our front yard playing guitar, or reading or smoking a pipe. As I sit there I can’t help but smile at what I see. I see children—a veritable united nations of them –-Black, White, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, running up and down the streets, drawing with chalk on our sidewalk, playing together with my kids in a discarded appliance box, racing each other on bikes, soaking one another with a water hose; And where there are children there are parents, parents who I would not normally bump into but with whom I find myself having conversations on those afternoons.

This place was so desolate for so long. Sure the houses were standing and the trash was being picked up, but it’s the laughter of children playing all around that indicates life is truly coming back.

I have to say I’ve never been much of a front yard type of person. I typically like my own space too much. Living in this condo has forced me out to the front yard, and for this I am grateful. I find that as I sit there, I am actually getting to know my neighbors and partake of this intangible gift of community. And that is a wonderful thing! As much as I like my own space, I think I’m warming up to the idea of being a front yard person.

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