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“Joe moved here from Texas almost four years ago. I think he’d been living a pretty idyllic life-- nice house, nice family. But shortly after arriving in Spokane, things began to unravel for reasons outside of his control. Our homeless shelter was looking for a new director at the time, and I was part of the hiring team. Within thirty seconds of Joe walking through the door—I thought: ‘This is our guy.’ He didn’t even wait for a question. He knew all the statistics, and was full of ideas: ‘Spokane needs this, Spokane needs that.’ You could just tell how much he cared. As soon as we hired him, he hit the ground running. He was determined to open a 24/7 family shelter before the snow started falling. Joe was the hardest worker I’d ever seen. He’d get on the ground with these kids, and fight for them with tears in his eyes. During his first two years at our shelter, I know things were difficult in his personal life. His marriage was falling apart. His son was diagnosed with autism. But he dealt with his pain by focusing on families who were in even greater need. One day we were sitting in his office, discussing his personal struggles, when he suddenly changed the subject. He began to talk about a family we were helping, and he got emotional. I couldn’t tell which family he was crying about—the shelter’s, or his own. Helping people was how he coped. When Joe first arrived, our shelter only had fifteen beds. Now it’s up to seventy-five, and over a thousand people have been rehomed. That’s because of his hard work. And I’d like him to get some credit for that. Joe Ader is one of the best people this city has.” #quarantinestories
“Ever since I was a little girl, I’d been professing that I wanted to be a doctor. But there weren’t any doctors in my family. And we didn’t live in the nicest part of Brooklyn-- so there weren’t even any doctors in my neighborhood. I was fourteen years old when I met my first African American female physician—Dr. Cambridge. It was just a fluke. I needed to see a doctor, and I ended up at her office. But meeting her was like God saying: ‘You can do this. This is what you want, and it’s going to happen.’ It wasn’t easy. All through school I worked the closing shift at McDonald’s. I barely had time to study. I failed general chemistry during my freshman year, and my advisor told me that I shouldn’t pursue medicine. But people had been telling me that my entire life. So I just never went back to her office. I figured everything out on my own. I’d never even heard of an MCAT. I had to learn all that on my own. I studied with old books that people donated to me. But I was still working twenty hours a week, so I only scored in the 19th percentile. I applied to fifteen medical schools and all of them rejected me. That’s when the depression set in. I'd lost $2200 on the applications alone. But I pulled myself together. I kept going. I enrolled in a Master’s program so I could prove that I was capable of succeeding on a higher level. I took out student loans. And for the first time—I was able to focus on my schoolwork instead of surviving. I went into beast mode. I was like a machine. I made my first ‘A’ ever in a higher education course. And the next time I took the MCAT, I scored in the 73rd percentile. When those results came in, I was laying on the floor. I was crying. Because nobody knew how hard I prayed for this. How hard I worked for this. So hard. So, so hard. Only I knew. I did this all by myself.” #quarantinestories
“It started with super light contractions. So it seemed like we had plenty of time. Leanne went to take a quick shower. I started packing up our stuff. Then suddenly she had a contraction that was like—‘ whoa.’ So I thought we’d be conservative and head over to the hospital. As we’re walking out to the truck, Leanne had an even bigger one, and I’m like, ‘Oh man.’ We jumped in the truck and pulled out of the driveway. I put on some Grateful Dead—light volume. I started out doing 5 to 10 over the speed limit. Nothing crazy. Then Leanne’s water broke. But it still didn’t seem like a ‘baby coming out right now’ situation. So I pushed it up to 60 mph. Then Leanne started screaming. Very guttural. And I heard her saying something about the baby coming out. Now I know people delivered babies for a long time outside the hospital. But I’d never done it. So I brought us up to 65 mph. Then I hear her saying, ‘Oh my god, I feel a head.’ And I start seeing something out of the corner of my eye. My wife is pulling a baby out of herself. Next thing I know, she’s holding it up in the air, and she’s saying ‘oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.’ I pulled over into a church parking lot and called 911. They told me to stay calm, and that I needed to tie off the umbilical cord with something. So I looked everywhere for some sort of string. I briefly considered my shoelaces, but those would take too long to untie. There was only one other option.” #quarantinestories
“We always heard stories about him. Even before I joined the baseball team. All the kids at our school knew about Coach Durante. And everyone loved him. He was like a second father to everyone on the team: never yelling, never annoyed, never frustrated. He’d take us out for ice cream after practice and give us advice. On Saturday mornings he would hold a basketball game in the gym. It was $2 to get in, and all the money went to the local food drive. It was all about inclusion. Anyone could attend. It never mattered if you were a jock, or if you were in band, or if you were an outcast. Everyone played. Durante would meet you at the door, reach out his hand, and say: ‘I love you and I hope you’re having a great day today.’ One time he drove me home, and the whole way he was telling me that I needed to live my life for other people. When we pulled into the driveway, he called my Mom outside, and spent several minutes telling her how amazing I am. I owe such a debt to him. I’m a father now. I have three kids. And I’m always asking myself: ‘What would Durante do?’ A few weeks ago I got a text from one of the guys saying that Durante was in a home. So I called around to all the places in the city until I found him. The nurses warned me that his memory was gone, but I grabbed all my old photos and jumped in the car. He was staring out the window when I arrived. He didn’t remember me. He had no idea who I was. But it didn’t matter. The moment I walked in the room, he turned to me, and he said: ‘Oh my God, look at you. Did I ever tell you how much I love you?’” #quarantinestories
“It was just the three of us. And dad was a truck driver so he was gone most of the time. It could be a lot of stress. My mom was almost like a single mother. On my third birthday we moved to a small house outside of Denver. Next door there lived an older couple named Arlene and Bill, and they started talking to me through the fence. My first memory is Arlene handing me strawberries from her garden. It was a wonderful connection. After a few months, I knocked on their door, sat down in their living room, and said: ‘Will you guys be my grandparents?’ It was so silly. They could have laughed it off. But instead they started crying. They printed out an adoption certificate and hung it on their living room wall. That certificate remained until I left for college. They became so important to me. Their house was a refuge. Bill was the kind of grandfather that always smelled like oil. He taught me to drive everything. He was always fixing stuff. But he’d stop anything to sit down with me and have a glass of tea. Arlene was the type of grandmother that loved crafts, which was perfect for a kid. We were always putting tiny sequins on things. Both of them supported me in all my dreams. Through all my phases. They encouraged me to apply for college, even though I didn’t have the money to go. And when I got accepted, they presented me with a fund. They told me they’d been putting away money since the day I adopted them. Since I’ve become an adult, I’ve learned more about my grandparents. They both grew up poor. Arlene struggled with alcoholism when she was young, and that’s why they never had children. Their lives weren’t as perfect as they seemed through the fence. My grandmother passed away in 2013. It was two days before our adoption anniversary. My grandfather gave her eulogy. And at the end, he said: ‘Arlene leaves behind her husband Bill. And the greatest joy of her life-- her granddaughter Katie.’” #quarantinestories
“I’d just moved to New York. I was staying in the Bensonhurst housing projects with a woman I met on Craigslist. And I decided to try to make some money selling art in Union Square. It was tough. I think on the first day I sold one print for $20. But on the second day, I met Smiley. He was an artist too. He’d just lost his job. He walked over to me, looked at my art, and said: ‘I’m trying to be like you.’ So we decided to sell our art together. We set up in the subway station—right by the Q train. Somebody was playing live music down there, so we started dancing. And that’s when I knew I loved him. Because that’s never something I would normally do. There was a lot of learning over the next few months. We both came from single parent homes. And neither of us had been in a successful relationship before, so we had to teach each other what we wanted and needed. There was a lot of instability. At one point we were living in a storage closet. And it would have been scary if I was doing it by myself. But it was more of an adventure with Smiley. We didn’t worry about not having money. We’d sell enough art to eat for the day, and if we had any left over, we’d buy a spliff and smoke it on a stoop. On the nights when I had nowhere to go, we’d sleep together in the park. Smiley could always stay at his uncle’s apartment—but he’d choose to sleep outside with me. We’d pick a quiet spot, wrap ourselves in my giant sweater, and sleep on the bed sheet that we used to sell our art.” #quarantinestories
“It started with a heavy chest. Then I began to have a fever and dry cough. They’re doing car tests in Minnesota, but I didn’t have a car. So I ended up walking to the ER. They put me in isolation. I wasn’t even allowed to use the restroom so I had to pee in a bucket Then they tested me and sent me home. I’ve been waiting on the results for days. There hasn’t been much to do, so naturally I’ve been scrolling through Grindr. A couple days ago this older guy sent me a message. My profile name is ‘Bernie2020,’ so he says: ‘Hi Bernie.’ I explained that I’d just been tested. And he tells me that he’s a retired doctor. He starts asking about my symptoms. He wants to know if he can bring me anything since my family lives out of state. And this whole time he’s calling me ‘Bernie,’ but I don’t have the heart to correct him. I wanted to test to see if he was a real doctor, so I took a picture of my hand and asked him to identify my congenital birth defect. He nailed it in less time than he could possibly google it, so I figured he was legit. And who’s going to kidnap a person with coronavirus? So I gave him my address. The next day he shows up with a perfect little portion of salmon, asparagus, four pears, and some very expensive looking granola bars. We barely spoke. He seemed more nervous than I did. He just dropped it on the steps, walked quickly back to his car, and said: ‘Good luck, Bernie.’” #quarantinestories
“We all have her smile. And her nose too, but we’re prouder of the smile. She was so giving. She used to make everyone cakes. Lots and lots of cakes. All throughout our childhood, we had these amazing, handcrafted cakes: trains, ships, castles, dolls. Kshiteeja got a stethoscope cake when she was accepted into medical school. Deepshikha got a camera cake because she loves photography. And I love reading, so I got a book cake. Even our extended family got cakes for every birthday. Mom held our whole family together. But depression was in her blood. Even during her darkest periods, she’d be thinking of us. Her constant thought was always: ‘I’m bothering you, I’m bothering you.’ She hated that we were taking care of her. So we think-- in her mind-- that even her final act was an act of giving. It’s been five years now. After her death, we made a rule. If anyone has a feeling-- we have to talk about it. Even our dad. And the rest of us have to listen. It’s made us much closer. We talk about her a lot—especially when we’re eating. I make the cakes now. I’m not as much of an artist. I don’t have the same aesthetic. But Deepshikha just had a birthday—so I made her a chocolate tart, with a layer of cookie butter, a layer of chocolate pudding, and topped with raspberries, hazelnuts, and edible flowers. When she tasted it, she gave me my favorite compliment. She said: ‘Mom would have been so proud.’”⁣ ⁣ (Bombay, India)⁣ #quarantinestories
“I had very little direction in life. I was twenty-four. I knew I wanted to be an actress, but I couldn’t see a path. Even though I’d been accepted to a drama school in New York, I didn’t have enough money. I was living on a street in Liverpool where everything had been boarded up. I was so desperate that I decided to put a classified ad in a magazine called ‘The Private Eye.’ Oh God, I was so naïve. The advertisement said: ‘Talented young actress desperately seeks funding to go to drama school. Happy to meet.’ Every pervert in the city called me. One guy offered 30,000 pounds to ‘do whatever he wanted’ for a weekend. Another wanted ‘discipline sessions,’ which I had to Google. When I explained I wasn’t offering sex, people would shout at me on the phone. They told me that nobody would give me something for nothing. I felt stupid for even trying. After a few days the phone went quiet. Then one afternoon I got a call from a man with a very strong Irish accent. I could barely understand him. He told me that he’d never bought that magazine before. And that it all felt very strange-- but he wanted to meet me for lunch. And that’s how I met Edmund. He listened to my dreams, and my goals, and at the end of the lunch, he agreed to pay for everything. Edmund has been my biggest supporter ever since. He’s helped me fund a short film. Right now he’s helping me produce a documentary. And he’s never asked for anything. Nothing, ever. He never crossed a single line. Edmund was very successful in life. And he always dreamed of having a big family. But he and his wife were never able to have their own children. So he sees me a bit like his daughter. He’s amazing.” #quarantinestories
“My mom didn’t want to be pregnant. She was young. She wasn’t in a serious relationship. And she never even wanted kids, so needless to say, she wasn’t thrilled. I think Mr. Duck was her way of ‘being ok’ with the pregnancy. It was the first gift she ever bought me, and she gave it to me when I was born. I took Mr. Duck everywhere as a child: breakfast, lunch, dinner. I gave him baths. I told him all my stories and all my problems. He was my best friend. At one point we were staying at a hotel, because our living situation was up in the air. And when I came home from school, our room had been cleaned-- and Mr. Duck was gone. I tore the room apart. The hotel staff searched everywhere. My mom even tried to go to the landfill, but the city wouldn’t let her. Mr. Duck was gone. Forever. The years went by. I stopped thinking about him. But my Mom remained heartbroken. She couldn’t even watch Toy Story. Then three years ago, I’m sitting in a café, and I get a call from her. She tells me: ‘I think I found Mr. Duck.’ Apparently for years my mom had been googling: ‘Terry Cloth Duck With Overalls.’ And she finally found a match. But there was only one way to know for sure. Mr. Duck had stitches in his head because of a hair dryer injury. That would be our proof. My mom ordered him from the website, and we agreed to meet at a restaurant to open the package. We delayed the moment for as long as possible. We tried to make small talk. I braced myself for disappointment. But finally we opened the package, and pulled him out, and I ran my fingers across his head. Stitches! After all these years, Mr. Duck had come home.” #quarantinestories