Community Narratives

Somehow everything is different the third, fourth, fifth time around. Like reading Le Petit Prince for the 20th time, with every reread I capture a new idea or learn to see those timeless metaphors in a different way.

I feel that way about New Orleans during the personal development course we just completed in our first week of conference. Only two years ago I was traipsing down these same mid-city streets full of the same kind of Recrear-fueled energy I feel now. Yet, as if New Orleans remodeled itself, I only recently picked up on the wild and uninhibited green that thrives in this city. In fact, it doesn’t take long to realize that many of the most majestic trees out here have been around since the early days of the city (think 1700s).  Roots bursting through the cement sidewalks and lifting the ground as if to take me on a roller coaster walk – these lively oaks are so obvious to me now.

Tree of Life

This city and the conversations I have heard within it make me think about how much we miss when we enter and re-enter communities. Some of the simple facts escape us and we become oblivious to the issues, tensions, successes that have long be present. Our attention immediately goes to the greatest and latest headlines to the point that communities like New Orleans begin to be viewed through contemporary ‘before-and-after’ lenses: pre Katrina, post Katrina. These tendencies, however, remove the historical trajectory of communities which are just as important to understand as the hot-button issues that face the community today.

As we launch into our second week of conference by opening the floor to a multitude of community development practitioners I hope that we can explore the relevant not-for-profit management and youth engagement issues of today with a wider lens. More than anything I hope that seeing the bigger picture in this way will highlight the important yet subtle features of this city’s social fabric.

– Kirsten

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