By Leader Dr. Anne Klaeysen
April showers bring May flowers, so the saying goes, and I’m enjoying the flowers in my garden today. There is a natural spring progression in my patch of Brooklyn: Lenten roses and plum blossoms first, then forsythia and lilacs, and finally a blazing red azalea bush and soft blue hydrangea. In between are daylilies and roses in the garden, petunias and marigolds on the deck, and shade-loving plants in the window boxes. What joy it is to rake and dig, plant and prune!
It is also an escape from the joyless news that assaults me every day. My husband Glenn usually wakes up first and turns to NY1 on the television for the weather and transit reports. I usually wake up when anchor Pat Kiernan reads the news headlines during the “In the Papers” segment and want to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep.
A regular at my weekly Leader’s Lunch Discussion recently said that she almost didn’t attend one Thursday because the article I had selected to discuss was too depressing. Another member agreed, and my task then became to find something – anything – redeeming or hopeful. I failed but promised to scout around for better topics; hence, the theme of “silver linings” this month,
I discovered that it is very difficult to find uplifting stories. Even more difficult is not to mention the name of the man in the White House for a whole day. Difficult, but not impossible, so here are a few May “flowers” for you to enjoy.
In Toledo, Ohio, Jay Singh, a 7-Eleven store owner observed a teenager stuffing his pockets. He told an employee to call 911 and then confronted the thief. “I’ll put everything back,” the boy said. “No,” Singh said, “Put everything on the counter so I can see what you took.” It was all food. When Singh asked why he was stealing, the minor replied, “I’m hungry. I’m stealing it for me and my younger brother.” “You need food? I’ll give you food,” Singh said. “That’s not a problem,” and proceeded to fill a bag with food and tell his employee not to call 911. “He’s a young kid,” Singh told a witness who shared the story on Facebook. “That will go on his record that he was a thief. He cannot do anything in his life. He will not get a good job. This will not solve his hunger problem.”
Erin Bischoff expected to play a secondary character in the production of “The Wizard of Oz” at her high school in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. Instead, she is playing the lead role of Dorothy in her wheelchair with her service dog Gage playing Toto. When she was three years old, Erin had her first surgery to treat osteogenesis imperfecta, a generic disorder known as brittle bone disease, and has since had 103 bone fractures and ten surgeries, resulting in permanent scarring.
“There are a lot of people who will see the chair first and their first question is like, ‘Oh what’s wrong with you?'” Erin said. “You’re not asking me because you want to get to know me. You’re asking me because you’re curious for five seconds. You’re not seeing me as another person who’s doing their own thing.” She hopes her role will make a difference. “My main thing is I really want them just to see me as anyone else who’s on the stage. And that overall, disability should be embraced.”
Last month when 80-year old Haze Mabry went to his janitor’s job at Pike County Elementary School in Zebulon, GA, from which all three of his children had graduated, he expected a busy day of cleaning up and bagging trash. Instead, 800 students greeted him with a special surprise for his birthday. They filled the hallways chanting his name, handing him cards, and singing “Happy Birthday.” That’s because he treats every student like they are his own children. He was overwhelmed, but took the time to hug every child who reached out to him.
Thanks to fans of the television show “Queer Eye” who raised more than $90,000, a woman who had been kicked out of her home at the age of 16 for being a lesbian and had to drop out of college when she couldn’t pay off her student debt, is again taking classes at the University of Kansas. Jess Guibeaux appeared in season 3 of the program in an episode called “Black Girl Magic,” in which her “five gay dads” helped her realize that she is a strong Black woman. “I learned to love my natural curls, my highly melanated skin, and all of what makes me who I am,” she said.
Finally, I highly recommend reading Michele Obama’s book, “Becoming.” She is good company during these dark political days of unethical behavior. She begins her story much as I began this column: at home in a redbrick house that her family moved into after they left the White House, carrying a sandwich that she made herself into the backyard. “The crocuses were just starting to push up through the beds along our back wall. The air smelled like spring. I sat on the steps of our veranda, feeling the warmth of the day’s sun still caught in the slate beneath my feet.” Ah, what joy!