Going back to Brooklyn is always bittersweet. As I said to my girlfriend, I miss the old neighborhood more for what it used to be, than what it is today. With every visit comes the discovery of yet another old-time store shuttered to make way for something hip, trendy, or worse—a high rise. I suppose that’s the great thing about memories; we get to carry them with us wherever we go.
One of the things I miss most about living in Brooklyn is walking, and not just for it’s physical benefits. I loved that my feet could take me wherever I needed to be. A few steps from my front door to the metro, or over the Brooklyn Bridge into the city to see my therapist, if time allowed. What I love most about walking is the journey, my eyes following my feet, taking it all in. It’s easy to understand the wonder toddlers feel when they discover the treasures that await on foot. In the moment, the time it takes to travel a city block with a 2-year-old can feel endless, but think of all they’d miss if they didn’t stop to inspect. The ants carrying cargo to their holes, a flower sprouting from the base of a tree, and leaves—like snowflakes, each one is different, and demands your attention when you’re a child.
The weekend was packed with little time to exhale. Not a complaint, since it was filled with lots of great moments, seeing old friends. I would’ve loved more time to explore, but find comfort in knowing I’ll be back there in two weeks with a more relaxed schedule to enjoy my city. In the one bit of free time we managed to carve out, my guy, Virginia, and I went to the main post office in Manhattan, on 33rd street and 8th Avenue. I began participating in Operation Santa the year Isabella was born. I knew our little girl would grow up with a tree brimming with gifts on Christmas morning, and began to think about the kids who wouldn’t have that same experience. I sat down with Mikey, and told him all I really wanted for Christmas was for us to each pick out letters to Santa, and make those kids wishes come true.
We went together, Isabella tucked into the baby bjorn, and poured over hundreds of letters. Who were we as human beings to determine which dreams were more worthy? Mikey looked at me, tears in his eyes, and it’s those same chocolate brown eyes that reflected back at me 12 years later, except they were his little girl’s. Virginia and I sat, reading letters, and while they all made us long for a world where the differences weren’t so stark, one in particular hit home. It was from a 12-year old girl whose father died four years ago. She has an eight year-old sister. There’s no doubt fate put that letter in my hands.
I found a tissue in my purse long enough for each tip to reach across the table, and dab the tears from our eyes. The comic relief helped soothe Virginia’s sadness. I explained that I didn’t bring her there to cry. I brought here there to see that even though she is just one person, she has the chance to make a positive difference in the world. I gestured towards all the people sitting at tables around us, and explained that with enough people doing little deeds of generosity like this, the impact would be profound.
We walked hand in hand, the three of us, out of the post office that afternoon, feeling a little more full of thanks for each other. Some where between going to gorge on the craziest milkshake ever, and a stroll through the Union Square holiday market, there were tantrums to be extinguished. So is life with a seven year old, for she is only human. The sentiment of goodwill was lasting, though, as she shared the story of our day with her sister that afternoon. Isabella asked to read the letters, and while she wasn’t there to help pick them, she asked if she could help shop for the gifts. Many days, heck most days, I feel like I’m doing it all wrong. And then on days like that one last Saturday, I have hope that they’re connecting the dots of what it means to be a good person. It doesn’t mean we come without faults; it just means that we are a work in progress. Every morning brings the chance to be better than we were the day before. And every day brings the opportunity to make the world a little better than the way we found it.
For more information about Operation Santa, and participating postal offices in the U.S., click here.
Music Pairing: Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand) by Diana Ross
Video Pairing: this Diana Ross in Central Park version.