It could not have been easy for the Huguenot settlers whose ancestors lived here for hundreds of years to adjust to the invasion that occurred in the 1960’s. Multitudes of hippies, irreverent outrageous behavior, naked swimming holes, constant music on Main Street, and drug traffic second only to Berkeley, as reported in Time Magazine, made New Paltz a counter-culture destination.
Now, old hippies, like myself, have seen thousands of newcomers arrive here: tourists, weekenders, relocated city folks, much more racial and ethnic diversity, several Afghan refugee families and one homeless man.
The Good Book says: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.”
In recent times there are a lot of strangers to love in our midst. Loving the affluent weekenders who have built McMansions here is a different kind of challenge, a worthy one nevertheless.
NewPaltz4Refugees has fulfilled the biblical injunction, finding shelter, supporting with services and helping refugees find employment. With help, each family has become or is becoming self-sufficient.
Bethany Moultry has “loved the homeless man as herself” almost singlehandedly soliciting support for him to shelter in a local motel. She provided him with a “happy bag,” a charity she created in response to seeing “a sad boy” with a sign saying “Please Help.” Her quart-size “happy bag” provides socks, water, snacks, a first-aid kit, antibiotic ointment, Tylenol and Chapstick. But it’s not enough for Bethany. She has big dreams. “ I want to build “tiny houses” for every homeless person in the world.
Bethany is eight years old.
Colleen, Bethany’s mother said, “My daughter was born with the gift of empathy. When she saw the sad boy with the sign saying ‘Please Help,’ she cried all the way home in the car. She asked if she could break open her piggy bank, go back and give the boy her money. I helped her, but the happy bags were her idea.”
Bethany was five years old when she saw the “sad boy” and three years later is still dedicated to making her life’s work eradicating homelessness.
Here is how we adults can help. Search for “Happy Bags” on Facebook. You will see dozens of Happy Bags that are being decimated locally to homeless people. Click on “pictures” and take a long look at her face. Her smile radiates compassion. New Paltz has its own CNN Hero Young Wonder.