I took a walking tour of New Orleans’ French Quarter this morning, a truly unique and vibrant neighborhood within a unique and vibrant city. Stephen was our tour guide, and, because rain was forecast, it was a small group of eight who chanced the weather.
Stephen obviously loved the French Quarter. Like every tour guide, he was knowledgeable and interesting. But there was more than just that for him. He was not just telling us about the neighborhood, he was sharing his world. This was his home, and he was not only proud of it, he was very much a part of it.
He took us through the entire French Quarter, doling out interesting tidbits (e.g., most of the buildings are actually Spanish), and pointing out the best gelato places. His standards for restaurants are “local, tasty, and cheap,” and he made sure we knew which places he favored. He was an excellent guide.
What made him really stand out for me was that he knew every doorman, every street worker, and even every homeless person we encountered. By name. At one point, he was trying to tell us a story about the “Good Friday Fire” which burned much of the area sometime (probably) in the 1800s, when a homeless man started shouting at him. “Hey, man, give me back my hat! I got a hot date tonight!” Stephen stopped his story, looked at the man, and shouted back, “You’re already looking good, Boss-Man!” Then they both laughed. Stephen turned back to us and said, “Hey everybody, meet Boss-Man.” Boss-Man waved and did a little dance in the street.
It was like this for much of the tour. Sanitation workers, the homeless, street cleaners, shop owners, Stephen knew them all–they were all his neighbors, his friends. He even told us which of the homeless shelters he gives money to, adding that he sometimes goes and eats there with these, his neighbors. “And the food’s not bad,” he further informed us.
When my congregation talks about “Strengthening Relationships” in our neighborhood, Stephen can be the inspiration, the tour guide, if you will. In our neighborhood, I’d love it if we all knew our neighbors well enough to say, “Hey, everybody, meet Boss-man.”