The Greatest Gifts

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Pictured above is Zach Kopkin (far left) along with many of our Northside neighbors. Zach’s Americorps VISTA position at the Jackson Center ended this past Friday. Below, he reflects on his time in Northside as part of our Organizing and Advocacy Team! 

I can’t imagine where I would be if I
hadn’t wound up at the Jackson Center. I am infinitely thankful for the people
who have made possible this special home and community where honesty,
understanding, and belief in justice truly bind us together across difference.
To the elders like Miss Keith who sometimes feel like giving up but are always
ready to fight again the next day, I want you to know what a blessing it is to
know you are my friends. You have truly changed my life in ways I am only
beginning to understand. I will carry your stories and loving example with me
always. I take great pride in calling myself a Northside neighbor, and I will
leave a large piece of my heart here with you.

Many of you know Della Pollock, our
volunteer executive director who tirelessly stokes the fire and passion in the
underbelly of our organization. The other day I pulled a book off her shelf,
one about teaching and about challenging yourself and others to live according
to the deepest meaning of freedom. She said “keep it” like it was no big deal,
and I replied that I couldn’t, but she made me relent. To me books, stories,
and memories are the most precious gifts, and I was moved to have received such
a gift from Della, a courageous and graceful educator. This is only the most
recent example of a year full of daily gifts from people all around me in our
community. Dance lessons from George, laughter from Brentton, guidance from
Hudson, wisdom from Yvonne. Hugs from Matthew, faith from Anita and Miss Jewel,
compliments from Mama Kat, chicken salad from Miss Gladys, the kindest smile
from Miss Lil. Inspiration from the students who are already changing the world
because they know the world can’t wait.

Some of these gifts have come in the form
of challenges to question myself and to be willing to transform. I have sat frozen
many mornings and late at night afraid that I have made things worse rather
than better, but in the long run I have been buoyed by my friends, and we have
faced down the struggles that come when you give your whole self every day. Miss Keith, you
pushed me the most of all. George told me you would! You asked me to do more
than I ever thought I could and always told me you loved me. I do believe the
Northside News is the voice of the people, and I am proud to have contributed
to its legacy with you. I will miss you deeply and promise to stay in touch.

Together we at the Jackson Center and in
the neighborhood have seen the possibility of Beloved Community firsthand.
Because our spirit of possibility is unbounded, I do not believe my work as a
Northside neighbor is or ever will come to an end, even as I move back to Boone
to study. You, my fellow neighbors, have given me the greatest gifts, and I
have bottled them up to spray around the world. For all that and more, thank

With love,


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