Well, here we are, dear Friends and Neighbors, on the eve of another new year. So much happened to us in 2012 — some good and some bad. But through it all, by the grace of God, we made it to the end of the "old" year.
When I was a young woman, I made a new year’s resolution every year. The new year brings with it that kind of fresh-start magic.
To many of us, the new year really does mean having a second chance; a fresh start; a new beginning, another opportunity to do something that matters, to touch someone’s life in a positive way, and to do random acts of kindness.
I thought about the random-acts-of-kindness thing when, on Christmas day while in Washington, where my granddaughter Afra was appearing in My Fair Lady at the -Arena Stage Theater, I stumbled upon the perfect opportunity. Afra and I, and her mother Mary Anne, were on our way to have Christmas dinner with their longtime friends who live in Maryland. (A Radio City Music Hall Rockette since 2004, Afra had suffered with tendonitis in her right knee and decided to take this season off to let it heal.)
We got to the Metro station and found it practically empty. We headed for a bench where a man and woman were sitting and Afra motioned for me to take a seat. I spoke to the two individuals and wished them a Merry Christmas. A few minutes later, the woman who had been sitting on the bench moved away. She looked a bit uncomfortable. A few seconds later, I understood why. The young man seemed to be mentally challenged and needed to talk to someone about something that happened earlier at the facility where he lived.
Apparently there had been an argument with a caregiver at the facility, and he got upset and yelled at her. When I asked what was the matter, he started crying, "I yelled at her ... I didn’t mean to do it ... I was in a hurry to get to the station."
I touched his shoulder and tried to comfort him. "I’m sure she is not angry with you. She understood you were eager to get the train to spend Christmas with your mother." He stopped crying and told me his name was Gabriel. He asked my name. I told him and introduced him to my granddaughter and her mother, who were looking in disbelief at the two of us. Their eyes seemed to say, "Doesn’t Grandma know she is in a strange city and this man is a stranger who could be very dangerous?"
I did know. But somehow, this didn’t seem like a dangerous situation. Something in my heart said this was a chance to do a random act of kindness. I followed my heart. By the time our train came, Gabriel was smiling.
"I like you," he said. "You are a nice lady."
I reached out and offered a hug. He responded and soon my granddaughter and her mother were hugging him too. It was a wonderful feeling. Gabriel repeated our names over and over, pointing to each of us, so as not to forget them.
In a few minutes, we were at our stop. We said goodbye to our new friend and got off the train. We waved at him as the train pulled away. We didn’t say much about the incident, just smiled knowingly at each other. We knew we had just reached out to another soul who needed to be comforted and by doing so, we had spread a little Christmas cheer.
So, as I write this last column of 2012, I don’t have a list of new year resolutions. What I do have is a determination to live one day at a time, and try to live my life by reaching out to more Gabriels and offering comfort and spreading cheer and good will wherever I can. It may not be in the form of a hug. It just might be a warm smile, a "How do you do?", or "You look nice today". I learned from the Metro Station incident that it doesn’t take much to make somebody’s day. Just be kind. Make it a part of your everyday routine. No resolution is needed. Just do it.
And have a wonderful and healthy New Year!
Arts in the Gardens
Arts at St. Johns will kick off the New Year with the SALA Arts Social at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, 2000 Convention Center Dr. SALA is an acronym for Social Action, Local Arts, and is a multi-disciplinary, multi-sensory arts event featuring music, dance, the visual arts, refreshments, drinks, interactive DJ music, networking and a silent auction.
The artists include Tiffany “Hanan” Madera performing Mid-Eastern dance; DJ Madame Turk, who will mix new and old dance club music and Afro/Latin and Brazilian beats.
The visual arts will include a group show by the Artist Colony, a Miami artist collaborative. There will also be a selection of paintings, graphics and assemblages donated for the silent auction by Carol Hoffman-Guzman and her husband Robert Guzman. Carol is the founding director of Arts at St. Johns. She and her husband have been collecting local and emerging artists for over 40 years.
The event celebrates 12 years of SALA presenting performances and art at Arts at St. Johns. According to Hoffman-Guzman, SALA’s name was chosen because it is reflects Arts at St. Johns’ vision to present local artists and art forms and t use the arts to build community, nurture dialogue about social issues and seek to bring about change through the arts.
Tickets to the event are $75 each at the door or online at www.artsatstjohns.com or by calling Hoffman-Guzman at 305-613-2325.