Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

CELEBRATE!

You wake up with a backache, sore toe, indigestion or unexplained feeling of discomfort. One of these happens to most of us many mornings. While we would prefer to bound out of bed preparing to tackle the world, that joy and feeling are available if you reach for them.

Find reasons each day to celebrate something. The options are endless. For instance, a quick reference to the Internet will disclose that today is the birthday of singer Samantha Sang, American songwriter Seth Swirsky and martial artist Sean Sherk. No, the majority of us don’t communicate with any or all of these folks but we can certainly celebrate the fact that they are having special days.

Those are only the beginning of facts to celebrate. On this day in 1861, the process of flogging was abolished. In 1882, Standard Oil of New Jersey was established and in 1957, “American Bandstand” premiered on network TV. Before you consider responding, “who cares?” be confident of the fact that there are as many reasons to celebrate today as your aches or pains.

Celebrate finishing your race, no matter what your time. Celebrate the fact that you have a loving family that cherishes and admires you. Celebrate the sunshine or rain, whatever you have available. Whining about either will have no effect and your state of mind as well as those around you will be enhanced by your interpretation.

If all that falls short of your celebration minimum, consider this:

Why,” the man in the brown hat laughed at him, “I thought everybody knew ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.’ If you say ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit’—three times, just like that—first thing in the morning on the first of the month, even before you say your prayers, you’ll get a present before the end of the month.”

Winchester, Simon (2 November 2006).

Find someone you treasure and on the first of the month or at the beginning of the day say, “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.” It can’t possibly do any harm and may begin a chain reaction of events for both of you to celebrate. Shalom.

 

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Friends

Time corrupts language. Or, to take a less subjective approach, time modifies language. In either case, I am grateful that the word “friend” has not lost its significance or value since I first learned the word.

When referring to adults as friends, we normally reserve that designation for someone we have known over time. To most of us, friends are much more than acquaintances who know us casually or superficially. A friend has your secrets, promises, dreams and memorable moments.

Change your context and see what magic ensues when you begin calling children friends. The term is entirely uncomplicated to them and they will never question your authority or history for calling them friends. Most of the time, it’s a term that creates care, concern and connection.

The location is irrelevant. When I call my students “friends,” they never wonder why. Happily, they begin to sparkle, asking, “Am I your friend?” as if to wear that word as a crown. Although most students will want the teacher to remember names for eternity, designating them as friends will not cause them to wonder if you’ve forgotten.

By no means do I suggest that you use this terminology with strangers on a bus, in a restaurant or waiting to renew your driver’s license. Adults will generally object to this type of immediate informality. But call a child “friend” and you will acquire and enhance that friend, if only for a brief encounter. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Power

One of the most inspirational activities that I have created for the classroom is one where I ask my students to imagine that they have one superpower of their choosing. My preference is not to limit the power in any way, for the sake of having them exercise their imaginations. Most of the time, they surprise me with both ingenuity and their humanitarian spirits.

Some of these are chain reactions – it’s easier to duplicate the choice of the student next to you than create a superpower to dazzle classmates. But on those delightful occasions when a child ponders all possibilities, I am always exhilarated by their responses.

Without exception, when children devise that their superpower will deliver boundless wealth, they use that wealth to serve others. Usually, money is used to eliminate hunger and build large, comfortable homes for many people. My guess is that the money is derived from having enough smarts to generate huge sums – that’s not always made clear and I choose not to ask.

In other classes, usually with older children, the superpower is strength. They dream of using physical strength to fight crime, protect the weak and generally ensure a safe environment for all. Sadly, my students see the evils of society that surround them. But they never stop wanting to fix things. Somehow, I wish that I could capture this idealism and enthusiasm so that I can deliver it to adults. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Dinosaurs

Whenever I ask a group of children to name their favorite animals, at least one child will answer, “dinosaur.” Depending on the age of the child, I can either secure an explanation from him or her, or not.

Most of the time, kids say they don’t know why dinosaurs are their favorites. Maybe it’s because they are huge, ferocious creatures who aren’t afraid of any other animal, humans included. Or maybe it’s the mystique of adoring an animal they can’t see except in a cartoon or by skeleton or fabricated replica.

When they can explain the dinosaur fascination, students will say that it’s simply because they are big and scary, making them suitable for appreciation. If I remind them that we haven’t had real dinosaurs on earth for thousands (millions?) of years, they are unfazed, telling me that they were previously on earth and are therefore suitable to be favorites.

Why does this amuse me? The conservationist in me wishes that they loved rhinos or elephants, with the possibility that they will someday assist in protecting endangered species. Part of me wonders if they are presented with too much reality and they are responding by appreciating a vanished creature. Ultimately, I decide not to investigate.

Whatever the reason may be, I always validate and participate. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair to insist on choosing an animal that can be seen, touched or kept as a pet. And maybe we all need some dinosaurs in our lives and imaginations. They would be able to fight our battles, conquer our enemies and somehow consider each of us cherished, lifelong friends. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Books

As an educator, it is always a joy to meet a child who proudly and loudly advises, “I love books. I read all the books that I can find.” Happily, all of the classrooms that I occupy in the course of my teaching are filled with books appropriate to the ages of those classes. With the numerous alternatives to books that are available (including the inevitable laptops or other electronic devices), I am quick to applaud my student for his or her wisdom in being a reader.

It should come as no surprise that one of my heroes, Abraham Lincoln, frequently extolled the value of books in his musings:  “All I have learned, I learned from books.” If I had the pleasure of meeting and having conversation with him, as a fan of books, I would ask Mr. Lincoln which books were his favorites. My guess is that the remaining great leaders of our world were also well read.

We often see notes about libraries, that they are becoming obsolete or superfluous, thanks to the availability of books and reference materials in alternate formats. Much of my childhood was spent in the Chicago public libraries. Beyond pure sentimentality, I would view the disappearance of libraries as a loss to learning from which civilization would never be able to recover.

Lincoln said, “My Best Friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”

For as long as I am able to continue writing and reading books, I will seek to be the best friend to many.  My firm belief is that knowledge, books and the determination to lead a socially responsible life are inextricably tied. Shalom.

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Conversation

“Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.”  Mark Twain

As a fan of Mark Twain, I find this an especially attractive and provocative quote. It’s too bad that we don’t have him available to us to spend some time conversating about this.

If the word “conversate” bothers you, it’s one of those words that has become popular since 2000 and is described as happening out of necessity – the world needed a verb to be derived from the noun “conversation.” For the language purists, “converse” is the preferred form but it doesn’t quite feel as chatty or social.

For as long as I can remember, we have heard about the vital need for communication. Parents and children must communicate. Employers and employees (theoretically) exchange information through communication. And some of our best personal relationships have been characterized by “good communications.”

Like Mr. Twain, I believe that exchanging ideas, observations or feelings is best accomplished through conversation. Conversations are less structured, more personal, more spontaneous and ultimately, more natural than communications. When you strike up a conversation with someone, that which is shared is always the words associated with that moment and never about communicating.

Thank you for stopping by to visit and share some conversation. Please leave comments and add your email address so that you can see my posts as soon as they are available. Shalom.

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Words

Now and then I tell people that I am in the word business. Doing so elicits a number of interesting responses. Due to current scrutiny of the media, very often I am asked if I am a journalist, to which I answer a distinct and emphatic “no.”

On other occasions, people ask if I write dictionaries. While I am glad to know that the public is still aware of dictionaries and their function, again I am required to answer in the negative.

When I have the luxury of explaining the word business, I can describe what I do. Sometimes I write a eulogy for a family member too emotional to do so. In some cases, I have the privilege of writing a letter of recommendation for someone in need of employment. Often, I have a request to write a speech of thanks for honors received. And rarely, it’s a poem for my son.

No matter what the medium or content, I consider it my pleasure to give a voice to those who might otherwise be silent. This responsibility is an earnest one and I am always grateful for the trust of my clients.

While I don’t know how many words I know, I am always excited to offer a collection of them to people who ask me to do so. The best part of what I do is anonymity – just like the architects of monuments or buildings, there is no signature line for the word business. Shalom.

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Promises

No matter our financial condition, age, education or social status, the one immutable gift we can all give to others is our word. This takes infinite forms. If you say that you will be somewhere at a specific time, I believe that you will be there. If you indicate that you will complete a particular task, I am certain that you will do so. And most importantly, if you are my friend, I can rely on your friendship.

Likewise, my word reflects who I am and the values that I live. Somewhere, at least in my world, the imperative to keep promises and fulfill obligations has become compromised.

Promising to pay for services received is a critical obligation. Answering communications on a timely basis is a courtesy not subject to interpretation. And committing to business endeavors and activities must be as binding a decision as a written contract.

Sadly, this is not the world I observe. Didn’t we tell our children not to call each other names? Regardless of the game, it’s critical to play fair and not bully others. Broken promises are exactly like spam. No-one wants or needs them, they don’t serve any purpose and they are worthy of deletion. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Do some good

As we rapidly approach the beginning of school, many parents are grappling with the frustration of listening to their children complaining about the lack of things to do. Video games aren’t as much fun, the swimming pool is overcrowded and the neighbor kids are boring.

Why not turn the lack of summer excitement into an opportunity to do some good? The local news recently covered a young man who was walking his way across country to raise money and awareness for type one diabetes. His courage and determination inspired me to think about converting youthful energy into acts of service.

Suggest to your child or teenager that many local skilled nursing or assisted living facilities are urgently looking for volunteers. You and your child can spend some afternoons visiting seniors.

What about grabbing some large plastic bags and visiting the local park or playground to clean up the trash? Bring some disposable gloves and imagine how proud you’ll be to see a local play area is free of bottles and paper.

Lemonade stands are always fun but what about using the proceeds to benefit a favorite charity? Make large signs that indicate intentions to give profits to a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Clean out your pantry and take the money and cans of food with you.

Help kids select five or ten books or toys that are no longer useful. Take the kids to Goodwill or Salvation Army to recycle them.

Our children and grandchildren learn community service from those they love and admire. With some creativity, energy and clarity of purpose, we all have the ability to develop a generation of benevolence. Shalom.