At her performance in Snug Harbor last Monday, Charmaine Neville asked us to do at least one random act of kindness per day. These words embody the spirit of New Orleans, where acts of kindness have restored the faith in humanity for millions of people affected by Hurricane Katrina. From many survivor stories, I have heard about acts of self-sacrifice, and people going beyond their duties and responsibilities to help those who cannot help themselves, of people coming together, and forming communities to help each other survive. From my co-workers at the New Orleans Family Justice Center, and the co-workers of my fellow DukeEngage students, I have seen passionate and driven people, working beyond their job titles to alleviate some of the public health and social issues that plague the city today. After attending the 2014 Beatles Festival in the New Orleans House of Blues, I was reminded of a line in a song composed by Paul McCartney: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” This quote has resonated with me throughout my service experience in New Orleans, in the work I’ve done, the passion of the people I work with, and the people who have shared their experiences of Hurricane Katrina with me.
The kindness that Charmaine talked about is not only evident within my workplace, but also on the street, among strangers I pass by everyday to work, or when I am out exploring the city. I have heard the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong multiple times, but when Charmaine sang it, one particular line stuck out to me like it never had before: “I see friends shaking hands, saying ‘how do you do?’/they’re really saying, I love you.” Back home, in Los Angeles, it’s rare that someone passing by you will even smile at you, let alone have a conversation or even say, “hi, how are you?” In New Orleans, people have lengthy conversations on the bus, as if they had known each other for years, and people walking by you on the street will take the effort to look you in the eyes, smile at you, and ask how you are doing, without being labeled as “weird” or “creepy.”
The past couple of weeks have been a musical adventure, starting with some live local bands on Frenchman Street, to The Beatles Festival at the New Orleans House of Blues, Charmaine Neville’s performance at Snug Harbor, and the Beyoncé and Jay-Z concert at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. In addition, I’m super excited to go see a jazz show at Preservation Hall this coming Thursday. But, we also had a couple interesting adventures in our suite back at Loyola. First, I burnt bread in the oven, and I set off the fire alarm. I learned that the broil function makes the oven heat up faster than I had expected, and that bread cooks very quickly. Second, our kitchen sink overflowed due to a collective food clog in the drainpipe that our apartment shares with three others. We had water spilling out from the sink for about 30 minutes, as we paled water into our bathroom shower with our pots, and lined up many towels in our kitchen to soak up the water. Cheers to bonding over real-life household problems.
Come on down to New Orleans and follow 15 Duke Students as they explore the history and culture of the greater New Orleans area, volunteer with different community partners, and discover the nuances and flavors of what this wonderful city stands for!