For the past few days I have had the opportunity to spend a few days in New Orleans. Other than a quick trip for a few hours, this was my first real experience in the city. Over the years I have heard stories of New Orleans... the wild and partying side of Bourbon Street, the street performers, the crime, the nightlife, Mardi Gras and many other things. New Orleans appears to be a city of multifaceted people and cultures. As in any city you will find the affluent residents, middle class people of all races and nationalities, and the youth that seem to bring the city to life. The French Quarter was a very interesting place. I stayed in the French Quarter during my visit and encountered many things during my adventures around. I saw street performers scattered throughout, hoping to be discovered, trying to earn a living off of donations from locals and tourists for sharing their talent freely with the people that strolled by. I saw individuals with robust personalities that approached random people in hopes that they could make a quick few dollars off of their trusting naive personalities. I even got caught up in the action a time or two... I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world, however. New Orleans is a great city, and I'm eager to go back when I have more time.
Bourbon Street was exactly as I expected it would be. I didn't expect it to be packed and full of life on a Thursday evening, but it was a great experience overall. It was an amazing opportunity to sit back and watch people having a good time.
Although I knew that New Orleans was plagued with homelessness, I guess I didn't expect to see it laid out in front of me at nearly every turn. When I first entered the outskirts of the French Quarter, I was quite frankly caught off guard at the number of people sleeping in covered parking lots... in the back of trucks, in sleeping bags, on mattresses and on the concrete. Not just one or two people, but MANY. We take for granted in our everyday lives that these things can never happen to us. Who knows what circumstances or even one really bad circumstance led to these people ending up in the situation that they are in now? It just takes one catastrophic event in our lives to end up in the same situation.
I guess the most disturbing thing to me took place just a block from my hotel. As my husband and I were heading down to the French Market, as most tourists do, there was a man sleeping on the sidewalk, in broad daylight, while the city came to life and everyone was bustling by. Most didn't give him a second glance. How does a country that is so powerful and wealthy have homeless people? How do we help other countries with their financial burdens and their crises when we can't even take care of our own?
Be thankful for all that you have in your lives, and if you ever find that you have old items you don't need, please think of donating within your local community to the organizations that give directly to the homeless, thus ensuring that the items go to those who are most in need.