I recently returned from New Orleans where I had attended a software conference. I had a wonderful time. Not only did I learn a lot, but of course I enjoyed much of what New Orleans has to offer especially the rich culture surrounding the food specialties. The taste and smell of gumbo, seafood, jambalaya, creamy pralines and the spicy boiled potatoes will be in my thoughts for a couple of weeks. One night while riding the trolley car after feasting on the world famous beignets from Café De’Monde, I noticed a sign conveniently placed for all to see. The sign read, “New Orleans, You’re Different Here.” The more I thought about the slogan, the more I began to experience the essence of it.
The following night, our sponsors arranged for us to participate in a down home, New Orleans parade. As a young child in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I loved watching the annual Christmas parade as my sisters and I waited for Santa Claus to appear at the very end. During the Thanksgiving season, I still find myself being drawn to the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while preparing dinner. The last time I participated in a parade, was during my college homecoming many years ago.
Once I realized we were actually going to be in a parade, my energy soared. Our sponsors had brought in a local high school band to lead us. The entire experience brought back wonderful memories for me. Soon I found myself wanting to march with the flag girls and the majorettes and step high like I did in high school. Well, they didn’t let me go to the front of the parade with the majorettes, but that didn’t stop me. I decided to fall in line behind the tuba players and lead the pack until the end of the parade. There was something about the sound of the drums and the brass instruments that made me feel different. As we were walking by, the onlookers were waving and taking pictures as though we were celebrities. I can imagine if I was just walking down the street and saw a parade, I would also stop and take notice as well.
Well, my celebrity status did not end there. When we arrived at our destination, they had also hired the services of a ragtime band to play jazz while we enjoyed our dinner. These guys were awesome and they received a huge round of applause after every selection. As we ate dinner, they played with heart and soul. Everything was so wonderful, I wanted a memory. Before I knew it, I was up talking to the band and asked if I could take a picture with them. The saxophone player allowed me to join the band and pretend to be a saxophone player. I even convinced the drummer and the trombone player to let me pretend play with their instruments. I enjoyed hearing many of their stories as many of them began playing instruments as early as 6 years old. Wow. I was different after hearing about their passion to play music.
What makes New Orleans so special is that they celebrate everything. They celebrate life, death, holidays, food and most of all people. I saw people from all walks of life as we paraded down the street. What I saw on the faces of most everyone we passes were smiles as they waved frantically at people they didn’t even know. Everyone in the parade was smiling. Everyone along the route was smiling. There was the rich and the poor, people of all types of nationalities, tourists and home folks, all smiling and dancing along because they figured we had something to celebrate.
The Bible has many examples of celebrations. 2 Chronicles 30:23 NIV indicates "The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully." There were celebrations for deliverance, for the harvesting of crops, special days of the month, the moon, and various events. When we celebrate, we often commemorate some type of event. We have baby showers, bridal showers, graduation celebrations, wedding and anniversary celebrations and birthday celebrations. There is always something to celebrate. Why not be cheerful and celebrate the gift of life daily and the other miracles that happen in the course of the day? The Bible says in Proverbs 17:22 (NIV), "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
They were right, in New Orleans I was different. I was thankful for having a nice, safe, room with a comfortable bed, in a fabulous hotel. I appreciated the few days away from my super busy routine. I love to learn new things so having an opportunity to learn from others was fabulous. I got the chance to meet some great people, ate some outrageously delicious food, and had some great stories to share with my husband who I wished could have accompanied me there. Lastly, I will always remember my trip to the Big Easy because I got to be part of the Band!
Janice R Love, Author
First Lady, Mom, Stepmom and Divorce Ministry Coach