In 1976, I met a blind New York City street singer named Reverend Baybie Hoover whose early life was marked by a succession of tragedies. She was blinded at birth by an inebriated doctor, molested by a foster father and later sterilized as a young girl by a doctor who thought he was doing her a favor. Baybie lived in a single-room-occupancy in midtown and every day, rain or shine, she made the subway trip to Bloomingdales on the upper east side to spend the whole day singing on the sidewalk.
During our time together, I came to know her and found myself drawn to her extraordinary personality. Baybie was a woman who had few, if any, reasons to be grateful. Yet she lived in a state of perpetual gratitude for the little she had. She rarely indulged in any judgment of those visiting misery on her I had never met anyone who saw life and the people she encountered with such generosity of spirit. .
Being in Baybie’s company made me ashamed of every complaint I had ever uttered, and only in putting her life’s story in writing could I ever hope to fully recall the grace and gratitude this woman brought into my easy life.