Archive for the ‘people’ Category
My would-be parents.
I recently listened to historian and civil rights activist Vincent Harding’s discussion with Krista Tippet on the radio program “On Being,” and I was blown away. The former speechwriter for Martin Luther King, Jr., shares memories from a tumultuous time in U.S. history, but one he says birthed unprecedented creativity, kindness, love and compassion. He instructs us to use the wisdom gleaned in that time — those important lessons — to heal today’s fractured U.S. society. What moved me the most were Harding’s words on the importance of storytelling. In a society that is so diverse, he says, listening to the stories of our neighbors can have a profound impact on our ability to build a “beloved community.”
“It’s a powerful time in this country for young people and others to be asking the question And what are we for? Do we exist for some reason other than competing with China or finding the best possible technological advances? Are there some things even deeper that we are meant for, meant to be, meant to do, meant to achieve?
When the mother with the baby at her bosom starts telling stories, it is clearly not just to pass on information. And what I find is that even in some of the strangest situations most often where I go, where I speak, where I share, I start out by asking people to tell a little of their stories. And it is amazing what people discover of themselves, of their connections, of their community. It’s wonderful.
How do we work together? How do we talk together in way that will open up our best capacities and our best gifts? My own feeling that I try to share again and again, is that when it comes to creating a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religion, democratic society, we are still a developing nation. We’ve only been thinking about this for half a century. But my own deep conviction is that the knowledge is available to us if we seek it … those are things that can be available to us if we’re willing to work with each other and work with the universe on developing them. They don’t come free and easy. They are tough tasks to take on.”
Manuel Huerta, who will represent the United States in the triathlon at the Olympics, began training as a child in Havana and says his journey serves as a “message to the Castro government.”
I saw him this morning descending a five-stair stoop on 17th Street, smiling big. He recognized me, but lowered his head and closed his eyes, thinking hard.
“Wyyy,” he began. “Wee … waahh … no, no, Weiss! Yes, Weiss.”
“That’s right!” I laughed. “Jessica. That’s amazing.”
The sun was strong and Paul had a job before him, but he sauntered over to me, laid down his bag and leaned on a stranger’s gate. He was eager to chat.
“You’re in … wait, I know … number nine over there, on 16th St. Yeah, that’s it,” he recalled.
I’d met him only once, about a year ago, when I was sick and home from work. Hands down the friendliest man I’ve encountered in the neighborhood. That day a year ago, we chatted for 20 or so minutes, as he inquired about my job, my interests and what ailed me. He told me he’d just celebrated his 61st birthday, and was feeling as good and strong as ever. I remember regretting that I wasn’t home during the day more often to chat with my sweet mailman.
“So I know Kocourek … um … Tara, doesn’t live with you anymore,” he said. “But how is ah … Davenport … yes, Candice Davenport!?”
I knew for a fact Paul had never before met Tara or Candice, my former or current roommate, and I was impressed beyond belief that he remembered their names from reading their mail.
Turns out Paul knows, off the top of his head, every single name and address of the 850 people whose apartments are “his responsibility.” And he tries his absolute best to meet everyone so he can know their faces, too. (He did concede he was just assigned a new block, so he’s got some learning to do.)
“It’s my job,” he said, with a guffaw. “I better know them!”
Can someone give this guy a medal or something?
He asked me if I’d graduated from Georgetown yet (!!) and when I told him that I had and that I was going to be a professional journalist, he gave me the low-down on the “famous” journalists and political folk who live within blocks of my apartment. CNN’s Peter Bergen, the first journalist ever to interview Osama Bin Laden, lives less than a block from me! Obama’s speech-writer lives next-door. Oh and now I know who the fancy shmancy lady who drives the black Lexus behind my apartment building is, too!
Paul was intensely gratified by how cool and amazing I found all of this.
“Yep, you know all this stuff when you deliver the mail,” he said. ”It keeps the mind sharp.”