• Hawthorne Smith, PhD

Director's Corner - October 2020



I played music yesterday.


This may not seem like earth-shattering news – as I’ve played music for decades, and have even played some solo horn for people in my neighborhood during the pandemic. That all seems so long ago, however; back when New Yorkers were applauding first responders and police (!) at 7 PM each night, banging pots and ringing bells. You know, the “old days.” 


I have not lacked for opportunities to play, nor have I lacked compatriots with whom to play. The occasion, the context, and the understanding that playing music “would be a good thing” were all there, but I couldn’t make it happen. 


The will and volition were missing. Perhaps I am not alone in this...


As months of the pandemic have worn on us, complicated by economic hardship and social unrest; multiplied by uncertainty for the very survival of our republic’s democratic norms – a malaise set in. Insidious. Subtle. Deadly to the spirit. I’ve worried that I might scream the next time someone says “the new normal.”


But yesterday was different.


There was no magic wand waved, or largely significant historic event (I mean, there probably was a big event, but they seem to occur almost every day). It was more a deep reckoning with the wisdom that our clients have instilled in us, that hope is not so much something you have; it is something you do. It is an active comportment. A way of engaging with the world. An attitude. A behavior.


I believe that my friends and I were tired of being tired. Too many losses remained un-mourned. Pain was not fully acknowledged. We felt the misery, but without the incumbent healing and relief that comes with connection. Depressive feelings sat comfortably and secure in our hearts, attacking the very tools we have to combat them – engagement, collaboration, loving relationships, and creativity. The really heavy medicine – joy – remained tucked away on the back shelf; perhaps reserved for more deserving patients. 


But yesterday was different.


We gathered together. We were safely outside with our masks and appropriate distance, yet we were closer than perhaps we have ever been.  I recalled the words of my friend Dr. Susan Wilcox who spoke of “social deepening” in the context of social distancing. She is clearly onto something.


We basked in the blessings of a sunny, breezy Sunday. One of those days that inspires songs about our city, like “Autumn in New York.” We poured libations and shed tears for those we have lost. We reached down and played tunes we hadn’t played in months. We created new jams, born of the moment and the feeling flowing among us. We smiled. We talked. We let silence have its space when words would have just gotten in the way.


When we finished, I was spent; yet rejuvenated in a way I have not felt in seemingly forever. It helped me to sit down at my computer and write this piece – something that has eluded me for weeks, despite my best efforts.


I wanted to share this with you for a couple of important reasons. First of all, it is to wish you strength, healing, and spiritual growth during this period. I believe that the opportunities to evolve, re-evaluate, and reconstruct what is truly important to us presents itself now as it never has before. 


I also wanted to emphasize the importance of hope as a behavior. We can reclaim the coping mechanisms that a depressing world endeavors to steal from us. We can support one another. We can acknowledge our intrinsic value. We can explore the profound possibilities of our creativity. We can actively engage, and utilize the proactive behaviors incumbent in that act to move ourselves, and our world, forward. 


To that end, we would like to make an offer for a deeper connection between us. 


PSOT will be holding its 2020 Annual Benefit on October 29th at 7 PM. It will be virtual this year, but the connection will be real. We will honor clients who exemplify what it means to be a survivor, and to help others through difficult times, even when one is suffering themselves. We will honor legal service providers who are standing with asylum seekers in a time when they are further marginalized, shunned, and facing purposeful efforts to close the doors of welcome in their faces. 


The benefit will be free, though we will ask for “love offering” support. Our coffers are dwindling as we continue to make every effort to help our clients remain food secure, fight off improper evictions, withstand health challenges, and navigate the asylum process. 


Though we do have significant financial needs, the primary focus of this event will be reconnection. We miss you, but we still feel you. Deeply. We know you are there doing the most you can to keep your head, and to help others to keep their heads, above water. We so appreciate you. I don’t think I realized how much until yesterday. While playing music, I thought about you. Our community spirit was there in every note, every tear, every smile. 


Be well. Be safe. Be conscious. Be kind. Be loving, and know that you are loved as well. Let us hope ferociously and engage in social deepening. We look forward to being with you on October 29th. 


By the way, I plan on playing some music tomorrow…


One love, Hawk


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