Like most of you, my life is a jigsaw of different roles and activities that sometimes fit neatly together, sometimes not.
Depending on the day, even on the time of day, I can be a novelist, a marketing consultant, a yogi, a fundraiser, a boss, a partner, a daughter, a friend.
Of all these roles, one that I am proud of and humbled by, is my role as a teacher.
Every Thursday, I teach a writing class at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, the largest soup kitchen in New York. Of the hundreds of people who come here for a meal, a handful stay on for the class. Some weeks there are fifteen or twenty in the room, some weeks we are a small core group of eight. We are from different countries, states and cities. Some of us – most in fact – are homeless. Some are volunteers here at the soup kitchen, some come only for the workshop.
What we have in common is our love of language, of stories, of putting the right words in the right order on the right page. Each week we come together to do this, to write, to read, to listen, to teach, to learn.
Over this last year of teaching, I’ve learned more than I have taught. I’ve learned about tenacity, about hope, about the courage to overcome obstacles in life that I’d never even imagined. The week of Hurricane Sandy, we had to cancel the class because we had no power here at the church. The next day, as I was handing out sandwiches with volunteers and colleagues, three writers came by to seek me out. Each was homeless. Each had had a terrifying week, trying to find shelter from the worst storm ever to hit New York. And each came, holding out sheets for me to read. Despite the hurricane, despite the challenges of their lives, they had done the homework I had set the week before.
They had written in spite of the hurricane. They had written because of the hurricane. They had written because, like me, they have a need they can’t always explain, to write.
Next Wednesday, we are having a reading in the landmark Church of the Holy Apostles. For some of the readers, this is the same place they have lunch every day. For most, this will be a rare opportunity to have their voices heard in such a public setting. For all of us, it is a day of pride and celebration.
If you are in New York you can show your support by coming along at 7pm and enjoying their work, maybe even by spending $5 on their anthology. If you’re somewhere else you can show your support on our blog which showcases their work every week.