I had two delays on the ground before finally landing in New Orleans today. You can imagine that St. Casserole, in a cute jacket and just putting one toe over into the security area, was a sight for sore eyes! She took my bags away from me and we headed for the car. We'll have a chance to visit our favorite spots in NOLA next week, so we headed away from the city without stopping for lunch.
Soon, however, I admitted to being famished, and we got off the highway at a place where we could both find food and check to see if a particular storm-affected business still existed. I confessed that I could be satisfied by almost any food anywhere, and the next thing I knew, we pulled into the Waffle House.
St. C laughed and said she really knew how to show a guest the best kind of treatment!
I told her it delighted me to go to the Waffle House. You see, it's my first time, and one of my first impressions of the Gulf Coast after Katrina was this:
I did not know what it would be like to come here, but I somehow knew I must. I don't know how much good I did, on a practical level. Plenty of people cleaned up and rebuilt and are still building, coming in teams, coming over and over again, bringing New Orleans and Pearlington and Waveland not back to the way things were but into a new way of being.
And I? I listened. Oh, I preached, and covered some light pastoral duties, and walked dogs at the Humane Society, back in December and January three years ago. But mostly, I listened.
They say a good mission trip works as much on you as you work on it. I don't know if that's the way it ought to be, but I've found it's true, and never more so in my life than here. Broken things began to heal, and I found a new home place, a place still unfamiliar in many of its particulars but full of resonance, people who I feel surely have been part of me longer than the three years that have passed since we first met. My return feels like a homecoming.
And the waffle? Delicious.