Friday, August 31, 2007

New Orleanians in Atlanta

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2007 at 6:21 PM

Almost lost in my shuffling through all the two-year-anniversary coverage of Hurricane Katrina was this interesting feature in New Orleans’ Times-Picayune about Glenn Allen, an evacuee minister who decided to stay in Atlanta and start up his own church in the area.

Of course there’s the usual examples of homesickness and the contrasting lifestyles in the two cities. Here’s one of my favorites:

To heighten the contrast, as New Orleans struggles to repopulate, Atlanta recently has passed the 5 million mark with its metro-area population. Much of the increase owes to the constant influx of transplants.

“No one is really from here,” Allen says.

The benefit that derives from that is the stimulation of diversity.

“You have all these different cultures — Latinos, Jamaicans, Nigerians,” he says.

But there is a downside as well: a diluted sense of place. At Thanksgiving last year, Allen and his wife, Carla, entertained 40 of their parishioners in their home — all people who were spending the holidays away from their families. At Christmas, there were even more.

And while he has plenty of genial new friends, he says it’s not the same.

“We’re surrounded by good people, but they’re all new people. I’m used to knowing someone for 20 or 30 years,” he says.

“It’s strange to be brand new. You don’t know who to trust; you don’t know what people’s true intentions are. It’s harder to read people when you’re out of your culture.”

Amen, brother.

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