Well…actually this is two tales of one city…or two tales from one block in one borough of one city…but you get the point.
I routinely walk the length of Fordham University’s campus on the outside, along Fordham Road. As in love as I am with my academic community, I’m equally in love with the very different community that lives and works just outside the fences. I could go on and on about the things I love about the Fordham section of the Bronx and the many people I’ve come to know in my day-to-day dealings around “the office.” This is a small slice of life, and nothing more.
I jumped off the train in front of Fordham’s campus gate and began to walk up the block as I do most days. Not long after my little walk began I spied a woman in a pink t-shirt leading her 6 or 7-year old son by the hand. As I got closer, I could make out the design on the front of her shirt. It was a take on the popular “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” red t-shirts from Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat.” Instead of “Thing 1,” however, the woman’s shirt read, “Bitch 1.”
I can’t pretend to know why the woman bought the shirt, or why she would wear it proudly with her son in tow. From a distance, it’s easy for me to wonder what kind of lessons the little man might be learning about women and respect and life. Still, I couldn’t help but think of the 1995 KRS-One track “Ah Yeah,” an ode to black militants as were many “conscious” tracks of the mid-90s. KRS-One says, “Black woman you are not a bitch, you’re a goddess.” The woman I saw was not black, but the sentiment still rang true to me regardless of race. “Woman, you are not a bitch, you’re a goddess.” I moved on….
Closer to my building, I approached a man from the rear. He was walking side by side with his 7-year old son, who I would later learn is named Nicholas. The man was wearing a black leather vest with a lot of embroidery work on the back. At the top, the vest read, “Super Stunna,” and below was a logo for the “Stunt Auto Club” of the Bronx. As I caught up to the man, I told him I liked his vest. He stopped walking and talked with me for a few minutes about the auto club. It turns out they do non-profit community work around the Bronx and even did a car show on Fordham’s campus in June. The man, “D,” told me that his son was one of four kids, and that he was taking care of a fifth as if he were his own. He talked about the importance of doing good works, and being involved with his children and his community.
This isn’t so much a story about the good and the bad of the people I saw on Fordham Road. I don’t assume I know either of them well enough to make informed judgements. It’s a story about how a few moments’ experiences can connect and start a process of thoughtfulness. The mundane moments of life flow and intersect in ways that produce meaning. You just have to observe and participate in life to get the benefit. That’s what living the good life is all about.