As Mayor Bloomberg begins to end his reign as leader of this great city, everyone has been talking about the gifts and the messes that we, New Yorkers, are left with as a result of his mayorship. Since I’m not a major follower of politics, I can’t really participate in these discussions. But one thing I do know is that he has left the city much more beautiful than when he received it. From the High Line to the Hudson River boardwalk to the sculptures that have popped up over the decade, there’s no question that the city has become a more colorful, and lovely place.
Beyond the great view, though, this legacy of his has resulted in profound benefit to our society. To see beauty around us not only brightens our day but, more importantly it inspires us. For my children to see beauty around them gets them thinking, imagining, and, ultimately, believing that they too can make something beautiful. And this is especially true for many of our underprivileged neighbors in NYC. My children have been born into privilege. And this means that they take for granted that no matter what they want to pursue, they will get the emotional and financial resources to make it happen. But for children who don’t necessarily have the backing of their family or school, seeing solid examples of beauty can both inspire and remind them that they too may be able to make their creative dreams come true.
I’m not naive enough to believe that kids with fewer resources will have it easy. In fact, as this beautiful and heartbreaking Guardian article by Chris Arnade shows, so many creative poor children give up. But being exposed to beauty, at the very least, sparks their imagination and gives them the hope that maybe, just maybe they can turn their ideas into reality.
At the last minute, my son and I decided to join a few classmates in the Pediatric Cancer Foundation Walkathon. It couldn’t be a better day — weather-wise — for a long walk along Manhattan’s Hudson River boardwalk.
Needless to say, I dressed a notch better than a schlub (that’s Yiddish for bedraggled person) given the activity.
One of the key organizers for the event is my son’s teacher. She is so involved because she lost a child to cancer.
It’s hard for me to put this truth in writing. I can’t quite fathom such a trauma.
Yet, this amazing teacher is able to go through life, day in and day out, taking care of other children. And all the while she looks beautiful. She stays in good shape, dresses nicely even though her students would never notice, and her hair always looks long and smooth.
I can’t imagine caring about how I look ever again after such a tragedy. And yet, she does.
Perhaps looking good is her way of affirming life. I don’t have the guts to ask. But I admire her that much more for it.
Participating in a walkathon such as this and being reminded of my son’s teacher’s own tragedy makes me appreciate my kids’ health that much more. But, also, seeing this teacher’s strength and self-respect compels me to make that extra effort — even at a simple walkathon — to look beautiful and affirm my own life.