ARCHIVE LIBRARY

WHO DAT?

by Ron Cook

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WHO DAT?

When I first started following the New Orleans Saints and heard the words, “Who Dat,” other than the obvious attachment to the great football team, I wasn’t sure what those words meant. Is it a play on words … a statement of humility … a misspelling of an inside joke … or something else? I have long considered myself a keen observer of human behavior. What I learned, while living in Alexandria, Louisiana (and traveling in the near communities), is that these two words are almost a way of life for the “Who Dat” state.

I will confess that I am not a native of the “Who Dat State.” I am from the Midwest. I have also lived in the Western Mountains and some in the South. I had visited Louisiana several times briefly. This past summer I was able to spend a few months in the “Who Dat Nation.” What I learned, in this last extended visit, confirmed and expanded what I had suspected in my previous brief excursions … Louisiana is someplace special.

Perhaps, it might be encouraging to reflect on the blessings and benefits of living in an area that so highly values the principles of family, tradition, faith and human interaction. As someone who is from outside this circle can attest, these are values worth celebrating.

The first thing I notice in people is their willingness to interact with others. How important is the concern one has for his or her immediate family? How important is one’s concern for other casual acquaintances? What concern does the average person have for others they do not know or the world in general? I see these characteristics illuminated in simple interactions. Eye contact seems to come first to me. When you pass someone, do you look them in their eyes? Do you smile? And finally, do you say something in the way of a greeting? On top of that, how often do you follow up a greeting with a conversation? In this regard, I found eye contact, greetings, and conversations an ongoing daily experience in Louisiana. People caught my eyes, greeted me or responded to my greeting, and I had many brief conversations with people I knew, as well as others I casually ran into at stores, meetings and in public. Once, while I was shopping, I had this lovely conversation with a lady where we shared baking tips about bread. Fun!! This happens on a daily basis in Louisiana!

The next observation I have about Louisiana would be the degree to which Louisiana engages its poor, homeless and disabled communities. While in Alexandria, I started collecting a list of service and faith organizations that had active outreach programs. The list quickly became long and rich. I found numerous churches and public groups that provided much needed services. This must be life-giving to the givers, as well as the receivers, in Louisiana!

The third leg of this “Who Dat” stool seems to be the Louisiana faith churches and communities. Louisiana has very active churches which are often the center of its communities. Family is the center of the church. Family seems to be a sacred focus in Louisiana. Fellowship, food and fun highlight gatherings. Concern for others is clearly visible. National and worldwide headquarters for some faith organizations are located right in
Alexandria! Often, I felt like I was accepted as family wherever I went.

“You alright? You need anything? How you doing today?” These are all greetings heard often in Louisiana. Warmth is not just a part of the weather here. Warmth is a way of life. “Who Dat” might mean, who are you and what are you about? Or, we are all welcome here. Or, Life is simple; connections with others are good!

I think it is a good thing to celebrate this connection so highly practiced in Louisiana. It’s good to recognize that you live in a place that cares. It’s good to perhaps start the each day thankful for what we have, what we believe and what we share …

Ronald Cook

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