This is the story about a man who over the years has known greatness and brokenness; healing and revealing his passions. Some of you may have seen him around our community some maybe not.
After hurricane Katrina this man came to rebuild the City with ACORN. Over time he moved into the Lower 9th Ward and started a children’s program in an abandoned Walgreen’s store. It would later become known as All Souls Church. Like some things do in this life his work was incomplete there and personalities being what they are he found himself worshipping at St. Anna’s looking for healing and direction. As a priest I can only say it was the Holy Spirit that brought him to St. Anna’s at a perfect time and place to begin his life anew. Like Easter it was and continues to be about restoration and new beginnings. On the edge of homelessness this man undertook a vision for a program that would take our most lost children; our most forgotten children; our most at-risk children and take them off the streets and bring care and attention to them. In 2012, after working with these children for two years, he began to get some of the recognition that he deserved; he won the “Angel of the Year Award.” Mr. Darryl Durham is the epitome of all that we preach in these articles.
Darryl is a wounded healer; he is a man on a journey whose horizons expand as the Gospel finds root in his heart. On Easter Sunday you would have found him, after church, at the Golden Lantern who so wonderfully sponsored a fund raiser for Anna’s Arts for Kids, Darryl’s dream. He found himself dancing with old crones, young lipstick visitors, and cheering on the grand Easter Parade. Oh that parade, it was with such joy that we watched the “St. Anna’s Dodwell House” carriage roll by, sponsored by Rip and Marsha. What a grand day and Darryl’s dream grows.
Perhaps a month or so ago you saw him at the Phoenix or perhaps The Friendly Bar or any number of other partnership locations that support Darryl’s dream. Darryl a straight man from the Deep South with deep roots in his very traditional family is walking a road that epitomizes a Community within Communities. Why because he has a dream. His dream is that children who will be lost are found. His dream is that all people LGBT, Straight, Black, White, Brown, Asian, all manner of people will galvanize themselves against injustices served out upon the children. Darryl will meet you where you are without judgment or bias. As he has walked down this road he increasingly is intolerant of injustice and hatred and fears that play out as homophobia, racism, sexism, and rancorous neglect of the poor. It is unlikely that you will find him at a rally though.
More likely you will find him walking children home through clusters of drug dealers; picking them up to go to Anna’s Arts for Kids; meeting and greeting people who might support the dream of a better life. In short you will find Darryl in the trenches, on the streets, and at work for our Community within Communities. Alongside of Darryl stand two other dream bearers each unique each showing the face of a community within communities.
Diana Meyers lost her job, had her home flooded, and her parents home wiped out during Katrina. Her family is as traditional as a New Orleans family can be. Her faith and her dream of health giving and healing have taken root. Yes, you have seen her, or maybe not, at The Friendly Bar, John-Paul’s, Cutters perhaps doling out free flu shots to the LGBT community and on the next day perhaps you saw the big blue Medical Unit parked at N. Claiborne and Esplanade doing the same for the Treme residents. Like Darryl her road has been long and winding and filled with curve balls. Family members have “come out” and in a traditional New Orleans family that can be either elevating and enriching or destructive. Being the glue that holds St. Anna’s Church together and her family it was enriching and heartening. Diana brings health to all of our communities. We often call her Lady Di and she knows how to honor and truly show her love like Darryl, in the trenches, on the streets, in the bars and by-ways where ever compassion and health and justice meet.
Christina took an existing vision and cast a new and grander vision. Christian joined our Community within Communities about two years ago. Her vision is to equip under-educated people with language and technical skills to enable them to succeed either in the work place or in school as adults. Her focus is on immigrants for now but her vision is bigger than that. For these immigrants she enriches their intellect and gives them the educational stamina to seek citizenship and the tools to do so; to seek higher education and the tools to do so. She is a dynamic Cajun well educated and ready to teach and to improve the lives of the forgotten and often invisible people: the gardeners, hotel staff, race track workers, and simply people seeking a better life away from poverty, corruption, and bias. She too shares the dream of a community within communities.
These three people are the faces of Dodwell House. None make much; in fact, they too live just above the poverty level. Yes, a Master in Music, a Registered Nurse, and a Doctor of Languages live just above the poverty level. Why? Because they have a dream and are driven to see that dream change our larger community by working within specific communities living out the true social Gospel of our faith.
There will be a home for these people and their programs. There will be a beacon of hope that knows no boundaries or exclusions. It is called the Marsaudet-Dodwell House located at 1519 Esplanade. It will be the future home that becomes a sort of spiritual and practical center for peace, justice, healing, restoration, and resurrection. THE ANNUAL DODWELL HOUSE EXTRAVAGANZA helps bring us all together to raise monies to be the dream bearers alongside of Darryl, Diana, and Christina. This year the event will feature the Treme Community Choir, The Children of Treme in second line fashion. This year we have collaborated with the wonderful Christ Church Cathedral located at 2519 St. Charles Ave. who will host the event. THE DATE: April 20th the time 6:30 p.m. The cost: $50.00/person; the benefits … priceless. Tickets may be purchased on line at www.dodwellhouse.org. or at the door. As the great hymn says, “Taste and see, taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” JOIN US and if you can’t make it…support us by making a donation. Help us to be that light shining in the darkness that says, “There is hope – we have a vision – we are all a community of vision bearers.”