Friday, February 13, 2009

My Neighbors

From my window, I see my Neighborhood inside out. I see the backs of houses and brief tracts of land littered with lawn furniture and laundry lines. I see the local church steeple, the tallest thing on the horizon until the recent condo buildings began springing up on all sides. And at the foot of my view I see a Neighbor.

Senor DeMarco is doing something which he does often, which is nothing. I'm in awe of his senior citzen ability to do this... to sit calmly for hours, until at some mysterious moment he decides he's had enough. Today, I find Senor in his wife's garden, the family laundry flapping above. He's owned the house I live in for almost 40 years and at this moment I can't imagine what more a once Merchant Marine from a small Italian island could want. All that space!

When I turn away from my window I'm back in my room. This 10x10 cube, which at times I can't believe I fit all my junk into. I look at the walls and the old ailing door. How can I pay so much to live on the third floor of this old Italian couple's house?

But this room is mine. I can turn the lights off. I can open the window. I can eat a bagel in my bed. I can never clean it or I can clean it everyday. It's my room. I'm safe here.

When I think of Senor and all the people who've sweated to have a small garden or a stoop to sit on, my room seems like a fortress, obligatory and solid. But it's not. As I've begun to realize, so many of my neighbors never get to choose when to turn out the lights. They'll never eat a midnight snack or sleep late on Sunday. So many of my neighbors have no home.

This blog is about one thing. Meeting the Neighbors. It's about understand why 36,000 New Yorkers lack a home to call their own. The New York State constitution guarantees the right to shelter, it demands that we find homes for those who are homeless. But today, looking out my window, it just feels like the only true way to be a good neighbor.

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