Most if not all of the major spiritual traditions on our planet seem to embrace the path as a metaphor. Maybe that’s why I’ve found the prospect of a greenway in the Lafitte Corridor so inspiring over the years. There’s been something very compelling about imagining a trail in what is currently fallow, empty land — and treading that ground with others who share the dream each year.
Slowly, slowly, we’ve made progress. Plans are underway. We expect the City of New Orleans to break ground for the greenway next year. This will be a great new public space for the citizens of New Orleans.
Planning continues. The initial build will be minimal: just a trail, with no recreational amenities along the way. Those can come later, but will require full community engagement. And certainly with upkeep and maintenance, to say nothing of improvement, the greenway will never be “done,” as in finished, as in requiring no further attention. There’s plenty of work still to do.
I’m very excited about the prospects for the greenway, and very proud of the role I’ve played in moving it forward. I convened the inaugural hike in May of 2005; I was a founding member of Friends of Lafitte Corridor; I’ve served as FOLC’s president for the last three years.
And yet. And yet. And yet.
Over the last six months or so I’ve felt curiously detached. I missed some meetings because of schedule conflicts and family issues, so that got me feeling a bit out of the loop. Yet it’s more than that. I’m not very detail-oriented, at least not for these kinds of details; I’ve never been able to get down in the weeds of the various planning documents and so forth. Fortunately others have played that role, but that’s left me wondering about my own role. Maybe I’m the kind of person who likes to get things started, which is different than what it takes to keep things going. Yet again, it’s more than that.
In December we got a visit from the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. It was a singular experience, sharing the podium with a highly placed official from the federal government.
I took my talking points from fellow FOLC board member and past president Daniel Samuels. Yet I felt that I made the speech my own, and I felt that I delivered it in a way that reflected well on my group and my city.
It was a proud moment for me, personally. I felt a sense of renewal. Had I questioned my role? This, this was my role. I can stand here with authority figures and, you know, represent.
I’m ashamed to report that my thoughts did not end there. I also thought: Who else in our group could do this? No one! Only me, me, me.
Such egotism. Such hubris. Even if it’s true, it’s still hubris. Because, you see, I wasn’t born this way. In fact for most of my life I’ve thought of myself as a lone wolf, if you will, neither a follower nor a leader. That’s how I’ve been perceived by others as well, but I daresay that’s changed in the last five years or so.
I recall quite clearly that last time I expressed a fear of speaking in public. It was in early 2007. A few days later, I spoke to a crowd of thousands. It was a terrible moment, one which I sincerely wish had never transpired, but even so it was a transformational moment, for me. Crises often are.
It’s not so strange. Few of us are prepared for life. We’re thrust onto the stage, and we do the best we can. We discover our inner resources when we need them. If I’ve been effective as president of FOLC, it’s because I was tempered by such events: The flooding of New Orleans, the March for Survival, and others.
It was very easy to stand there at the podium and think that I was irreplaceable. That was a sure sign that I needed to be replaced. FOLC’s successful advocacy of the greenway has been a team effort, remarkably free of this sort of egotism. No one else in the group will develop to their fullest potential while I’m hogging the limelight. No one will step up until I step aside. I’ve had a good run, but now it’s time for someone else. Our potential is developed when we move in to fill a vacuum, and that only happens when the crisis is ripe.
Reaching My Limit
So when we had our strategic planning session a short time later, the discussion of term limits resonated with me in a new way. I realized our organization needed term limits. I’d thought that I would hold on until we broke ground, but once the idea got in my head I realized that would not be fair. I also realized that I personally was ready for a break, right now.
We adopted limits at our next board meeting, and guess what? I’m at the end of my term. I’m glad for that. We could have configured things differently, but I made it clear that I thought this would be best for the organization and for the greenway. I was compared to both Jesus and Kim Jong Il, which was flattering and a little weird.
Officially I’ve got a few more days, and believe me I am counting them. (These final moments of my tenure have not been devoid of drama.) It’s been a great ride for me personally. I don’t know who FOLC’s next president will be, but I do know the board is chock-full of talented and motivated people. Someone will rise to the occasion, and I hope they find the experience just as rewarding.
I’ll still be around and involved of course. April 14, 2012, will be our eight annual hike. Save the date and join us.
Meanwhile the path I walk daily is leading me elsewhere for a while.