Thump. That’s all I can remember. Trauma can do that to a human.
My father and I were driving from Philadelphia to Baltimore. I was fumbling through the spotty connection on my iPhone, downloading a podcast in the passenger’s seat, when we were T-boned by a driver who took a liberal U-turn across three lanes. The police report was clear: “no contributing action” by Driver #2 (that was us). Our innocence didn’t make the crash hurt my neck any less, though. Countless trips to physicians and physical therapists only confirmed that soft body tissue damage coupled with whiplash would take months to heal. Unpredictable headaches and migraines became a daily reality, and the fast-paced, relentless nature of the east coast somehow felt less safe to me. My body and my mind were constantly searching for comfort.
But sometimes a crisis can be useful when crises arise. It can permit us to reevaluate and reassess our lives and the direction we are headed. How often do we take the time to truly consider what’s next, or what’s to come? Certainly, these questions shouldn’t be reserved exclusively for the High Holidays. And that is precisely what drove me back home, not simply in geographical terms, but in spirit and in fortune. Long before the crash, friends and family had urged me to spend more time in my hometown of Baltimore. They reminded me of the beauties of the inner harbor, the historical nature of the city, and the friendly faces that welcome everyone to their town.
I wasn’t sold. It would be a daunting task to head back home. It would involve a tricky commute to school, and many of my friends would be left to the digital world of FaceTime and Skype. But as the blazing summer heat began to fade, I realized that a new season would bring about change, not only in the weather, but a welcome revolution that may be more powerful than the specialists who tended to my sore neck, or the ibuprofen that aided my sore muscles.
Fall has always provided a time for new beginnings and fresh journeys. It can facilitate the necessary introspection and soul searching that makes life more meaningful and significant, a critical ideal in Jewish practice.
So, I took the plunge. I moved back to Pikesville for recovery, signed up for a tennis clinic on Reisterstown Road, began piano lessons at the Lutherville School of Music, took regular walks around various parts of our sacred city, and began commuting for coursework and classes. The city’s offerings? As advertised. The food? Wonderful. But, the best part of Baltimore? The generosity and vibrancy of its people. Take Steve from Hairway to Stevens Barbershop out in Towson. I popped in on a Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. and departed at 12:30 p.m. The haircut did not take ninety minutes (although his expert precision and attention to detail are to be admired and very well could have taken that long). Steven wanted to be sure a newbie, or in my case a returnee, was familiarized with the local spots in town and share the wisdom of his life experiences.
But the list of seemingly unending acts of kindness, generosity, and basic human decency continued and persisted. From the pharmacists at Rite Aid, to the clerks at Shoppers, to the rabbis and congregants at the local synagogues, to the staff at Camden Yards, there is a quality that seems entrenched within the Baltimorean spirit and pulsates throughout the community at large. Recent political happenings have attempted to break and divide our community. But all Baltimoreans know how special our city is and will continue to be. Diving in this place helped a kid recuperate to all that Baltimore has to offer, and allowed him to stand up a little taller since the thump.