The oppressive heat and humidity of the south does little to dampen the spirits of the resilient people I’ve had the privilege to meet. I’ve been staying in New Orleans for the North American Irish Dance Championships and have been awed by the genuine friendliness and positivity of its residents. Kindness abounds in this city despite the challenging plight that many find themselves facing each day.
Yesterday we had a chance to take a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi aboard the Steamboat Natchez, one of only two true steam powered sternwheelers plying the Mississippi today. The strong Louisiana sun beat down on us as we boarded the boat, anticipating adventure along the river banks. The sites were historic and heartbreaking from a War of 1812 monument to remnants of Hurricane Katrina. What struck me was the joy offered by those working the boat from the captain to the waitress in the dining room. Each seemed sincerely happy to be sharing a little about their city with the tourists and the waitress was overly kind and interested in our Irish dancers. To me, this is what life is all about – joy and contentment.
While strolling through the busy streets of New Orleans this morning, thinking about our week and Emma’s wonderful accomplishment, I looked up on a balcony and saw a banner that read “follow the master plan.” This struck me in a profound way. Since the passing of my beloved mom I’ve been missing her little words of wisdom that always seem to pop up at just the right time. She would have appreciated the kind and loving ways of the southern people. She would have reminded me (and everyone else) that God has a plan and that often we cannot see what the future holds, but the key to happiness is to be joyful right where you are today – like the people in this city.
I finished my walk with a visit to St. Patrick’s Church. The doors were locked as daily Mass isn’t offered until noon so I stood quietly for a moment thinking of my mom, my family and the beautiful gifts that God has given me with the church bells tolling in the distance. Like the people of this unbreakable city, I am grateful for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. I may not know what God’s master plan is, but that’s okay. Mom taught me that I don’t have to know – I just have to live each day in joy and gratitude.