The emotions that filled my heart on that band trip to New Orleans anchored me. They launched me into the sky as they held my feet on the ground. New Orleans taught me how to live.

It’s strange, a Lynden girl learning how to live in New Orleans. A city of drunkenness, of sex, of crime, is where a small-town CRC girl learned how to love live; but not just how to love life, but to love it as Jesus did. Because NOLA isn’t just about all that, about the brothels, the bars, the crime. It’s about the music, and the passion behind it. It’s about the street bands that make a living doing what they love. It’s about them inviting the high schoolers to play with them, while we danced on the streets and played percussion on empty beer bottles and light posts and garbage buckets and cement walls. Beads danced around their necks and lit up their faces and passion exploded in their veins as they played.

That’s what made me feel alive. Watching you be alive. Watching the saxes step out of the darkness and wail their saxophones to life. Watching the trumpets blow everyone away with their pure passion. Hearing nonstop shouts of laughter and rhythm and knowing that the percussion section was pouring their hearts out through their broken drumsticks. Because in New Orleans, you find yourself. Under the yellow street lights, on the narrow roads, where music flows down like water, trickling around corners and gushing down alleyways. The trick is, you have to like getting wet—and we were soaked. Soaked in the jazz tunes and trumpet solos and saxophone wails and covered in the constant sweat the humidity down there guarantees. You find yourself when everything becomes music, even footsteps and rainwater from the gutters. In New Orleans, you dance. I danced. I danced with a child and I danced like a child, because down there there’s no other way to dance.

LC taught us the rules of the dance and then let us out on the dance floor so that we could try out what we had learned. And boy did we dance. We danced as Jesus wants us to dance. Uncaring of what those around us think. Not always knowing all the right moves. Not always hitting the right notes. But playing anyways, because that’s how we found Jesus. That’s where we found the beauty, when we let ourselves feel the music. No distractions, no sheet music. Just the song. That’s how we found Jesus on the streets of New Orleans.