Caroline – Earth Day

I've lived on the Upper East Side for a total of 19 years (two different time periods and two different apartments). My husband, children and I live in an apartment in a cooperative on 2nd Avenue. I've also lived in Chelsea, Columbus Circle and Greenwich Village, but I have really loved living in one of the least touristy neighborhoods in the city. 

For four hours on Earth Day, April 22, there were over a dozen Redeemer Eastside folks working to protect the street trees on First Avenue from 59th to 72nd Streets. Armed with work gloves, hand rakes and 350 bags of fresh mulch, we cleaned the tree beds of cigarette butts and chewing gum, loosened the soil, and covered the tree beds with mulch. The mulch was provided free of charge by kind folks at the NYC Sanitation Department who hauled it and dropped them off at each tree for those 12 blocks. It was a dirty, drizzly and tiring project, but it felt great to be serving our neighborhood in a concrete (or non-concrete haha) way! Special thanks to the Upper Green Side maven, Sarah Gallagher who organized the mulch delivery and provided garbage bags, tools, gloves, even kneepads and snacks! 

There were a handful of people who approached us and asked how they could get involved, and many more who called out, "Happy Earth Day" to us. Of the volunteers, five were middle- and high-school kids who enjoyed getting their hands in the dirt and working with tools. We enjoyed the camaraderie, and the feeling of accomplishment to see the tree beds cleaned and nourished. It was a visible, tangible way to serve our neighborhood!

Reuben - Two and a half Blocks

As is my custom, I left my apartment one night to buy some Chinese food. Though the restaurant was across the street, I didn’t have cash so I walked to the closest deli/bodega which was about a block away; however their ATM was down, so I walked to another one. Well, their ATM was down too. I eventually found an ATM another block away and made my way back so that I could eat my food and watch a couple of episodes of 24—you know, that show with Jack Bauer. (I skipped seasons 3-7 because I was on Amazon Prime’s free 30-day trial so I had to pick and choose. Also, this is by no means an endorsement of Amazon or 24, just the cold, hard, sad facts.)

While walking back I saw an old woman struggling to carry a very heavy bag and asked if she needed help. She said yes, and after establishing that she lived 2-1/2 blocks away, we began to walk and talk. On the way to there, we stopped by to get my food. I carried her heavy bags and she carried my food. She told me her name was Tina and that she’s St. Lucian. When I told her I was Panamanian, she responded, “That’s why you’re so nice!” (She didn’t mean nice in the face, but, you know, nice as in pleasant—her words not mine.)

As we continued walking, she told me more about herself: she has five children, 25 grandchildren (one child has 13 children), she lives with one of her daughters. We eventually got to her apartment and she began to cry. I told her I was glad to help. In my opinion, I’m thankful that I was in the right place at the right time. I was supposed to tutor that day near the time this happened. If I had tutored, or if I had had cash, or if both ATM machines weren’t down, none of this would have happened.

Jeff – Christmas Cookies

I've been living in New York City for 4 1/2 years, and in my neighborhood for about 3. About a year ago, I got married and my wife and I moved into a new apartment on 81st street. We were excited to make it a home and place we would enjoy returning to after work.

Growing up, my wife and her family made baked goods and brought them around to their neighbors during the Christmas season. We decided it would be fun to to do the same thing in our building since we hadn't had the chance to meet all the residents of our 5-floor walk-up. 

We spent a weekend making cookies and writing friendly notes to introduce ourselves and wish each neighbor a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season. We took them door-to-door, leaving most on people's doorsteps to discover when they returned. 

Over the next few days many of our neighbors stopped us in the hall and introduced themselves, asking if we were the ones who left the cookies, and thanking us. We were most amazed when we returned home after vacation and found a note under our door from an elderly gentleman in the apartment upstairs. He wrote us to say that after 35 years living in the building, we were the first to leave anything except misdirected mail at his door. He left us $10 as a token of his gratitude. 

We were overwhelmed that what seemed to us like a fun and simple effort to meet our neighbors could impact one of them so deeply. I hope it encourages you to consider what small things can bring joy to your neighborhood. 

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