Things looked pretty bleak for one of our profoundly deaf clients, Donna, just about a year ago. The city and state program-Advantage-was ending and so was the funding provided to her that subsidized Donna’s modest housing in Brooklyn. The fallout from the termination of Advantage meant that most of the tenants in Donna’s building would soon be evicted. For Donna, though, who has a minor child who receives a small public assistance check each month, providence is not delayed. This is because Donna potentially qualifies for an alternative program as a single mother, since her daughter receives a small government subsidy. With the help of the New York Center for Law and Justice, Donna signed a new lease last week (in anticipation of receiving the alternative funding).
Donna’s lease signing took place in a celebratory atmosphere: the managing agent traveled to our offices from Brooklyn and he and Donna penned their signatures to the new lease. Following the signing, we had thought that Donna and the managing agent, who headed out the door together, were traveling back to Brooklyn. A few minutes later, though, Donna returns with a shopping bag from Fairway. In the bag was a large bowl of mixed fruit that Donna had purchased as a gift for us. Many of us may not contemplate that an eight-dollar bowl of fruit is extravagant; for Donna and the budget she manages, the fruit is one of the purest offerings that we have seen so far this season.
Donna’s hopefulness and gratitude embody the sentiment
expressed by Abraham Isaac Kook, a religious figure who lived in Palestine
before the establishment of the State of Israel. In his mystical writing,
Lights of Holiness, Kook teaches us that: “The perception that dawns on a
person to see the world not as finished, but as in the process of continued
becoming, ascending, developing-this changes him from being ‘under the sun’ to
being ‘above the sun,’ from the place where there is nothing new to the place
where there is nothing old, where everything takes on new form.” And Donna’s
world-her daughter, lease renewal and new life-reflects this process of
becoming, not of concluding.Donna’s sensibility is a mark of our approaching
holiday season. This month, we are asked particularly to embrace hope and
resist despair-to cradle positivism and reject cynicism. Indeed, the winter
solstice-a moment in time when the sun stands ever so still before reversing
course and moving higher in the sky-provides us with just the right temporal
moment to pause and absorb the light of renewal-a process that, like our sun,
causes us to arc toward the heights, just when our position is measured to be
nadir. At this very moment in time, our arc ascends; and the truth implicit in
this particular celestial movement may be, for so many of us, one of the
greatest teachings of the season.