I grew up in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, a city where people generally ignored each other. It was a place plagued with many problems such as drugs, violence, corruption, and poverty, all of which contributed to an atmosphere of mistrust between neighbors. I was prepared for Brooklyn to operate similarly, but I was proven wrong as early as my first day there.
The day my family dropped me off at Pratt we went out for dinner at a small cafe just a block or two away from campus. We were all consumed with the impending goodbye, so our table was fairly quiet. During one of the lulls in our conversation we were approached by an old man who introduced himself as Mr. Elliot.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” he said in a friendly voice, “are you all new to the neighborhood?”
My mother told him they were dropping me off at college. He welcomed me to Brooklyn, and shared with us the story of how he and his wife had just celebrated their 60th anniversary. He was a charming man, and he left us all in higher spirits.
There are millions of differences that separate Brooklyn from my hometown, but if I were to sum up the gap between the two places in one word, it would be hope. People in Brooklyn are working with the assumption that if things are bad, they can get better, and if someone is a stranger to you, they may someday be your friend. Wilkes-Barre was never like that. Hope does not flourish in a place where the ground can collapse under your feet at any moment; however, I can see it thriving in Brooklyn, even in the unlikeliest of places. It may be because in an area where everyone is so close together, you have no choice but to put your faith in your neighbors. Regardless, I hope that someday I will be able to bring some of this community back home with me.
Illustration by Sarah Beth Inman