Rachel Pollak is the Community Coordinator at St. Lydia’s. This is an excerpt from her weekly update to the community.
Due to a long-awaited and very happy change in my circumstances, I have been apartment searching this week. I poured over Craigslist till my fingers turned blue and my eyes rolled back in my head, pounded the pavement and calculated that most delicate of NY housing equations: location+price, multiplied by space and divided by quality until I had narrowed down the few blocks we wanted to live on, and saw all the apartments in that area that I could get the squirrely Brooklyn landlords and brokers to show me. After three days of this, I was feeling pretty worn out, and decided to reward myself with lunch at a Greek restaurant nearby that I’d been hearing good things about. So I parked my bike and was walking over towards the sweet little neighborhood corner restaurant with its striped awning and outdoor seating, when an elderly woman on standing on the sidewalk called out to me. She was wearing long purple coat, crocs and a crocheted hat, and she asked me to help her cross the street.
I took her arm in mine and suddenly felt so snug and safe, like she was my grandmother and I’d been living in this neighborhood all my life. We ended up crossing the street-no quick errand with the painful arthritis in her ankles slowing us down–and all the way down the block and across the next street, to the 7-11 where she bought 5 doughnuts–an excellent choice, I thought, for a woman in her eighties who is enjoying her golden years. Her name is Margie, and on the way she told me all about how she’d been living in the same house for 65 years, ever since she was seventeen, when she married a dock worker a few years her senior who she’d met at the candy store. Apparently, her girlfriend had a crush on him first, and implored her to play matchmaker and talk to him for her. When the guy told Margie he liked her, instead of her friend, she was so shocked she didn’t know what to say. Long story short, they got married at St. Saviour on 8th Avenue near Prospect Park, and had three children. Now margie has four grandchildren and two great grandchildren, and she feels lucky they all still live nearby. She worked at the department store Century 21 on 86th street for 43 years before she retired last year because of the pain in her ankles, and now she’s supposed to stay home and keep them elevated, but a girl just has to get out of the house sometimes you know?
I can’t really express to you, dear Lydians, the warmth I felt coming from Margie’s fuzzy purple coat, or how connected and loved I felt when she said goodbye, “Now, you enjoy your lunch–have the bread pudding, its so delicious, and you and your boyfriend are just going to love living here, now give me a little kiss on my cheek before you go.” I felt she and I had lived our whole lives to be in that moment together, to give each other the little bit of help we both so needed in that moment, on that particular afternoon. It made the kind of sense that I have such trouble describing, but that I feel so affirmed in seeking because of moments like that walk down the block with Margie. I look forward to celebrating that sense with you in the coming days during Holy Week, and to practicing being open to it, and making ourselves vulnerable enough to ask for it when we need it, and give it to others when we have so much to spare.