Filmmaker, living in New York, NY
To Whom it May Concern:
I first learned about Heart’s Home USA in 2009, when Father Paul Anel approached me after the premiere screening of my documentary film Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky at Lincoln Center in New York. We had a long discussion about the subject of my film, Andrei Tarkovsky, the revered Soviet filmmaker who died in 1986. Like myself, Father Paul is an admirer of his films, which explore spiritual themes through a singular cinematic language. This was the beginning of my friendship with Father Paul and connection to Heart’s Home USA.
Before long, I began visiting the Heart’s Home headquarters in Brooklyn. As a young artist who had just recently moved to New York City, I was relieved to find such a warm and hospitable community nearby. I attended several film screenings and discussions at the house, where I encountered a level of conversation about art, morality, and religion that is difficult to find elsewhere.
Soon, I began to learn about Heart’s Home’s activities in the local community. From the first moment the organization’s mission was described to me, I knew that Heart’s Home plays a critical role in its neighborhood and beyond. New York is a city where many organizations, both governmental and private, offer a multitude of services to disadvantaged people. There are pantries, shelters, career programs, and assistance of all kinds. However, one service that is often overlooked is that of human presence, or care. Kitchens close after the meal is served, education programs enroll new students once the old ones have graduated, financial assistance initiatives offer money that can buy material, but not spiritual, essentials. Heart’s Home, on the other hand, gives the gift of continuous, unconditional human connection that is so critical for a person in distress. In fact, I believe that without compassion and friendship, other programs will likely fail to help the individual in need.
In 2012, I had the honor of accompanying one of the Heart’s Home volunteers on a visit to a local hospital for senior citizens. From the moment we walked through the building’s doors, it was apparent to me that the volunteer was a local celebrity. Her warm smile and selfless attention to the ailing and elderly lit the room. Everybody knew her and she knew them by name as well. That day, we were there specifically to visit an octogenarian of Eastern European descent. I wish I could relay in words her elation when the Heart’s Home volunteer entered the room. She explained to me that she had no local family, and that visits such as this one meant the world to her. We stayed for over an hour, and when we left I was deeply humbled by the volunteer’s generosity, kindness, and humanity. Indeed, this was a type of selflessness that is rarely encountered in a fast-paced city like New York, and I was certain that it was important not only for the elderly lady, but also to this city’s communal health in general.
In 2014, Father Paul invited renowned Swedish editor Michal Leszczylowski and myself to screen Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky at Heart’s Home. The event was well-attended and a lively question and answer session followed. Again, the purpose of this screening was not to make a profit or even to entertain, but rather to connect New Yorkers through an attention to life’s larger questions, which are often so neglected in contemporary culture and even art.
For me, Heart’s Home is an institution that reminds the city that never sleeps of the importance of simple human compassion and care. Through cultural events as well as visits to isolated people, it seeks to give the gift of human presence. This endowment may at first seem of secondary importance compared to material or financial support, but it soon becomes clear that without this gift of love, all other efforts to improve a person’s lot are in vain. Having observed the success of Heart’s Home’s mission first hand, and through my friendship with Father Paul, I can safely say that my personal belief in God has been bolstered and sustained as well. I would like to thank Heart’s Home for its impact on my own life as well as contribution to the city of New York, and I wish the organization many more years of continued success.
Filmmaker and Student of Directing at Columbia University