Ash Wednesday in New Orleans

I sat down on a park bench in front of the Cabildo to people-watch and soak up some sun. To my right, a man sang hymns and spirituals. Passersby dropped coins and an occasional bill into his bucket. All in all, it was a scene not uncommon to most cities on the planet.

Then the haters arrived with their signs proclaiming that Catholics and homosexuals were going to hell. One of them decided to announce his truths in a loud voice at the front steps of St. Louis Cathedral as church-goers entered to celebrate their holy day.

Tourists watched. The homeless men and women sitting behind me quickly stated that what the haters were doing was wrong. “It’s Ash Wednesday. Leave them alone, especially on Ash Wednesday.”

A song or two later, a well-dressed man came over and said a few words to the man with the bucket. He picked up his bucket and walked over to the front steps of the cathedral where he then put his bucket down at the feet of the hate-proclaimer.

He sang. He clapped. The suited man clapped too. A few others joined in. The hater stopped talking, but stood there with his sign.

A jester arrived and danced. He held a sign in front of the hater’s face: Give It Up.

He danced some more, smiling, and used his magic wand to cast away the hate. He motioned with it in the direction of the haters.

The man with the bucket continued singing.

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When mass began, the confrontation subsided. The singer came back over to his friends and said that he’d play that game anytime they wanted him to.

I thought the man handed him $20 to sing, but apparently it was $50.

*****

A black man sings for his supper. He doesn’t care where the money comes from, and why should he?

A white man gets his wallet out to stop the hate.

Catholics are going to hell, the sign said. Did the Catholic man’s money offering also support countering the hate message that homosexuals are going to hell?

The jester danced with his cardboard “Give It Up” sign. As things were winding down, he repeated over and over to the haters, and to everyone in earshot for that matter:

“And you think I’m the fool! Ha ha haaaa haaaaaaaaaa. You are the fools. Ha Haaaaaa Haaa HAAAAAAAA,” laughing as he danced.

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