Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

Seeing Delight

A few years ago I organized a 3-week trek on which six high-school students from the inner city and six from an upstate region of woods and dairy farms hiked and rowed the 125-mile length of New York City’s water-supply system, from Mountaintop to Tap. We gave the students cameras and journals to record their experiences, and after our first night in the open, Sean, a 14-year-old Puerto Rican, wrote: “When I woke up this morning I kept thinking about the stars that I saw last night. I live in Brooklyn and at night you don’t really see stars. I mean you’ll probably see a couple here and there but last night I was like WOW! In Brooklyn we have street lights lighting up our streets while over here you have these beautiful stars lighting up your environment.” I don’t know where Sean is now. I have heard he joined the marines. I thought of him this week as I scanned endlessly depressing news headlines: 300 miners killed in Turkey; murder indictments for the drowned children in one Korea, nukes in the other; melting ice in Antarctica; 275 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria; fires and drought in California. In the relentless roll of heartbreak it's easy to see a frightening, joyless world, without optimism or wonder. For most of Sean's 14 years, the borders of Brooklyn had been the contours of his existence. Then one night, lying in a sleeping bag in a wilderness a hundred miles from home, he looked up and he saw delight.

Assumptions

Five Feet High and Rising