As a YAV, my role is to be a bridge between the center and borderland to create a union and understanding between this division. To be honest, I was worried about how I was supposed to take on this task; I am my own self in a new place, how can I make such a large difference in one year? And honestly, it cannot all happen in one year. But during my week of orientation to New Orleans, I saw glimpses of how this bridge is already being built. My roommates and I went to First Presbyterian Church for their work on Wednesdays with the homeless population. Volunteers and the church set up clothing for men and women, free lunches, bus passes, and passes to the Salvation Army for whomever shows up to the church in the morning. We, as volunteers, were spread throughout the sanctuary to help where we could, but first we shared in a short worship service with all those present. The service comprised of a woman offering to sing for the congregation, a daily reading, a short sermon, and the Lord's Prayer. I simply observed, feeling like an outsider, until the Lord's Prayer. When we all—volunteers and those we were serving alike—had a common voice that repeated those well-worn words about our faith, I got chills. This is part of the bridge: faith. It's not necessarily a physical thing, we don't need to fill the space of a church; but the communal faith in God is part of what connects the center and the borderland—and what sent me to New Orleans.
A second part of the bridge that is unique to New Orleans, but which stems out to the entire nation, is the tie of Katrina. Recently, the city remembered the tenth anniversary of this natural disaster which ripped the city apart and left it grieving. My first week in New Orleans was focused not just on me learning how to make my way around but also about the culture that was created by Katrina. Our house watched When the Levees Broke, a startling documentary that showed me the true gravity of the situation that was a hand; we visited a museum that was dedicated to showing the reason why Katrina happened and how the city suffered. But the most remarkable thing I saw was when we visited a levee that broke. While those I was with read about how the levees broke and went to the wall itself, I sat and looked at a house nearby, pictured here. There was a hole in the roof from its inhabitants struggling to save themselves from the flooding. Since they were so close to the levee, their house must have filled up in minutes, and they rushed to beat that tide. The fact that this house was still here, ten year later, with that hole in the roof and those memories of the levee next to it was so powerful to me. All people, in the center and the borderland, were affected by Katrina. The impact of that storm is still present on the city and it will still be here; it is a part of New Orleans identity.
As a YAV, I am inspired to learn about all those parts of the bridge that I am creating. It is my job in this year to learn the battles I can face and the ways I can change society so that we come closer to no divide between the center and the borderland. The following song is from a local Louisville band, the Misty Mountain String Band; this Christian-tinged folk song always makes me hopeful for my future in the church. I highly recommend their albums.