Saying someone is a hero and a lifesaver, lauding their invaluable and extraordinary contributions to the world, can often be hyperbole. But in the case of Dr. Stephen Levin (Oct. 16, 1941- February 8, 2012) who fought for his patients’ lives as a physician and activist, and fought for change on both a cellular and a political level, it’s simply a statement of fact.
I first met Steve Levin at the New York City office of Kinderland, a progressive summer camp focused on social justice. I grew up going to Kinderland, and was there for my interview to be a Counselor in Training (CIT). Steve was there, waiting for his own daughter—who had never been to Kinderland—to finish her own CIT interview. In a way, Steve’s bringing his daughter Kate to that interview and that camp is a metaphor for what he did for so many people in his life; introducing them to interesting and important ideas, places and values. Steve brought his daughter to what turned out to be a healthy and happy place for her, just as he brought so many people, friends and patients to happier and healthier states. We started talking, and I liked him immediately; he was warm, engaged and engaging. He had a soothing, animated, deep voice and bright, sad brown eyes. He was excited and nervous about his daughter’s first time in camp and when she came out of the interview, his face lit up—Kate has this effect on him—and he enthusiastically introduced us, eager for his newbie daughter to meet an experienced Kinderlander. When they left I hoped and suspected that I’d see them again. And I did; Kate and I became CITs that summer and, more importantly, good friends. I was 15 when I met Steve. And that was 15 years ago. I’ve known Steve for half of my life.