Remember Regina used to feed the hungry? I mentioned while helping Belac get dressed, early Sunday morning. That's what we're doing, today. We're bringing food to people who are poor and old and need our help.
I miss Regina, he told me, I love Regina.
We entered the first building on the lower east side. The lobby was dark and dirty, there was graffiti on the walls. My husband carried a heavy box of food and Jake, a frozen chicken. Honestly, we were all a little wide-eyed. I held Belac's hand and coached the kids. It's important to say hello and introduce yourself in a loud but friendly voice. We'll only go inside if they invite us in and we'll try to be helpful.
Come in, come in! the first person invited. Her apartment was very small, dark and filled neatly with a ton of stuff. Thank you so much!
We found out she survived 6 concentration camps. I survived not because I was strong, but because I was smart, she told us, pointing at her head. Her husband was long gone. We looked at photos of her 4 children and many grandchildren. Why hadn't any of them taken her in? I wondered.
Your Easter is coming up, too, isn't it? she asked.
Actually, our family is Jewish, I smiled.
Oh! Well, it doesn't matter what you are, she explained, it's only important to be a good person. Some very religious people, you know, they are so judgmental but do nothing! You are such a good family. What good boys, she proclaimed. I love you! By the way, she added before saying good bye at the door, you should try for a girl. Daughters are very good, my daughter calls me 3 times a day.
All of our visits were to very modest, neatly kept apartments in rundown subsidized/project housing in isolated areas. At least once, my husband murmured it didn't feel too safe, as we walked around looking for specific buildings, often lost in the maze of these communities. We spent a lot of time driving around and looking for parking. We noticed that none of the buildings were in easy walking distance of a grocery store and even then, the stores looked sorry and depressing. In one visit, the door was shut immediately on our heels by a rather fearful-looking woman. Another visit, there was panic that there was only one box of food and one chicken for 2 elderly (daughter and mother) living together. The daughter was bald and had a scarf on her head, and I wondered if she was undergoing chemotherapy. At another apartment, the walls were peeling on a scale I had never ever seen, and we could barely understand the woman. It was my husband who figured out that she was fretting over receiving just one box, now, when she was sure she received 2, last year. Each time, I called the office to double check. Each time, I left the phone number of the office with explicit instructions to call on Monday. And in 2 cases, we had extra food and we backtracked to give to those we thought were neediest.
By mid-morning, I noticed that Jake had learned to speak up and announce in a loud friendly manner through the door, "it's Regina's Project and we're here with a food package!" When someone offered him a chocolate, he looked at me cautiously not really wanting it, but then somehow knew to take one, proclaiming "Thank you, this tastes very good!"
Back at the office, the director and I continued our discussion. They had schools and synagogues that put together hundreds of food boxes and donations from all over the city, but it was complicated. Not one place had enough real estate to store all of the boxes and city people didn't always have cars to drive around and make deliveries. I'll organize families in Westchester, I promised. I'm all over that! the director replied.
Love thy neighbor.
Guess the Decade: Lofted Sitting Room
43 minutes ago