How Cultural Rituals Make Us Feel More Connected by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Caitlin Regan

We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions but through them. We never get to the bottom of ourselves alone.
— Robert Bellah

There is so much joy to be found in simple connections with a lot of different people in public spaces and groupsA major focus of belonging has been in deep, personal ways like best friends and significant others. But, we don’t always have time for more of those types of relationships.

Having more interactions where we don’t have to share all of the intimate details of our lives makes life easier. 

…we need close, intimate ties as well as steady ties that are broader and more casual, that don’t depend on deep conversation or intense sharing.
— Emily White

Participating in cultural traditions is a way to be a part of the larger community without too much effort. Our lives can feel so heavy. But, these types of environments let us forget stress we’re dealing with as individuals and enjoy the present. They help us to get out of our heads.

Festivals are a wonderful excuse to live in the moment, get out of the house, and be around people. One of my favorite times of year for this type of belonging in Louisiana is Mardi Gras. We celebrate with parades, have fancy and casual parties, eat, drink, and dance.

I look forward to the Krewe of Highland parade every year. This neighborhood parade feels like community. Everyone cooks out. Strangers talk to each other. All of the local Krewes participate along with families and friends who create small, homemade floats. The throws are usually pretty fun, even though I’ve never caught one of the coveted hot dogs.

This year I went to the official after party at Marilynn’s Place for the first time and had a blast. It was cold and rainy but everyone enjoyed themselves. We danced under tents or in ponchos in the rain, drank good Louisiana beer, and ate well.  All night I ran into old friends I hadn’t seen in years. It felt like a family reunion.

These kinds of moments of connection in a vast, broad sense have been some of my happiest. You feel grounded and alive. Everything seems a little lighter. Easy.

When we make time to participate in these types of rituals, our lives feel more lived in. Our experiences are made of ordinary days and moments. Traditions, rituals, and rites of passage give us a way to celebrate together. They give us excuses to leave our houses and our comfort zones, to show up, be a face in the crowd, have fun, and be exactly where we are.

The first step -especially for young people with energy and drive and talent but not money- the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.
— Chuck Palahniuk

This type of belonging doesn’t have to happen only during festivals or city wide events. We can create our own culture.

One of my new, favorite examples is this guy who likes to start dance parties on trains.

We don’t have any trains here locally to start dance parties in. But, there are plenty of ways to create experiences for others to enjoy. By hosting events, making art, planning parties, or finding new ways to update old traditions, we find connection and enhance each others lives.

What are some of your favorite local traditions or cultural rituals? Have you ever created your own?

What Shreveport Has Taught Me About Happiness by Amy DeRosia

To live with purpose. To say the courageous thing. To celebrate the simple gift. To follow your dreams. This is the happy life.
— Wayland Henry


Lots of residents are beginning to see the potential in Shreveport-Bossier City. This is a wonderful trend. But, the real advantage comes when you learn to see the possibility in yourself to shape your experience anywhere.

Here are a few things I have come to love about life in my hometown:

Underrated places are usually a lot of fun.

People in Louisiana know how to have a good time. We celebrate everything. When you're at the bottom of almost every list like Louisiana is, you learn how to enjoy life instead of worrying about coming in first place. 

Shreveport, unfortunately, has also often been seen as the ugly step-child of Louisiana. South Louisiana doesn't like to claim us because we're not Cajun or Creole or from New Orleans. We're heavily influenced by East-Texas but aren't allowed to have Texas pride.

A lot of residents move here from those places. But that's their culture, not ours. So what do we gain from this besides an identity crisis?

When expectations are low, we are able to let an experience be exactly what it is. If something works well, people savor it and talk about it for weeks.

The sincerity and humility of our citizens are rare qualities.

The people of Shreveport-Bossier are some of the most sincere, humble people I've ever met.

There is generally less effort spent on "looking cool" and more energy put into "being cool" here. Residents just do what they love and share what they have.

Our creative community often feels like a big extended family. We look out for each other. That is definitely not the case in a lot of bigger cities known for attracting young people.

We have space to wander.

There are plenty of country roads and places you can see the stars within a ten minute drive. In the city, go for a walk in Norton's Art Gallery gardens or have a picnic at the Riverview Park. My friends in SBC Bike Social would probably say all of it is even better by bike.

By taking time to explore the world around us, we're able to notice things others don't usually see. Creating that space helps us to stay grounded and make better art.

We take time to connect and relax.

As important as it is to work hard, we have to make time to unwind and to simply be where we are. A lot of people get trapped in the rat race of Western consumerism and achievement.

That isn't as much of a problem in the South. We talk a little slower, sit on our porches, eat great food, and find excuses to enjoy each others company.

Culture is something you make.

The story we tell ourselves about our community is only useful if it helps us engage. There is definitely a need for professionals and experts, but more residents are realizing they can co-create who we're becoming as a city too.

As individuals, culture-making could look like volunteering, hosting a party, inviting people to go with you to a local event, or finally sharing your art/music in public.

Simply educating people about our legacy doesn't create pride about our city now. Helping citizens experience our culture in a new way is a much better approach.

A few great examples of this are the work being done by the Norla Preservation Project, the Unscene events that happened last year in the Shreveport Common, Highland Jazz and Blues Festival, and the Krewe of Highland Mardi Gras Parade.

Everyone has a story worth sharing.

We can fall into the trap of thinking we know everything there is to know about a place, the people, and the history.  In reality, we usually know very little.

All Y'all Live Storytelling events have reminded me of how fascinating local people are. These events are fun too. The next one is happening on March 14.

Going to local art openings and hearing live music are a few more ways to enjoy local stories. Everyone benefits from you putting your ideas, questions, and experiences into our community in any format.

There is always an opportunity for you to contribute.

The barrier to entry is extremely low here. Find a gap to fill. Do your research and try something.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I curious about?
  • What skills do I have to offer?
  • What does my community need?

There are disadvantages and phases of discouragement when you're starting something from the ground up. But if you're persistent and pay attention, you'll learn the most from those experiences. Your first business idea might not work. Your fifth has a much better chance.

Don't know where to start? Here are some ideas:

  • Contact a non-profit with a mission you connect to and see what they need help with.
  • If you are interested in entrepreneurship, check out Cohab.
  • Want to do interesting things around town with like-minded people? Come to an SBC Visionaries event. I'll help you anyway I can.
  • Need a place to share your ideas and knowledge? Start your own blog or submit an article to the Heliopolis.
Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
— Seth Godin

The great news is there is no one right way to thrive where you are. We have more opportunities than we've ever had before to improve our personal experiences in our cities.

What are you hoping to create?

Also, I know I left out so many wonderful resources around town. Please share your recommendations in the comments.