Last month, I was in New York City to celebrate reaching another decade with four of my friends. Three of these friends I have known since high school, and we were roommates at one time or another in college. My son, Aiden, calls them his “aunties,” because they have loved him through his transition and love him the same today.
We decided on New York, because it got the most votes from all of us and there is so much to do. For me it was a chance to spend time with my college friends and they gave me the flexibility to do some advocacy work with groups in NYC which I was so grateful for. But as I returned home, I realize I learned a lot, because I was open to new experiences.
Here are my reflections:
- At the Statue of Liberty, I reflected on how my grandparents came to this country to find a better life for their family. They taught us to be kind, work hard and live a life of honesty and responsibility. As I looked up at Liberty, saw her torch lighting the way, the shackles laying at her feet and holding a tablet with July 4th inscribed on it, I felt she truly was a beacon of hope to all of those who come to our country for a better life. It certainly was for our family. I also thought how sad she must be at what our country is going through presently. Yet liberty to me means having the ability to choose. And in times of adversity, there are so many who choose greater humanity. I saw it in New York, Texas after Hurricane Harvey and Florida with Irma. And so I look to the future with hope.
- I thought that New York was too busy to care about others and yet I found this city to have people filled with compassion and kindness. On the bustling streets of New York, there were people who took the time to help us find our way. One man carried my suitcase down the steps to the subway platform, as he saw me struggle with my luggage. One lady, walking her dog, overheard us talking about our destination and turned us around so we weren’t walking the wrong way. Finally, another person realized that we were going to JFK airport, but were on the wrong subway (yikes!) chatting away like we knew where we were going, so he reached out to help us get on the correct line. There was kindness wherever we turned.
- At Central Park, we walked through Strawberry Fields and took a moment to stop and see the mosaic created with only one word: “Imagine.” I wondered what people thought when they saw that word. What did they imagine? For me, I took a moment to imagine peace, harmony, and love. And I imagined a country led by wisdom, equality and leaders who bring hope.
Sitting in the Sondheim Theatre waiting for the musical Beautiful to begin, I anticipated hearing songs that I loved and sang to when I was young. At the end of the play, all I could think about was how Carole King did not let adversity stop her from sharing her gifts with the world, how she listened to her heart and found greater success as a young, single mother living in a new place. I know she was afraid, but she did not let fear stop her. I hope I can continue to listen to my heart, ask for support when I need it and trust those around me when moving into new and perhaps intimidating places in my activism.
I believe that no matter where we are, who we are or how old we are, we can learn things that make us better human beings. And as that thought entered my mind, I heard Carole King singing: “You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile in your face and show the world all the love in your heart. Then people gonna treat you better. . . You’re gonna find, yes you will, that you’re beautiful, as you feel . . .”
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.