When I look back at all that occurred in 2020, particularly in New York City, my adopted and forever home, throughout the unimaginable hardship that brought this world city to a complete standstill, more than anything, I saw hope, love, unity, kindness, empathy, compassion, innovation – a collective drive and optimism to lift one another up, with eyes and hearts focused on bringing about a brighter tomorrow, no matter how far off ‘tomorrow’ may be or how long that brightness might take to shine through. I look back, and I feel the embrace of that positive, hopeful energy that brought millions of strangers together and carried us through each day, an energy that still fuels my ability to get through these strange days.
One memory in particular stands out, though, when I reflect on the unexpected yet inevitable beauty that came from such a time…one brief moment with a stranger on the street.
Feeling overwhelmed after one particularly rough day, I forced myself to go for a walk to clear my head and lift my spirits. Along my way, I took a turn down a street I’d never taken nor had any reason to take before. But as I turned the corner, I immediately felt lighter, as stacks of books a block-long laid out before me. Books! Stories! My solace! My escape, always.
That’s when I met Charlie.
Charlie was the owner of a bookstore – is the owner of a bookstore; of those books, there soaking in the sun along the deserted city streets. As I excitedly combed through the stacks, Charlie and I chatted for half an hour, lost in each others company. He shared how the virus had affected his business but not his spirit.
Because of the virus and new state laws, Charlie couldn’t have a soul inside his bookstore. So, you know what he did? Every single day, he woke up before the sun to drag his books out to the street for others to enjoy. Every single day! Why? He told me simply, “As a reminder that everyone’s story is still being written; everything will be alright.” “At least now I can enjoy my cigar during business hours,” he added chuckling.
Charlie is the epitome of optimism and a bright, shining example of what it is to be alive. Even through the darkest of times, life always finds a way.