3/15/2019

New York City

At the end of February, I found myself in NYC, to participate in a wine-and-cheese fundraiser for Spring Initiative, the Habitat-originated dynamic and innovative afterschool program in Clarksdale for at-risk kids. To say that this occasion was an anomaly would be to exploit the obvious, as I have always made it clear that I want nothing to do with NYC, and my short time there did nothing to change my mind. From surviving my first (and hopefully, only) road-rage-fueled cab ride to lamenting the fact that I could hardly ever see the sky to wondering how anyone could actually afford to buy anything in the city, my three days there corroborated my hopelessly midwestern conviction that the old 60s sit-com “Green Acres” had it right. However (and quite counterintuitively) . . . besides facing the challenges of negotiating big city life, I had a wonderful time, because I got to spend so much time with former students and old friends throughout the weekend, most of whom had shared Habitat experiences with me from all the way back!

It would be fun to name all these beautiful people by name, but it might be a little much for those who don’t know any of them, so I will draw attention to only one of my favorite interactions. At the event itself, I encountered Alison Leff Washabaugh, Uni class of 1996. The Leff and Sutton families have a long and almost unbelievable history together—Father Mark was highly instrumental in steering me toward and helping me secure my job at Uni in the first place back in 1993 (the first year of our Habitat experience as well), and Alison was in one of my first classes, where she distinguished herself as one of the best! Son/brother Ben followed her to Uni and starred on some of the same sports teams that also featured our son Matt. After earning a history degree at Brown, Ben was eventually hired by the Uni High Social Studies Department, and, three years ago, began accompanying the Uni students on their yearly pilgrimage to work with Clarksdale Habitat. When I “retired” two years ago, Ben took my position as US History teacher at Uni and also took over the leadership of the Uni Habitat programs, where he has been distinguishing himself. But Alison had graduated before we started the Uni trips, so she never got to experience the Delta first-hand. Nevertheless, there she was, making it a point to attend the Spring fundraiser, clearly moved by the presentation, directly lending her support to all that Habitat and Spring are trying to do in Clarksdale, and reminding me again that people do not have to personally experience the Delta Habitat world to be able to be attracted to its inspirational stories. And, hopefully, one day soon, Alison will be able to make her own way south, to write yet another story in this incredible saga.