New Orleans gears up for Super Bowl, but we still have lots of work to do

Editor’s Note: Surprise, surprise. After a long hiatus, Geaux Therefore is back – just in
time for the Super Bowl!

By GaNewOrleansSignry D. Myers

It’s game time.

In the days leading up to the Super Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome Feb. 3, New Orleans may be the world’s largest construction zone. Construction is nothing new for the Crescent City. This place has been under construction constantly since Hurricane Katrina left her battered and wounded, down but not out.

Aided by the massive reshaping and rebuilding, the city came back with passion and spice. And when New Orleans was announced as the host city for the 2013 Super Bowl, NOLA ordered up yet another round of updates and improvements. The Super Bowl is a chance for the city shine and I believe she will look good for her close-up.

For over a year the touristy sections of town have been reduced to a maze of traffic cones, barriers and orange construction netting. Street and sidewalk work in the French Quarter, a new streetcar line on Loyola Avenue, and a $300 million airport makeover. And the work continues. On Jan. 23, Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared the city Super Bowl ready. Mission accomplished … almost. I suspect the work will continue right up until people begin to arrive for the big game. Maybe we should change the welcome signs to read, “Welcome to New Orleans: Careful, The Paint is Still Wet.”

This Super Bowl is important for our city. We’ve survived Katrina, the BP oil spill, a cantankerous little storm named Isaac and the corruption trials of countless civil “servants.” The game brings an influx of cash. It means major exposure. People will visit and want to come back. You just can’t help falling in love with New Orleans.

New Orleans has already hosted nine Super Bowls. But this tenth one, though very important, isn’t our most important Super Bowl. That came in 2010. We didn’t host it, but the Saints won it. Rarely has sport been so transcendent. The win was so much more that a reason to brag about a game. Players and coaches alike wanted to win it for the city. They wanted to make a statement. The win said our city was back from the brink. It gave a measure of hope just when we needed it.

I will always treasure my memories of the victory parade that follow that Super Bowl win. We saw Drew, Reggie, Pierre, Sean and the team. That was cool. But the best part was sharing the night with 800,000 other Saints fans – people of all walks of life.  We shared something special together as a city and a region. We experienced community. My love for the city and its people grew that evening.

But a championship can only do so much. It provided some hope, but it didn’t solve all our problems. Our educational system is improving, but it is what it should be. We still have a ridiculous murder rate holding us back. Still we have a lot going for us – food, history, music, art, architecture, passion, etc. All this good needs to be matched with good schools, safe streets and opportunity – in a word, hope – real and lasting hope.

This Super Bowl won’t solve our lingering problems either. We will look good for the camera. I won’t discount the importance of that, but we need to be good. We need to be good for the children of this city. We need to foster their potential to rise above the status quo.

It is game time, but the paint is still wet. Solutions to our problems still can be found. The solution rests with you and me – everyday New Orleanians. It won’t be easy … in fact it often seems like fourth and long. It’s game time. Will you get in the game?

From City of NO to City of Yes

By Gary D. Myers

The City of No – that sure doesn’t sound like a happening place. It doesn’t sound like a city on the move . Sounds more like a place with very little opportunity.  Sounds like a place where needs go unmet and dreams go unfulfilled.

Until 2010, http://www.cityofno.com was the official web address for the New Orleans city government. Mayor Mitch Landrieu quickly changed the web address to http://www.nola.gov soon after he was elected to office. He referenced this fact in his recent State of the City speech.

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Where. When. Why. A second look.

By Gary D. Myers

Editor’s note: All the King Cake is gone and Geaux Therefore is back from the Mardi Gras break. This post on context was published in the early days of the Geaux Therefore blog. In those days, virtual no one was reading the blog, so I thought it might be time to take a second look at “where, when and why.” It isn’t a straight repeat, rather a second, updated look at context. I hope you enjoy.

Where, when and why. These are three of the most important concepts for the missional adventurer. Knowing, mastering and wrestling with each of these concepts is a life-long process.

Know where you are
By nature a photograph captures only a portion of the real scene. The photograph is stingy with space – capturing things as they really are within certain parameters. At times, the deepest communication in a photograph comes not from what is included, but from that which is missing. The photograph has captured truth – at least the portion visible in the viewfinder at a specific moment in time.

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When crime becomes personal

By Frank/Michael McCormack

Sometime in late 2004, not long after moving to New Orleans, my wife, Jennifer, and a group of her friends were held at gunpoint by a young man looking for money.

The group, made up of three ladies and a baby, parked just off St. Charles Avenue, under a street light, across from a busy restaurant. As they exited the car, the young man walked up, gun drawn, and said, “Okay ladies, this is how it’s gonna be…”

The encounter lasted just a few moments, with Jennifer shielding the baby from the gunman, one girl dumping her purse out on the ground, assuring the man that she hadn’t looked at his face, and the third girl letting him know that they didn’t have any cash. She was holding a diaper bag, not a purse.

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Homeless, not hopeless

By Gary D. Myers

John* struggled as he walked through the food line at Ozanam Inn. The grimace on his
face hinted of his degenerative disc problem. John was grateful for the plate of food, but he couldn’t take the cup of lemonade that I offered. It was all he could do to shuffle through the line carrying his plate. As I watched him find a spot to eat, I was overwhelmed with compassion.

After John finished eating, I went out to talk with him and hear his story. I’ve heard quite a few sad stories from homeless men and women. Some stories seem true, but others do not. John’s story is sad, maybe not the saddest I’ve heard, and I’m convinced that his story is true.

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It’s all about context

By Gary D. Myers

I dig New Orleans history.

Literally, I dig it. On Jan. 7, I volunteered at an archaeological excavation in the French Quarter sponsored by the Greater New Orleans Archaeology Program at the University of New Orleans. It was a neat experience.

Three hundred years of occupation by several distinctly different cultures makes New Orleans a history-rich environment. There is much to learn in the soil of New Orleans, especially in the city’s oldest areas. But the oldest areas also happen to be prime real estate and the heart of the city’s artistic and cultural hullabaloo. These areas also bring in droves of big-spending tourists.

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A small investment with great possibility

By Gary D. Myers

One of the highlights of my week is serving food to the homeless and underprivileged on Wednesdays at Ozanam Inn. I learn something new each week as I serve beside other Christians and as I interact with people who come to eat.

We don’t serve out of pity. Pity would be the wrong approach. Rather than pity, we try to offer dignity, love and hope. Pity keeps people at arms length; love let’s them into our lives. Pity doesn’t view them as equals, love sees them as people created in the image of God. Pity has easy formulas for explaining hunger and homelessness. Love helps us see that there are no easy fixes, no easy answers for the problems these people encounter. Pity is not our approach.

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