If you have never witnessed it, it’s difficult to understand equity.
If you never witnessed it, it’s difficult to understand inequity.
And in isolation, would you be able to know the difference?
For the first time in seven months, SHARE went on a Midnight Run. In the folds of my vague memory, I remembered the Run as an ever-evolving, closely woven part of my own tapestry. When we finally decided to start up our outreach once again, I wasn’t very certain it still was. The shock and awe of the pandemic put a screeching halt to the monthly trips into Manhattan that I did with two dozen students and some hearty adults, to bring friendship and food to the homeless street people we had built solid relationships with over the past 33 years. Isolated by the scourge of COVID, we spent the last seven months in earnest effort to provide face masks for as many people as we could. We sewed them. Made calls and found product donors. Built a pipeline of sorts. 30,000 masks later, it was indeed, time to put one foot in front of the other, and to move on, beyond that initiative. It was in place – and so were we. I told the eight students and four adults who went with me that last night ‘s Run was a test balloon of sorts. And this afternoon, as the cobwebs of fatigue began to wear off, I wondered why I was so unsure of what had been second nature for me for decades.
Reassurance surrounded me. The kids had expertly prepared for the night by pre-packaging individual bags by size that contained socks and underwear, toiletries, face masks, a tee shirt and a sweater or hoodie. These kids. What is that Lao Tzu proverb of truth that I seem to always refer to at moments like this? ”When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” and over the past few months, these astounding kids have become my teachers. All that was lost to me, has been found. Gratitude toward these kids isn’t even close to how I feel.
At our third stop, when I finally grew comfortable with the new way of Run behavior - no hugging, no physical contact, very little story-sharing - we saw my friend Salaam rushing down the street to meet us before we loaded up the van and cars to proceed to our next stop. He was in his element, surrounded by these kids, these caring, loving kids, and they showered him – at a distance – with genuine affection and plenty of thick sandwiches to get him through the next few days.
During the worst months of the pandemic, when my deepest fears overtook me, I’d worry about these friends on the street. Salaam was one of the people who would stay in touch and call me once or twice or even three times a week to simply talk about almost nothing. I didn’t care what we talked about. He was a lifeline to the world I discovered three decades ago and was fearful of losing. The pandemic was always a topic. Sometimes we’d talk about mutual friends. I’d ask if he had seen so-and-so and he’d report in. I became obsessed with telling him to wash his hands as often as he could. I wanted to make sure he had face masks. I suggested he not gather in large groups, even if it meant not visiting his mosque. Salaam is 60 years old but became my focus. Before we left him, he reached into one of his many bags and pulled out an envelope and handed it to me. In a carefully written script, it read ‘Happy Birthday, Genie.’ And on the inside, was a beautiful card that he said he got me last March, but we stopped doing the Run with our February date. He carried the card with him since, as a just-in-case.
When I got into the van with Rob to go to our last stop, I opened the card to read it and he signed it, “Sincerely, Salaam, your best friend.”
I’m fine now. The Run was more lovely than I had dreamed possible. The people we saw were as good and as kind as ever, those wonderful students dotted every “I” and crossed every “T” in how they prepared for this first Run in seven months and I have a new best friend.
We’ll return on November 14th, prepared to it all over again.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.