What will your verse be?

For those whose words and thoughts develop on their iPhone or iPad or MacBook, you are very aware of Apple’s most recent catch phrase: “What will your verse be?” And yet, those whose hearts were left a little bit broken or quietly aching with the news of Robin Williams’ tragic and oh-too-soon passing, will clearly remember the phrase from one of his memorable films, “Dead Poet’s Society,” a film I recently revisited, many years after its release.

His role in this film is as English teacher, John Keating. And quickly into the film, we see him with his students, a group of boys in a toney, New England prep school, who simply seem so familiar. He gathers his students around and squats down to their eye level. And, he quietly explains to them why we read and write poetry:

And so, what will YOUR verse be? What contribution to this life will you make?

Clearly, there are times when we wonder what our purpose in this world must be…what could just “one” person do that would create any significant change in this vast sea of chaos and conflict that sits beside the quieter glories of sunrises and sunsets?

What will your verse be?

It appears to me that in our frantic desire to excel and climb over each other to achieve and compete, we may have lost the focus and purpose of this one life we’ve been given. How do we balance achievement and success with calculated competition in order to do one good deed? Whatever happened to the unspoken kindness the Hebrews refer to as a mitzvah? Must everything we do and say become so public so as to trump what the other guy has done? Life, to me, ought to be far less cutthroat than this.

What will your verse be?

I recall those who influenced my own life along the way, and none of those people knowingly pushed their ideologies upon me. Their greatness, to me, was measured in the silence of their goodness. I was the beneficiary of all of those people who, if they only knew now, would be quite surprised at how their gentle lives impacted mine.

What will your verse be?

There is newness in the change of seasons: summer wanes and autumn casts its shortened shadows upon us. School has started and all I can think of is how good those fresh starts in all of our lives are. Are we even marginally aware of the many fresh starts and new beginnings we are given? How about this morning’s fresh start?

And so, when all is  pondered, said, and done, what will your verse be?

 

Our plea: It’s not as unique as an ice bucket challenge…..

…it’s simply another honest plea made to all to help support SHARE the Project, Inc. in our 27th year of service to the community.

Without funding, our projects and programs will diminish. Help us be the link to helping those whose hands we’ve held, whose stories we’ve shared and whose lives have touched ours.

Take the time…SHARE the experience.

http://www.gofundme.com/bvlhho

And today brings such wonderful news for Timothy!

Timothy called just now and apologized that he couldn’t wait until tomorrow to share what is the best news I’ve heard in weeks: he will be released in ten days from the nursing home where he has been recuperating from his amputations and going to his very first apartment that he can call home. In all of his 53 years, Timothy has never once lived in his own place, and now he will be. Since January, he has been hospitalized for losing all of his toes this past winter and without complaining once, he stayed the course of recovery, going from Harlem Hospital to a facility in the East Bronx where he learned to walk again.

My heart filled as he told me the news. There are so few good outcomes with the people I have known on the street, and often not by their own hand. The fact that Timothy’s journey has taken him this far astounds me and renews my belief in the tenacity and goodness of our brothers and sisters whose lives have been compromised by the ill-fate of homelessness. His own home!! He worked so hard for this, never once giving in to the huge challenges he faced after he was hospitalized. The words aren’t forming here as I want them to because my joy is so deep.

Before we ended our conversation, Timothy told me that he wants to share his good news and good fortune further in the form of a baby gift for my not-yet-born grandson. He said he only needed a suggestion as what he could get for the baby……..and that’s precisely when I lost it completely and started to sob, without apology.

What a magical man Timothy is. And I can only wonder if he is aware of how magical he truly is.

An amazing set of stats!!

Here’s an amazing set of stats to ponder. Over the past 27 years, SHARE has prepared and distributed the following to the homeless and hungry poor of New York:

81,000 bagged lunches
1, 350 gallons of coffee
3, 780 hot dogs on the hot dog runs
1,100 gallons of soup.

and in case you’re wondering, over the past 24 Thanksgiving dinners, allotting for the smaller ones in the beginning, we served approximately 16,400 lbs. of turkey…

Margaret Mead was right: “Never doubt that a small group of citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Thanks and thanks and thanks again!

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart…” ~Jean Baptiste Massieu

After a year of struggling to stay afloat in the storm of challenges that we faced as a small not-for-profit, last night’s Run was the gift that somehow always keeps on giving. It is time to stop and say thank you to the hard-working, ever-present band of teenagers who give of their time and of themselves to do the homeless outreach that is known as SHARE. It’s often this time of year that I’ll try to calculate the thousands of sandwiches, the hundreds of gallons of coffee – a nasty, overly-sweet swill that I take full responsibility for – and the multitude of kids that come out, once a month, to stand in the shadows with the men and women we have created friendships with over the past 27 years of participating in the Midnight Run.

I offer my deepest thanks to all of you who have been part of this odyssey…I give you my sincerest gratitude, as it’s all I can give, so that each one of you knows how much you have meant to me over these many years of social service. Your enthusiasm has been a distinct part of what fuels me to continue. To stand back and watch you interact with men and women whose lives are touched by your kindness, has warmed my often-weary heart. Last night’s run was no exception of course. As we dished out chili dogs and potato salad, we stood back and observed all of you as you listened to the stories told you, as you smiled deeply and responded, as you hugged each homeless man and woman, leaving them with the depth of human touch to remember you by. We watched. And we remarked on how you are the people who will continue to do what Gandhi had hoped for. He said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

None of you, over the years, ever feared to change, to evolve, to silently influence those whom you touched with your giving souls. Somehow, some way, you have begun to learn to prioritize, knowing that these monthly journeys into the lives of others are truly fleeting. Thank you for giving yourself to a greater, common good, without blinking an eye. It’s true: you do it because you can.

Have a wonderful summer! We will continue to have a couple of runs during the summer months and if you’d like to join us, we’re here! Just let us know. Have fun. Live life with the spirit you bring to SHARE. Laugh often and embrace this time with your friends, your family. Chase fireflies and go to concerts. Make art…make music. And while you do, please know that I will be thinking of you all, with love in my heart, and that perpetually goofy grin on my face.

 

Grads, Dads, or even Grannies-to-be, like me!

‘Tis the season – again! School is nearly over and Father’s Day is right around the corner! Gifts a-plenty can be found at our very favorite place to shop online: Amazon.com! Help us here at SHARE and sign up today for Amazon Smile! Get started here: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/01-0944154

Help SHARE help others! We have partnered with Amazon Smile and so every time you buy, it’s a win/win deal! There is no extra or hidden cost to you as Amazon will take a small percentage of your total and donate it to us ~ with a SMILE, of course!

Please help SHARE help others by purchasing your Grad, Dad and Granny-to-be gifts at Amazon.com! Remember, start here: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/01-0944154

Many thanks – from all of us to all of you!!

A friend of a friend…new eyes, new insight

“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindness there is at last one which makes the heart run over. ”

                                                                           —Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

 

The weekend was something I held in complete dread and fear and as it approached, each day of last week bringing it closer and closer to its beginning, I grew more and more nervous of its outcome. It was the weekend of our May Midnight Run and the gut-wrenching stress of finding enough adults to help drive our 20 or so teenagers into the city, and it began on Monday of this past week, when I posted the Sign-Up list on our Facebook page, urging our kids to help in the quest for drivers.

It was Thursday when I finally found two wonderful friends who agreed to help me. Thursday. With the Run two days ahead of us, I felt the Phase Two part of the grip that overtakes me with each and every Run, over the past 27 years. Why is it that it’s so difficult to find a few adults each month to help us drive? That will be for another time, another entry. Right now, I’ll be content with a Run well done, with the insight of the day after.

Saturday began with a shoot that I had in the Bronx, an early morning dash to photograph an Opening Day of a Little League sponsored by an Hispanic not-for-profit and despite that ever-present grip in my middle (caused of course by the looming tasks I had set up for myself this weekend), the morning was lovely. It was an urban sea of kids and their parents, all excited to get their new baseball season underway. I understood so little of the Spanish that was spoken, as the introductory speeches were made, but I didn’t have to. I looked around the baseball diamond whose boundaries were trimmed with uniformed children, gloves on hands and hats on heads, and saw what could only be described as a community in love.

When the event had concluded, I raced back home, dodging the growing traffic around Yankee Stadium and shifted gears so I could prepare for the night’s Run. Ingredients for soup had to be gathered and I was worried that our chili fans wouldn’t find it anywhere as delicious as what they have come to expect from us, but our Chili Man was away and so soup it would be. I finished the preparation in time to quickly clean the house, as I had promised a friend of a friend that she could come join us on the Run.  As it turned out, this young Italian woman, an au pair who recently graduated from the University of Milan, was a complete joy to share the evening with. When we discussed the details of the Run a few weeks earlier, I realized that since she was living in Westport, Connecticut, it would be imperative that she stay overnight here. She agreed. It would be a long night and the trains wouldn’t be running once the Run was over.

Laura was a wonderful volunteer, a flexible guest who fell into the hectic routine of the evening and someone who I count now as a new friend. She was deeply moved by the students she met, by the homeless she spoke with and by the evening itself. I have often seen my involvement in this outreach work as an odyssey, one very close to Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I have regretted nothing about the past twenty-seven years but I do wonder sometimes if it is a mission completely understood by those around me? 

We saw Sam at our very first stop. He was with one other man; within a few minutes a couple of others joined us, but as usual with this particular stop, it was a small and intimate gathering. The kids paid close and detailed attention to the needs of those who were there, filling their bags with lunches and balled-up socks, toiletries and T-shirts. The conversation flowed and there were abounding hugs and promises made to be back next month. Sam is now 92, a year ahead of my mom, and I noticed that whenever I leave that stop, his is the last hug I return. 

Our second stop was where we would often meet up with Timothy, but since his surgery, he’s been recovering in a nursing home in the East Bronx. I fully admit: I missed seeing him there. The stop was empty, the edges of the park dark and so we moved on, hoping to find others in the shadows. We traveled south for thirty blocks and once again, there was no one there.

By the evening’s end, we had helped those who braved the chilly rain that began to fall and missed those who found refuge. We cleaned up the van and returned the unused clothing and untouched bagged lunches to the storefront and said goodnight.

This morning when Laura and I sat in the kitchen to talk about her experience with our group last night, she asked the same question I’m often asked, “Why did you decide to get involved?” And, I always seem to have the same response, as I’ve never honestly seen it as complicated. “Because I can,” I told her.

And Laura, with her new eyes and perspective caught me. “I think it’s easier than that,” she said. “I think it’s simply about love.” 

Silly me. It certainly is.