Friday, January 31, 2014

"Our children start to mourn themselves before their time". Reflection Piece

       Mott haven, New York. A part of the South Bronx. A place where people basically count down the minutes until they reach their breaking points. Whether it be the time until they contract AIDS, the time they or someone they know becomes a drug addict or prostitute, the time until they actually get in a hospital room after waiting three days, or the time until they simply die. Mott Haven should have a personal stop watch for all of these people. In a way, as creepy or scary as this might sound for me to say, I wish they would know the exact times any of these occurrences could happen to them or someone they love so they could truly prepare. Whether it be to say their last goodbyes, to simply enjoy themselves while they can, or to just take one last look around at what they have, what they don't, what they need, what they love, what they wish they could have experienced in their lives, and anything else you could possibly think of. The people that live in this area deserve at least that.
       In Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol, he takes an inside look at Mott Haven, analyzing each and every detail of the people and area. He finds out some scary and sad information about these people, but it is something all of the public should be aware of. People should know that these people are suffering. That they need so much more than what they have. That they are not any less of good people compared to the rest of us, but the demographic of where they live affects the decisions they make that they believe will help them survive in their area. Yes, Mott Haven may be apart of the South Bronx in New York, but Kozol shows us as readers that this area is like a world separate from all the rest. People's attitudes and lifestyles are so different. The people responded to Kozol's questions with other questions, like "What can I say/do?".  Someone who truly won me over was the 7 year old boy, Cliffie, that Kozol took a walk with and learned about. For someone who has worked one on one with elementary schoolers before, Cliffie's mindset really intrigued me. Although he knows there is a lot of hardships all around him, he is cheerful. He is able to smile, to speak with knowledge about the world around him. He knows so many people, he values God, he values the idea of respect and kindness. I am not saying other 7 year olds do not act as Cliffie does in Amazing Grace, but no 7 year olds I have ever been in contact with have ever acted so mature around someone they barely even know, like Kozol. He feels the need to show Kozol that Mott Haven could be a good place, filled with some good people. Like when he walks across the street.
"See that? They let us cross" (Kozol 10).

Cliffie makes sure Kozol notices this. He makes sure Kozol sees "his store", and sees that he knows and is kind to many people. Not because he wants to show off, but because he really is invested in being a good person, even at 7. One part of this story that really got to me was when Cliffie's mother says, 
"Our children start to mourn themselves before their time"  (Kozol 11). The words in this quote itself make me shiver. This quote is the main theme of this story in my eyes, because it is not just the children that mourn their lives, it is the adults and the caregivers who have to watch everyone they love crash and burn in life just like they will. Take Alice Washington's son, David, who watches his mother who has AIDS. He is not able to work towards a better life for himself or his mother, because he has nearly nothing. Even the local hospitals cannot help him save his mother, because they do not get to patients right away and do not take proper care of anyone. It is sad, but true. And there is nothing poor David, Washington, or Kozol can do about it as he spends his time with them. I'm sure that is painful for Kozol, as it is painful for me as a bystander within this whole story.
"City don't have the money for the living. I guess they think: Why waste it on the dead?" (Kozol 21).
 To speak about in class:The city of Mott Haven as a whole, simply cannot afford the little things they have around them, never mind the big things, like proper medical care, a proper burial, food, shelter, etc.  If no one is prospering, no one can save Mott Haven and make it a better place, even Kozol, who is clearly moved by the people of the area. But, by the name he chose for this story, Amazing Grace,  it is clear to see that he finds peace within the values and morals a good amount of people in Mott Haven possess. Give back to others. Trust God's plan for you. Do the best with what you have. Help one another. Think of everyone else before yourself. Mott Haven may be poverty stricken, full of people with STD's, on drugs, working as prostitutes, and used as the place New York puts everything they do not want in their more prosperous cities (the landfill or the incinerator), but it does not mean that there are not people who wish they could better their lives or help the people around them. Of course they want to save their loved ones. Of course they want to be able to afford food and clothes and make sure they all receive proper care. But sometimes in life, that is not the case. So you do the best with what you have, and you base your attitude off of it. What I learned from Mott Haven is that you're dying anyways. So you can choose to pause your stop watch  of life and upset yourself over what is going on around you, or you can become stronger because of it. Not only because you want to, but because you have to. And that is pretty important.

     Here are some pictures of Mott Haven, including the layout of the areas in which people live, the places (like some mentioned in Amazing Grace... ex) the coconut ice in cups) that people go to, and a true reflection of how the people of Mott Haven fight for what they believe in.

I also found a website called the "Mott Haven Herald" with news all about the area. Some articles I personally found interesting are listed below. The first is about one of the hospitals mentioned in Kozol's story, Lincoln Hospital. It is about the expansion of their psychiatric area of the hospital and how they are working to fix the time people wait in the hospital to get taken care of. The second is about an organization that is working to make a complex for all people who have been incarcerated, and how they are working to show them that they can live in this society without committing crimes, as good people.  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

First blog post ever!

Hey everyone! My name is Alex :) I am 18 years old and it's a little bit surreal to me that after all the years I spent as a kid pretending to be a teacher that I am taking classes and getting ready to work with children in real life situations. I am a freshman at RIC and my major is Elementary Education. I spent my summer working at a preschool with toddlers, which I loved, but I got a new job at Hallmark in Garden City a few months ago! Every day I go in there people who shop there tell me the craziest stories about their lives literally I am convinced that the Hallmark stores are seen as a therapy session to anyone over 50.
ANYWAYS, I am taking this class because of my major and because I really think it is a great experience that we will be able to work at a Providence school and get a completely different experience as upcoming teachers. It is a completely different atmosphere, and for some of us, it is completely out of our comfort zones and I find that really exciting. Dr. Bogad is a great teacher and she makes me really excited for my future and gives me confidence that I will be prepared when college is over and I get a head start on my career.
When I'm not in school I am definitely working, napping, eating, (um...) hanging out with friends, and spending time with my family! I am so excited for this semester and I really like everyone in our FNED class. I feel like we all really connect with one another!

Well...that's just a little bit about me :)