We moved to Bethlehem about 13 years ago. I had lived in Albany back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but landed a job in Baltimore and moved away. I met my wife Judy while I was living in Maryland, and we bought a lovely home there, intending to set down roots. Then right in the midst of the Great Recession, my wife's company relocated us from Maryland to the Capital Region. We needed to find a community that we thought would be a welcoming place for us, but based on what I knew back in 1980s and 1990s, I didn't even consider Bethlehem. However, a dear friend lives here with his family and he encouraged us to check it out. I'm so glad we did!
In my professional life, I help human services organizations to create trauma-informed and trauma-responsive communities. Trauma is about the emotional and/or psychological injury that is inflicted upon people. Healing from trauma happens through healthy connections. Some of those healing relationships are with trained professionals, yes; but healing also happens in a friend calling to share some good news, in seeing a child's pride at learning to ride a bike, in a neighbor sharing the extra tomatoes from her garden, or a stranger stopping to help pick up the groceries that tumbled out of your torn bag. Relationships that heal can be those that develop over years, or can be those that happen in a fleeting moment. Some small kindness that you extend may be the pivot that helps someone turn their life around, and you may never know it. That is why it is so important to be kind - always. We humans are social creatures. We need one another to survive. Our sorrow is divided when we share it; our joy is multiplied. Therein lies the power of community.
Anyone who has spent any time with me at all knows how much I love to Zumba! It's a huge stress reliever for me and one of the hardest parts of the pandemic for me was not being able to get together with my friends here in Bethlehem on "ThurZdays" to dance off the all the worries. What usually surprises people to discover is that I do Zumba when I am traveling as well. So far, I've done Zumba in 19 states! My goal is to do it in all 50 states. I've also done Zumba in Canada and in Australia!
If my life story was a book, I think the title would be "Blessings Abound." I am so grateful for the life I've lived, and I know that where I am today has very little to do with what I've done and very much to do with all that was done by those that came before me. I am a miracle! My ancestors survived being kidnapped and crammed head-to-toe into the hulls of ships as human cargo. They toiled in the sun and suffered under the lash as plantation owners created wealth from their stolen labor. They endured conditions of trauma that many did not survive. My grandparents and parents survived the Jim Crow south, suffered through the Great Depression, and fought for Civil Rights. My family knew the value of education and instilled in my brothers and me a drive to succeed. But success in my family was not defined by material things. Success is about making the world a better place. Living in a lovely community like Bethlehem is very nice, but I never forget that I am only here because of the path that others created for me to follow and I am obligated to do all that I can to continue building that path for others. There is much work to be done, especially when it comes to racial justice and equity; but when we remember all that has been done to bring us this far, I know that we can't stop moving forward.