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Bitter-Sweet NYC – part 2

January 3, 2009

This has been a great trip to New York for Liz and I. It has been a little different this time because Liz got a chance to spend more time with her friends than usual. I am glad that she has had the opportunity to connect with old friends, she doesn’t get that chance very much. One of her friends is married to a guy who works in the South Bronx in the school system. He works in one of the most dangerous parts of the country.  She has another girlfriend who is getting married to a guy who was a teacher in The Bronx. He has to work in a school system that has at least 50% of the students on free lunch. Basically, that means his schools are in a poor neighborhood. All that to say that I had a great opportunity to talk with both of these guys about the way of life here in the city.

Bill (the teacher in The Bronx) told me a story of a foreign exchange student that he worked with that shed light on a common problem for students in The Bronx. Bill worked with this student in his class and quickly saw a problem with this students turning homework in. When confronted the student informed Bill of his situation. He was having to learn English while working 2 jobs after school. This student would go to school, then leave and go to job #1, then job #2, then home for sleep time around 11pm. Wake-up at 6am to try and get some homework done, then off to school. While this scenario isn’t the case for all the students, it does give some insight into the grind of a students life.

Danny told me about his schools that he works with and some of the hardships that his kids face. Through my conversations with Danny I learned how he had to make 25 lay-offs and cut a whole program due to limited funding available. He didn’t give me any stories about students specifically, but did give me an idea of the landscape of the area. He didn’t exactly paint a pretty picture.

The beauty that is New York City often overshadows and hides the suffering and oppression that is so prevelant here. The results are high crime, low graduation rates, a nasty cycle of poverty, and a lack of adult role models. These are dangerous combinations for an area that houses millions of people.

I wish there was an easy answer to these problems. What can we do? How do we change a culture?

 

Sidenote:

 While on the subway tonight, a guy stood up gave a very quick synopsis of his current life situation. He informed everyone that he was recently told he is HIV positive, which caused his father to kick him out of the house. He said he had nothing. Begged for food, drink, or money. I don’t know how much of the story was true, but I do know the look I saw in his eyes. It was heartbreaking. He was broken and hurting horribly. Nobody budged when asked to give. I gave him a Fiber One bar. It was all I had, but that will only give him enough nuritement for a day. He needed so much more. I hate seeing people so broken.

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