I am from New Orleans. That is much easier than telling people I finished high school in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, and actually lived on the east and west coasts before moving to the South when I was 13. I try to be concise when people ask where I am from rather than explain this convoluted path out. That all goes out the window when they comment how I have no southern accent. Then I feel the need to explain why. Then I get into the whole story about being born in Pasadena, California and moving to rural Mechanicsville, Virginia when I was 10 then being uprooted again when I was 13 to move down south.
So much for brevity. See? I did it again. That introductory paragraph was supposed to be short like this one.
New Orleans is its own animal. It is hard to describe. Its people are generally church going. They generally are part of a large family that has not moved far from where they grew up. They know their communities and city inside and out. Catholicism is the predominant influence in religion. The state of Louisiana generally votes Republican.
So, you have this picture of the conservative South and then you go to Mardi Gras. Insert picture of a dog's face after seeing something it cannot comprehend. There is a reason why New Orleans is described as being similar to one of its signature dishes - Jambalaya.
Jambalaya has Spanish, African, Mexican, Jamaican, French and American influences in its recipe. Consider for a moment all the different ways those peoples tend to look at the world. Now mix them together. You get a mix of many unique flavors, none of which truly dominate the overall dish. New Orleans is the epitome of the American melting pot in my opinion.
This is my take on New Orleans. I can have a bit of perspective because I'm from there but lived elsewhere. Did I mention that?
Although Louisiana as a whole can be your typical conservative state, the city of New Orleans is anything but conservative. Need proof? Just take some beads with you and hop on a parade route on a busy Mardi Gras weekend. Maybe offer those beads for something. Maybe don't bring small children.
I graduated high school in New Orleans (er... Metairie) then spent some time at Louisiana State University before finishing college in New Orleans. I took my degree and moved to the Northwest to chase my dream of becoming a doctor. The University of Washington is well known for its Family Medicine curriculum and that's where I wanted to be.
That's how I got to where I am today. Why I am not a doctor is a story for another day.
I kept in touch with some of my high school and college friends over the years but we generally drifted apart. About 7 years ago one of my best friends from high school moved to Portland where I live. She and her husband got settled in. It took only an afternoon with them to get back in touch with all the warmth and belonging I felt when I lived in New Orleans.
They are part of the Mysti Krewe of Nimbus - a Louisiana expat group in Portland, Oregon that throws a ball and gets all gussied up for festivities and gatherings. They invited me to join them. I went to the Mardi Gras ball they put on and had the best time. The music took me back. I danced for maybe four hours straight. Such a good time. I got to know some of the people and decided to join.
One of the first interactions I had with a member was when I visited her to buy some Trombone Shorty tickets off of her. She couldn't make it and I wanted to go. Check out Trombone Shorty on YouTube here. So good...
I had never met Diana before. She is a warm soul. I met her as ideas of this blog were fermenting and joining in my mind and heart. As I entered her home (she was entertaining a friend and invited me in), I liked the vibe of her home and of her as well. She went and got the tickets. When she came out I mentioned my vision and plan to blog about it and asked her for her two important things.
Her eyes lit up and her warmth shifted into an entirely higher level. She smiled and excused herself for a moment. It turns out she was a blogger. She gave me her card (I need one!). You can find her blog (Community Nomad) here.
She loved my idea and she shared her two important things with me easily.
Kindness & Tribal Love
Diana's blog is about a life of nomadic travel - her home is where she is. Her definition of where SHE is from made me pause AGAIN and wonder I was from. I like that.
She goes places without a whole lot of planning or money for that matter. She immerses herself in the communities and becomes part of a solution there - a solution for any number of problems the community may be having. She prefers Central and South America but has spent time in Europe and across North America too.
She doesn't bring an agenda based on her past experiences or even her skill sets - she listens and learns what the community needs and then gets to work. She may have to learn entirely new skill sets to be of assistance, but it is never about her - it is about the other.
She shared with me her notion of Tribal Love which flowed right into what I was trying to create. When we know we belong to a tribe we want to protect and nurture our people. This can be good and bad.
The good is protecting and nurturing. That sense of love and connection is important to social creatures like we humans.
The bad is the limited scope many of us put on what we define as "the tribe". We draw boundaries way too short. This now creates multiple tribes (but only in our limited minds) and these are often looked at as competing for resources. Most of this is completely contrived - a human fabrication based on inauthentic fear. When you get multiple groups all thinking this same way (i.e. that resources are limited and their "tribal survival" hinges on claiming those resources) you get rhetoric, violence, and even warfare and terrorism.
So, tribal love can be bad depending on the scope and actions taken.
Diana's stand is that everyone is in her tribe. Whenever she meets someone or sees someone across the way, they are part of her tribe. She approaches people this way to accomplish the same thing I want to accomplish - to promote peace, harmony, belonging, family, love. This meeting was true serendipity.
When she got to talking about kindness, it became clear that she had a process of making tribal love all encompassing. She shared that when we choose to be kind to a stranger we experience opportunities to understand them that aren't there without kindness being present.
Beginning with limited boundaries (instead of large boundaries) allows the beauty of that person to shine through. Beginning with separation encourages more separation.
She went on to say that kindness isn't a state of mind, although that helps. Kindness is action. It is doing or saying something kind. This unlocks something within us. It unlocks some kind of connection with something larger than ourselves. It certainly unlocks a connection with our tribe when we are kind to its members. I feel it unlocks much more than that. It unlocks access to something much bigger than even tribe.
My experience is that when I do things to help others, my mind and heart naturally lead to almost infinite possibilities. If I see this and feel it and act on it and my immediate world and people in it have improved experiences in their lives, doesn't it make sense to encourage others to do the same?
What if everyone in the world felt this way? What if everyone was kind to one another? What if everyone considered everyone else as being part of their tribe and took action to understand them?
What would be possible?
So, for Diana's sake, for mine and for yours, please consider acting on this. Take kind action soon. Try to be kind to the very next human being you interact with. Choose to find a connection. Choose them as part of your human tribe. Keep choosing them even after your interaction is over.
At the very least, meditate on this concept of one tribe for a short amount of time. Think of it. Make it part of your process of inclusion.
This is how I am communicating Diana's wish that her Two Important Things be heard in the world.
I would love to hear from you. You can follow the Contact link at the bottom of the page or reach out to me on Instagram at @twoimportantthingsofficial.
Namaste and all that good stuff.