Angels in New York

Just when you least expect it and are sinking into the despair of self-isolation with a sick spouse and extreme personal vulnerability to the coronavirus, someone appears as if by magic to save the day. It’s not magic, of course; it’s human kindness and generosity at its best. I referred to her as an angel in an email and, with no prompting from me, my wife used the same terms. It must therefore be true.

The story is simple enough. My wife has come down with what appears to be COVID-19. We don’t know how it happened. We’ve taken all the precautions. Nonetheless, a doctor in a televisit said she thought it was COVID. It fits the symptoms list perfectly. Fortunately, so far, there are no breathing issues. But you may take my word for it – this virus is mean as a junk yard dog. Everything bad you’ve heard about it is true.

Anyway, my own vulnerability has led my wife to vehemently object to my leaving the apartment. Since she became ill six days ago, I have left only twice to pick up food deliveries and packages at the concierge desk and that was over her protest. When she started to need some things we had consumed, like ginger ale, I found that it is impossible to order online at CVS for delivery of items sold “only in store.” We then recalled that a few people in our building (700 apartments in two towers) have volunteered through the resident portal to help people like us. One of them was recent. I found her message and we began to communicate.

Skipping some of the details, she instantly agrees to trek to the CVS around the corner to buy whatever we need. Faced with imminent store closure (it’s Saturday night at 8 pm and the normal “open 24 hours” has apparently been suspended), she makes them stay open until she gets everything we asked for and delivers it to our door. She exhibits no impatience whatsoever as we text back and forth about the options/brands, etc. She wants us to have exactly what we want, not just what is convenient for her to grab and go. I am a bit overwhelmed.

This leads to a second trip the next day when we discover other needs. She texts me from the store to recommend an over-the-counter medication that may help my wife’s nausea (it did) after consulting with the pharmacist about it. She sends photos of various options so I can choose specifically what she should buy.

She patiently helps me struggle to reimburse her through her website (standby re that), but refuses to accept anything beyond the actual cost of the purchases. She says: “no way I’m taking anything other than exact amount.  Grandpa, who stormed the front in Battle of Bulge, would be horrified and embarrassed if I were to dishonor family name during time of national crisis.”

Now, I know I’ve encountered someone very special. An angel in human disguise. In New York City. We exchange a bunch more emails and texts after I check out her website where she manages, as a hobby, a meditation/mindfulness training program for working people. My wife in particular is interested in this for her post-recovery work life. It turns out this new friend-by-text and I are both alums of Yale University (me, Yale College, she the Law School) and Harvard (me the law school, she the Business School). To respect her privacy, I will not identify her by name. Her resume is intimidating. I joke that I and members of my class often observe that we probably couldn’t get into Yale now and her background shows why. She finds this amusing. She has a sense of humor and an infectious positive attitude toward life. [Is it a pun to refer to “infectious positive attitude” during a pandemic?]

I explain that since there is an immutable rule of life that no good deed goes unpunished, there will be two consequences to her work as Good Samaritan for us: one is that my wife must make dinner for her when the lockdown ends and life returns to some semblance of normality. The other is that I will write about her in this blog.

This is a story that must be told and included in my tales of life in New York City. She demurs on the blog but we agree she will bring dessert of her choice to the dinner. She sends me a remarkable photo of a multi-color dessert cake she had baked and says, “be afraid.” Date to be determined but I am optimistic we will make this happen.

And, for sure, my wife and I will be made better by having known this generous, ebullient, kind-hearted person, an unexpected benefit from the pandemic. As I conclude this post at 7 pm, I hear the New Yorkers that have balconies applauding, banging pots and cheering for that other group of angels working in the Emergency Rooms and ICUs around the city. This happens every day and apparently has started a national “movement,” as well it should. Giants and angels come in all sizes and in many disguises. If you’re lucky enough, an angel will find you too. I hope so.

 

21 thoughts on “Angels in New York

  1. Always looking forward to reading your New York blogs. This one was special due to ongoing events…Covid-19. We think of you guys every morning when watching GMA news on New York. I hope by the time you read this, Dina is feeling much better. Please tell her we send our love and warm aloha! You are so lucky to have found a special “Angel”. We should all have one during this difficult time. Please take care.

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    1. Thank you, Juanita. Dina is indeed dong much better. Probably a week away from full recovery but still happy with progress.We were/are indeed fortunate to find this particular angel. Wish everyone in need could be so fortunate. She is quite remarkable. You guys be careful and stay well.

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  2. Thanks so much, our dear friend. Dina is indeed going much better the past two days and we are cautiously optimistic that she is on the permanent road to recovery. You all take care as well. I understand the next “wave” is headed to DC and it’s really nasty & frightening.

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  3. Paul:  I am a huge fan of your posts.  As wonderful as this  one is, showing the kindness & humanity of a “neighbor”, it saddens me that Dina has Covid-19.  I e-mailed her in March, because I was worried about the two of you.  Please give her my aloha, know that my thoughts & prayers are with you both.  Please take care.

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    1. Aloha, Kani. Dina is improving by the day now. Eating meals, etc. We remain cautious but optimistic that the worst is over. Stay well. This stuff is nasty.

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  4. Thank you for another inspiring post.  I happened upon your blog when you wrote that the critics were wrong about Bohemian Rhapsody – which I loved – and have enjoyed your writing ever since.  It makes me feel connected to New YorkBest wishes to you and your wife. Mary Sue SanderlinRichmond, VA

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    1. Thank you very much. She is getting better now. I’m glad you enjoy the blog. It’s fun to write and I’m looking foward to once again having the freedom to roam the city.

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  5. Hi Paul,
    Sending hugs to you and Dina! I will keep you both in my thoughts and prayers !
    I am not however surprised to hear of the angel in your building in New York! Having grown up in New York ( in an apartment) I know they are everywhere and just wish the world knew this..and am hopeful that these acts of kindness which are really everywhere in the world ,become our new normal!
    In the meantime stay as healthy as you can! Hugs! Anne Marie

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    1. Thanks, Anne Marie. She is much improved in the past two days. We are cautiously optimistic that the worst is over. Stay save!

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  6. What an inspiring story and how beautifully written! Thank you, Paul, for sharing. It reminds us of the impact of small acts of kindness done with great compassion in times of need. It makes me smile thinking of the day when you all will enjoy dinner together and share a toast to health and friendship. Our thoughts and prayers are with you both! Please give Dina our love as well. Sending lots of healing vibes and many virtual hugs. Blessings ~

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    1. Thank you,Lori. She is better by the day now. We too look forward to that fine day when we can get together in the same place at the same time. Best to Carl.

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  7. What a blessing it is to have an angel for your neighbor! Am praying for you guys…speedy recovery for Dina and protection for you, Paul! Stay safe and stay well. Thanks for sharing; it reminds us how acts of kindness can deeply impact those around us.

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    1. Thanks, Nancy. The story has resonated with many people and I’m very happy for that. Look forward to seeing you one of these days.

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    1. John, thanks very much. My apologies for taking so long to reply. Been a bit distracted but Dina is doing much better now so I can focus on other things. I understand that the next “wave” is headed your way so take care. It’s nasty and mean.

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    1. Thanks, Dick. We are being very cautious. Dina is better the past two days and I think the worst is likely over. That said, we are being extra careful for at least the rest of this week. It’s coming your way so prepare now and both of you stay safe. Hugs to Kristin.

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  8. All good thoughts and wishes for recovery from a hula sister to Dina, and for you to stay well and able to continue administering. This was uplifting to read, mahalo. We need to hear and see the everyday heroes doing acts of kindness, as that spurs more and more kindness in us all. We see more than enough horrible behaviors splashed across the news each day. May you all hang tough there and know that I think of you and wish you well—in heartfelt prayers and wishes for Dina’s speedy recovery to dance again, to have dinner with your wonderful new angel-neighbor, to be able to hug each other again. Much Aloha!

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    1. Thanks very much, Rita. Dina is recovering well now but we remain cautious. Stay safe yourself. Give our best to everyone in the halau.

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  9. All good thoughts and wishes for recovery from a hula sister to Dina, and for you to stay well and able to continue administering. This was uplifting to read, mahalo. We need to hear and see the everyday heroes doing acts of kindness, as that spurs more and more kindness in us all. We see more than enough horrible behaviors splashed across the news each day. May you all hang tough there and know that I think of you and wish you well—in heartfelt prayers and wishes for Dina’s speedy recovery to dance again, to have dinner with your wonderful new angel-neighbor, to be able to hug each other again.

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  10. This is a lovely tribute. Thanks for the post. I also sent a note to Dina this morning sending well wishes. Please both of you take care during this difficult time

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