I was always trying to meet new people and try new things and that's how I got myself involved in a "volunteer" group. I found the notice and called Brianna. We talked for a while about what she intended to get going and I agreed to meet with the startup group in a community center gymnasium in Bath Beach.
|photo by Dave Golland|
Bath Beach is a small Brooklyn neighborhood between Bay Ridge and Gravesend on the water. It's one of the first African American neighborhoods in New York - freed slaves were given a parcel of land here in the mid-19th century. Nowadays, it's small row houses and apartment building.
Although it was about five miles from where I was living and I could probably have driven there in 10 or 15 minutes. Instead, I took two trains to get there, and in the evening when the trains are running slower, it took about an hour.
I guess there were about a dozen women who were interested in somehow contributing to the community. At that first meeting we just talked and arranged to meet at Brianna's apartment after that and she would cook for everyone. The next meeting there were only six women, which was good because Brianna's apartment was about 300 square feet. We didn't get anything accomplished as to setting up a goal for the group, but the food was great, and Brianna had found a volunteering job in Manhattan which I offered to fill. That's how I met Jeet.
Jeet was a middle aged doctor, an Indian from the Brahma class, who had lost his eyesight in a car accident. He needed someone to read for him. Read his mail, magazine articles he was interested, advertising flyers from the grocery store, etc. I went into Manhattan, and on that first Saturday morning, we met in a downstairs meeting room in the apartment building where he lived. After about three Saturdays, he invited me to come up to his apartment to read to him there.
It got to be really fun because he made tea with boiled milk (instead of water) and we started watching Indian movies on TV. These were movies about the Indian gods and goddesses and their battles and machinations. Jeet knew them by heart and he explained the relationships of all the people and the deities. After a while, we started going out to run errands. Jeet was prolific on his computer, which not only had a keyboard, but used voice command and he liked to get the latest gadgets.
Jeet was starting an online health food business with a partner, and eventually he started breaking our commitment time to work on that, and I faded out of his life as an assistant. But I learned a lot from being around him. First of all, that there is no excuse not to move forward. He never seemed depressed.
I continued to attend Brianna's group for the few months they met. The group just didn't gel on a goal and it fell apartment and we lost touch. She helped me learn that there is always a place to love.
Meantime, the big day is coming and I remind myself that there are lots of ways to be a Valentine. Just a smile will do it.