When We Fail

Sometimes I get unexpected looks at the uglier side of New Orleans. I know, that sounds terrible, I have been singing New Orlean's praises since I moved here. But there have been a handful of times when I've been confronted with some of the deep seated problems that plague a city I hold so close to my heart.

I have to be honest, I don't work in an atmosphere where I am directly confronted by some of the harder realities of New Orleans. All in all I'm pretty isolated. Project Homecoming builds homes in some neighborhoods that people outside of New Orleans would consider dangerous. We are usually a welcome site when we set up shop. At PHI we've had some tools stolen, there once was some gunfire a few blocks away from a house some of our Americorp were at, but all in all we are pretty contained. I don't even do the construction, just stuff around the office. The most I have to worry about is making sure I don't leave my purse in my car.

It's easy to wane philosophical about our country's social failings. America is deeply flawed. So many aspects of what we do poorly feeds into other things that we also do badly. It's hard to extract a single thread and follow it. No one thing is the source of all problems. The ways in which teachers and students are held accountable in school is broken, our incarceration system is laughable, I have a relative with a serious mental illness who is a shining example of all the ways we as a society ignore/shun/castigate those like him. This country has failed him.The people that we elect to represent us in the government have failed all of us. Finally, we continue to fail each other in pretty horrible ways without even realizing it.

Thankfully, I just get to think about these things.

But sometimes I have the unpleasant experience of being confronted with the reality of these failing systems. Today, after school, a man opened fire on a bus stop full of students. I know this because my housemate works at the school those students attend. She was not as the shooting, but to quote her "My kids shouldn't have to go through this. They shouldn't be afraid to ride the bus home." And she's right, they shouldn't be afraid to ride the bus home. Or ride the bus anywhere for that matter. My housemate works in a high needs school. She frequently breaks up fights between students. A lot of afternoons she comes home burned out from working with students who don't understand how to manager their anger. I have no doubt that each and everyone of her kids needs to spend time with a counselor every week to even have a fighting chance at being something more. But that support, and the funds necessary, just don't exist. Not for those kind of kids, not at that kind of schools

I wish I could end this on a positive note, but I'm tired and sad and I don't have much more to say right now. Those kids deserve better and we all continue to fail them. Right now all I see is a long tunnel with no end in sight. Here's to hoping that tomorrow I can see a little more light, give myself a little more grace and find the strength to continue to offer this city my best me, whatever that may look like.


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