LaFayette is a place of surprise.
We originally stayed with some very nice couch surfers. It was the first time that we stayed with people in their homes and I was absolutely shocked at their hospitality. The last night of staying with Tony, Rachel, and Erin (our gracious hosts) we got a very excited call from Van, Lisa, and Sarah saying that we MUST stay another night. It is absolutely urgent! We can switch our entire schedule around but we have to stay another day and night here! After a long group discussion and some serious rearranging, we got our schedule to allow us to stay another day. Van, Lisa, and Sarah’s meeting with the Sierra Club had gone amazingly well. The club wanted us to stay for another day so that we could talk to them all together (they had much to teach us) and they had places that they wanted to show us as well.
The next day we moved into Lillian’s. Lillian is an active Sierra Club member who told us eye-opening stories about her history with Exxon and her history in fighting for environmental justice. We also met Griff and Harold. They are also members of the Sierra Club with immense stories to tell. We met many other inspiring characters but I think to me personally, Lillian and Griff’s stories touched me the most. I identified with them more than other people I have met on the journey. Lillian showed us a movie called “The Birth of Louisiana” which showed the oil industries first intrusion into the state. I felt moved by the film because it showed that the oil industry wasn’t always as detrimental as it is today. In small doses, oil can contribute much to our economy and general well-being. It provides jobs and is a complex and interesting science. The problem came when it commercialized. As it expanded, the care for human welfare decreased exponentially.
Griff told us a story that is very similar to some of my own philosophies. He told us about his history at music festivals and environmentalism. He says that his love for the work comes through a desire to spread love and music throughout the world. He went to a music festival (Bonnaroo) and had many realizations about the world, what is going wrong, and what is truly right. It very much related to my experiences. One of my best friends, Erin, and I talk often about our epiphany’s that accompany music (especially at festivals, where the energy is tangible). We have discovered ideas about ourselves, nature, friendships, and our world through music and energy. Now, I don’t completely delve into energy and music, because the other half of my heart is my love for people. It is just one of my reasons for doing this work. I felt myself relating to Griff more and more as he told his stories. Then he said something that caught us all off guard. He said that dancing is the soul of LaFayette and that he wouldn’t let us leave until we had gone out dancing.
We had just come from New Orleans (the party capitol and happiest city in America) and now we hear that LaFayette is the city of dance? We had to see it to believe it. That night, we went out to a little place full of spirit, soul, and dance. The entire experience was new to me, and most of it was surprising. At other places that I’ve been, the people who are dancing wild and crazy, the people who let themselves break free, are judged and stared at by the surrounding audience of people sitting. Almost every other place that I have gone dancing, I have felt judged. At this place, it was the opposite! The people who were dancing and breaking free were no longer being judged. Everyone wanted to dance! You could see it in their eyes. You could see it in their tapping foot. The judgment disappeared. If anyone was being judged, it was the people who weren’t dancing. It was amazing! Also, there were so many dance styles! I learned swing dancing, salsa, hip-hop, old style dancing, all sorts of cultures and dance styles surrounded me. We even had a dance circle going for a while!
In other words, don’t ever underestimate the spirit of Lafayette. It is greater than you can imagine.