By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT –I have just returned to Shreveport after eight days in south Louisiana; for eight days I did not turn on a television. I looked at Facebook nonsense only once a day, and I read zero newspapers. For eight days I have been blissfully unaware of the wider world around me and only concerned about what I was going to eat that day or what rural road I might explore. Is the snow cone stand open today? Is that a snake in the bayou over there?
We go to south Louisiana about five times a year and spend a week completely unplugged from the news. It is wonderful! We do talk to people, though, and I can assure you that this part of the state is still staunchly Trump and hoping for a Trump comeback in 2024. It is the NOLA area that is more Democrat, of course, around New Orleans, but most of Louisiana remains politically conservative.
The area we visit is heavily Catholic; my husband and I attend an Episcopal church, which he calls Catholic-Lite. Without getting into the theological differences, let’s just say that we can attend a Catholic Mass and not look too much out of place. We attended Saturday afternoon Mass and we did okay.
The priest delivered a sermon that resonated with me; the night before, Friday, the diocese that includes Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, and Arnaudville, Louisiana (where we were), began a summer series of discussions called Theology on the Bayou. The event was open to the public and held at Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, in their event space.
Theology in a brewery? Well, why not?
The event was a huge success; we got there about fifteen minutes before it started which enabled us to get a beer and find a seat. We spoke to Father Travis, “our” priest, and he introduced us to Father McIntyre from Breaux Bridge who was leading the evening’s program. As we waited for the event to begin, we watched the amazement unfold on their faces as people began pouring into the room; they just kept coming. More chairs had to be set up, then more chairs, then people squished up closer together and more chairs came out. The room was busting at the seams. It was pretty amazing.
The theme of the night’s discussion was “What makes us human?” and basically, becoming a better human. One of the questions Father McIntyre asked was “What person in your life makes you your best self; that allows you to be, and to become, who you really are?” The part of the night that resonated so much with me was the discussion part when people shared ideas and just talked. I loved the community of it, the mutual desire to be better people, better Christians, and stronger in family and faith.
That’s a message I can get behind no matter what religion it comes from. As we all sat in that room, most with a beer, several with pizza (they served terrific wood-fired pizza there), and the doors open to allow the cross breeze in, I looked at the assembled faces; all ages were present. Husbands, wives, kids, grandparents, everyone. It was pretty special.
At Mass the next day, Father Travis had a similar message for his congregation: that we should be more open, more welcoming, basically, our best selves.
Now that I’m back in Shreveport, where we have daily shootings, the highest homicide rate since the 1980s, and an overload of negativity, decay, and decline, I’m thinking that unplugging for a while might be necessary to my mental well-being! Real life (as opposed to vacation life) brings enough responsibility and obligation as it is without the negativity that social media and even main stream media brings.
If I’m going to be my best self, my happiest self, it is definitely something to consider.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.