Every Neighbor Can Be Your Teacher

If you know me, I am a big hot tea drinker. When we were at our hotel in New Iberia, LA, one of the hotel teas had a saying on it, it said “Every neighbor can be your teacher”. What a great sentiment.  If we open our minds, we can learn something. Each person has a different experience no matter their age, background, etc., they have something to offer in others personal growth. Being openminded does not mean you agree with them, but simply respect them enough to listen. Every day is an opportunity to challenge our ways of thinking. Each session, I come away with a new perspective and ideas on how to improve.

The trip to Louisiana was eye opening in many ways. It was the first out of state trip our cohort has taken together. We arrived two months after Hurricane Ida and the devastation was shocking. I had no idea the damage extent. I’ve never seen so many homes with blue tarps covering roofs, patches on roofs, no roofs, or the house being inhabitable. No one is talking about this on the news. With the supply chain issues, I do not know when they will have supplies to make the necessary repairs to their properties. When Katrina hit NOLA, I remember watching the news and seeing the pods from FEMA. I was shocked to learn FEMA does not bring in temporary housing anymore. Instead, they will get you a hotel room, which can be hours way from where you live and work. For that reason, many people are living in tents on their properties.

I was in sixth grade when coastal Virginia experience Isabell and I thought that was bad, I was wrong. I knew many people with water damage and one friend lost her home. Despite the displacement, ALL the people we met were welcoming in Louisiana. They were willing to share their story of the hurricane and tell us how it impacted their way of life. The people we met offered many lessons on resiliency from Hurricane Ida to Covid. They could have given up, but instead they got creative. The Richards, for example, began to package and market their crawfish to local stores for purchase. They helped to feed their community and offer true Louisiana products. The tribe in Pointe-Au-Chien, they turned their museum into a food bank for their community to accept, organize, and distribute the donations coming in. Their foresters contended with helping landowners who lost their entire tree farm from wind damage.

I liked hearing how different groups, who could have been at odds, work together. That’s not something recent, they’ve been doing it for decades. Lobbying with other industries, you have a greater voice. Educating your community on how you are feeding them, and the world, is powerful. It is a lot easier to play offense than defense.

The lesson from Louisiana is we are all stronger together. They really pulled resources together to help their community, because it is clear the government was not/is not coming. In the middle of their harvests, work schedules, etc. they took the time to invite VALOR and to educate us about Agriculture in their state. So often we are too busy in our own world to make time for others. I encourage anyone reading this to share their story with others, find common ground, challenge themselves to look at problems as new opportunities, and call on a neighbor- who knows what you might learn.

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