Friday, July 21, 2006

A Summer Friday in the City

As the temperature peaked around 93 or so today, the "11th Annual Summer Party for Kids" roared its way through the sun-soaked afternoon in the park adjacent to our office and clinic. My wife's senior center for low-income Latinos is on the other side of the park, and people of all ages came to the information tables and the newly-refurbished sprinkler park. Snacks, a DJ, tents for shade, and gifts for the children completed the picture, along with a fire-truck and a police K-9 unit demonstration. Bike helmet and other safety demonstrations were key aspects of the displays. At lunchtime, I took some time out of my day to wander around the celebration with Mary and a coworker.

For all the troubles in this very troubled town, there are still good people making good things happen. Our health center, for example, hosts a Christmas party for the neighborhood children every year, complete with Santa, elves, a very impressive Santa's workshop, substantive gifts for every---and I mean every---child who shows up, free Polaroids of each kid with Santa, music, free food, and the promise of a very good time. The amount of hours put into this undertaking are astronomical and the planning and gift-gathering begin each summer.

All of the numerous social service agencies in our end of the city---serving an 83% Latino community---have banded together to form a committee to oversee and guide the overarching plans for knitting this community together and providing comprehensive services to families and individuals, taking into consideration health, healthcare, economics, elders, children, teens, families, addicts, sex workers, IV drug users, and newborns. The vision is astounding---the implementation will be a challenge. Nonetheless, a well-meaning and ethnically diverse team has assembled itself to transform and restore this community, and there are times when I feel that I could not work anywhere else. Even as the city collapses upon itself---or threatens to---the movers and shakers continue to plow ahead to bring their visions to fruition. To wit, my program of care management for the most vulnerable members of the community was born---and is sustained---by such tenacity of will and desire to serve. That underpinning of heart is what keeps me where I am.

As I watched the children frolic in the sprinkler park and the people chat under the trees, it became easy to overlook the trash, the violence, the corruption, the homelessness, the desperation that walks these streets. Even for a moment, frozen for a summertime pause of sun and water and laughter, the promise of community unfolded and placed a gently soft hand upon the faces of those gathered in such innocent joy and celebration of life. These are instants that cannot, and should not, be taken for granted, and they are truly miracles, conscious manifestations of the power of positive energy, the will to serve, and the desire for togetherness that I feel lives in us all.
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