I sat in a semi-circle with a group of residents in the backyard of an apartment complex. It was a city neighborhood, the apartment building was subsidized. There was a table with food on it. An easel held blank flip chart paper. A map of the world was taped to a brick wall.
Residents used the map to talk about their lives. One at a time, using a marker, they drew lines connecting all of the places they ever lived.
They drew lines from Haiti to New York to Boston. Some were born in Honduras, traveled to Florida, then to Boston. And others were born in America.
A fair-skinned black woman used a cane to walk. She shared that she had been drug-free for twenty years. Everyone applauded.
After she introduced herself, she returned to her seat next to me. Holding the sign-in sheet, she leaned over and whispered in my ear, "I can't write."
"That's all right," I whispered back, “I'll help you."
Some residents shared little; only where they were born, went to school, and worked.
Some began to ask questions, "Why is it that we live here?"
They explained, "My mother lives here, its home." "I've been here all my life." "I can't afford to live anywhere else."
Then a resident, an older man with gray hair asked a young lady, “What are you living for?"
She answered, "I'm living for my kids. It’s too late for me."
A mother the same age as me mentioned that she is a grandmother.
I sat back, and looked at them in admiration.