Day 1: Katreena, by Dr. Danielle Alexander

At 3 PM, with everyone thirsty, tired, windblown, and already sore-muscled from pitchforking what seemed like tons of mulch into buckets and then spreading that mulch around the young holly, magnolia, apple, and sycamore trees that St. Paul’s Homecoming Project has planted in the Neutral Ground of Broad Street in Gentilly, I am standing in line in the Walgreens buying bottled water. I hear a gentleman behind me greet another customer. “Doing all right, my friend, doing all right.” Mutual inquiries about spouses. “She’s all right.” “Better?” “She’s all right. You know. Been sick since 1987. Not gettin’ worse. How’s [your wife]?”

“Oh, now, she’s OK. You know. Still down-hearted. Depressed. Ever since Katrina.”

“Umm-hm.”

“Lost everything.”

“Lost everything.”

“But I tell her it’s just things. Can’t grieve things. Got to let ‘em go.”

“Umm-hm. That’s the only way.”

“Praise the Lord.”

And then I’m at the cashier. The man behind me–the one whose conversation I’ve been eavesdropping on, both trying not to hear it but feeling as if I must hear it, that this is the story, the one the’s told thousands of times a day every single day here–helps me lift the heavy package of water-bottles up to the counter. I turn to him and say thank you, meaning it with all my heart.

Bless this city for giving us the gift of letting us serve.