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A tribute

My best guess is that most of the cities and towns in our great country have taken important and formidable steps toward helping those less fortunate during this pandemic. It is customary for the organizations such as Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way to step up and provide valuable commodities such as food, clothing and funds.

Beyond that, I am touched and amazed at the grass roots efforts of my neighbors and fellow New Mexicans. The news and the streets are filled with remarkable acts of charity and generosity.

On any given day in local news, we see examples of people doing extraordinary actions. We’ve seen a young boy who used the money from his tooth fairy visit and solicited additional funds to bring meals for health workers. We see volunteers assembling and delivering meals to those who are standing all day doing virus testing. And all the news stations show Americans paying tribute to health care workers with parades, flyovers and pallets of gifts.

These are gratifying to see as are the employers who sell, sacrifice and supplement their employees rather than laying them off. Our local television station does weekly donation campaigns; one lady called in to donate $20, apologizing that it wasn’t more but she had lost her job during the economic crisis.

My hat goes off to my fellow Americans, with and without large bank accounts, who have stepped up in a time of need that is beyond description. For my part, I choose to make my actions or contributions private. But to watch others suffer without doing what I can to help is simply unacceptable.

We must all support those who support others. Your thoughtfulness and phenomenal efforts will get us through this crisis standing tall, not lying down. Like this toxic virus, you show no signs of slowing down; the fact that you are selfless and relentless makes our country undefeatable. We never stop or falter at being monumental. Shalom.

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Victory

It doesn’t require a great deal of work to list those forms of measurement that are completely subjective. How fat is too fat? How tall is too tall? How much money do you need to have to be wealthy? How many meals must you miss to be truly hungry?

And so it goes with success, especially as it pertains to this deadly Covid-19. If you’re in New York City and have fewer than 1000 deaths or hospital admissions in a day or (one can hope) a week, you have success.

This is all for the sake of celebrating each success we experience at this point in the pandemic, regardless of size. When you see an 87-year old woman beating the virus and leaving the hospital, I call that a victory.

Other victories are easy to spot and, I believe, must be celebrated. Seeing stores such as Target, Walmart and Costco establish protocols, plexiglass shields and masks for all staff is a huge positive. They are spending time and considerable money to protect themselves and me. And I prefer to think that much of it is self-initiated rather than mandated.

As I often report, my glass is always half full. If we reduce new cases and deaths, it’s a victory. If I can leave some toilet paper at the aid station established by one or more of my neighbors, it’s terrific. We each have the opportunity and subsequent good feelings to turn this pandemic into something characterized by kindness and giving. Surely our healthcare workers display this compassion on an ongoing basis.

Create a bunch of successes and you can see them reproduce into a better life and the greater good. We will prevail if we continue to help one another. Shalom.

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Together

We have all become clear on the expectations associated with the Covid-19. Most of it is uncomplicated: wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain social distancing and remain quarantined if you have been told to do so. With all of that in place and extremely logical, why are so many people being so unpleasant?

You’re waiting in line at Home Depot and they have graciously identified six feet spacing in the line of people waiting to enter. By no means would I argue that Home Depot is not an “essential” business; for some, it is essential to conduct their lines of work or livelihoods.

On two separate occasions, I’ve witnessed occupants of Home Depot behaving in a manner that is totally unpleasant, oblivious to others and downright nasty. Six feet is not the same as two feet. The man in front of me was clearly in a hurry and didn’t care whom he touched or infected or invaded in the process. And a lady in the gardening area did her best to be within three feet of me, no matter where I went. In Albertsons, a lady scolded me severely for not observing the one-way signs that were on the floor and I hadn’t previously noticed.

As we’ve seen so many times, we’re all in this together. It doesn’t hurt or cost anything to be kind. The generous gestures by so many make a huge difference in surviving this isolation that none of us want or requested. But please don’t be a grump or a crab in a public space by invading space, endangering others or otherwise making this situation worse than it has to be.

Put a positive expression on your face when you’re out in the world, underneath your mask. It will show in your eyes. It may not disinfect a virus but it does disable negativity. Shalom.

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Cafeteria quarantine

Observing the way that various people respond to the national (and often to the global) quarantine, I can’t help but wonder what causes people to make the decisions that they do. Although many governors (ours included) have mandated that we wear masks outside our homes, I observe probably fewer than half in this state respecting this direction. As someone who always wears a mask and gloves, I don’t kid myself into believing that I have achieved immunity. But I am doing whatever I can.

The best example of what I call the cafeteria style of quarantine was overhearing a gentleman at Home Depot. He wasn’t wearing a mask but remarked, “I figure that if everyone else is wearing a mask, it doesn’t matter whether or not I do.” M first thought was, What if everyone felt that way? We would all be exposed to the virus.

On those few occasions when I get frustrated with the quarantine, I remind myself that it has proven successful at reducing the number of people who are infected with the Coronavirus. The information is often conflicting, the number of updates is staggering and the death count and totals of those stricken are heart-stopping. But my comfort, clarity and happiness are not the issue here. And while I am not responsible for enforcing quarantine or policing adherence, for the sake of the general good, I won’t complain.

Somehow, it doesn’t seem to be the best idea to adopt a cafeteria style approach to quarantine and public safety. That’s another way of saying, I’ll do this and this and this but I won’t do that. Coronavirus isn’t selective (or elective) – we’ve seen babies all the way up to the elderly succumbing to this nasty virus.

Let’s be good humored and cooperative, rather than cavalier and whining. As I’ve stated before, the fact that we didn’t ask for this and don’t know when it will go away doesn’t give us license to ignore or select actions designed to defeat it. I hope the man at Home Depot doesn’t get the Coronavirus. But he certainly didn’t help in not distributing it if he already has contracted it. Shalom.

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Magic

What do you imagine when you see the word magic? Is it a David Copperfield type of event or is it more like events that take place in our lives that take on an air of something special or unique?

My thought is that the world can use a little bit of magic right now. Here’s what I mean. After a hard freeze last night and the night before, our newly planted garden is a disaster. Peppers and tomatoes are limp and/or brown; the grapevines have all gone from green to yuck and there are no more leaves capable of photosynthesis.

The best response that I can muster is that we need a dose of magic. It may be tomorrow or the next day but I fully expect to walk outside in the next few days and see some new growth. It can be new leaves, new peppers or some of the grapevines changing their minds about the colors they want to display.

When I relax and don’t push for thoughts to be added to my book, magic always occurs. It takes the form of new events or characters or the process of joining some disassociated information in a new way. Magic happens when a long-lost client appears and asks me to write a complicated or lengthy project. Yesterday, for example, I had a long-standing client ask me to write thirteen business letters. I’m having some trouble billing him because his business is failing and he’s seeking some assistance for business loans.

What I’m suggesting is that you join me in seeking and identifying magic, simply for the purposes of illuminating our lives defined by disease and quarantine. It’s been the magical idea of neighborhood children to draw smiling faces on rocks and leave them everywhere. Relief stands offer a big of toilet paper magic to those in need. And I define magic as the selfless dedication of the many thousands of healthcare workers who put themselves in harms’ way in order to protect us.

In the best possible situation, a vaccine can magically appear or we can find a magic treatment for those stricken with the virus. Believing in magic isn’t silly to me – it’s vastly better than predicting disaster. Shalom.

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What to do

The Coronavirus is obviously on all of our minds and because we are limited as to the venues we can visit and the people with whom we can share our time, we must be conscientious about where we go and what we do. But I would suggest that instead of lingering over what is prohibited, we should consider opportunities to derive some good from this situation.

For example, the first thing that occurs to many of us is going to a coffee shop, preferably to meet someone for conversation and companionship. We can’t do this but there are other avenues to pursue. If you have some tea in the house, jump into your loose tea or tea bags and do some research. What’s good and what’s not? What gives you almost the same positive energy with a different type of taste?

Tackle a project that you’ve been avoiding for whatever reason. Mine was to clean up my endless mounds of paperwork. Cleaning one bookcase, one filing cabinet and one two-shelf cabinet in my office was extremely therapeutic. Although I added quite a bit to the recycle supply of paper, I now know where (almost) anything can be found. The same purge can be done in your closet, garage or dresser drawers. Be sure to resell or donate your clothes so that others may benefit from your energy.

We’ve all seen the suggestions for contacting those who are important to us and it’s another one of those activities that is easily postponed. We have nothing but time on our hands (unless we’re in the critical/essential categories and we are working – if so, thank you) that can be used to ensure the safety of others. Make it a promise to contact two or three people each day and soon you’ll be through with your electronic or paper address book.

Finally, if you are able, please don’t forget acts of kindness. The food banks are desperate for donations with which they buy food for those who don’t have any. If you have a favorite charity or organization that can use help, any size donation is good. And my favorite is one that I’ve seen several times in my neighborhood – people setting out cartons or tables of supplies for those who need them and can’t go to get them.

We’re all hoping that this will be over soon. After being grateful for the ability to do some good, any amount or type of good is desirable. Most important of all, tell all those whom you love that you love them. Shalom.

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Enough

Most of the people whom I’ve seen or with whom I’ve corresponded report that they are seriously tired of quarantine. If you’re at all like me, you’ve seen all the toilet paper cartoons and photos that you can stand and the puns associated with Corona and Covid are plentiful. Make no mistake – I’m not about to join the ranks of the complainers.

Why not take a different approach altogether? Complaining doesn’t do anyone any good and it simply exacerbates our frustration. We’re not going to be finished with this quarantine any time soon, it appears, so we need to live with it. My preference is to look at all of the good that has come from our global pandemic.

Walking through the neighborhood yesterday, I spied an assortment of goods left on the sidewalk for anyone who needs books, Frosted Flakes, toilet paper and paper towels. What a terrific act of generosity! Our neighborhood also includes several people who are dedicating themselves to creating hundreds of face masks.

Similar stories around the United States abound and are easily discovered. One young man petitioned an unlikely source for face masks, gloves and gowns and was generously awarded for his creativity. The number of healthcare professionals who have come out of retirement or have simply made the journey to New York to assist is staggering. And my town is full of restaurant owners who are delivering sandwiches, pizzas and non-perishable foods to those who need them.

It’s a time to celebrate heroes, not whine about not being able to hit our local brewery. By the way, the copious New Mexico breweries are also contributing to the public good through curbside pickups, deliveries and charitable activities.

I salute those who continue to do whatever possible to ease the strain and frustration of our times. For my part, I’ll wear my gloves and face mask, restrict my activities to those that are essential and do whatever my country finds necessary to end our crisis. My suggestion is that if we all did at least what was asked of us we would be well on our way to a solution that benefits everyone. Shalom.

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To be brave

On previous occasions, I have referenced a powerful and brilliant book that I have just finished. This is The Librarian of Auschwitz, and it has taught me more than I can possibly summarize in a short blog.

One of the most provocative and inspirational concepts I have derived concerns bravery, a strength that many of us seek to acquire during these challenging and frightening times. The idea, paraphrased, is that those people who are truly brave are the ones who are most afraid. For clarification, if we are not afraid of our various outcomes, the decisions we make are unimportant because any one of them is acceptable. This is tantamount to apathy, a disease worse than the one we fight.

Today, for the sake of those closest to us and ourselves, we must have sufficient fear of contagion to take all of the right steps to prevent it. If washing our hands two or three times a day is a good idea, five or six is a better one. On a recent trip to the supermarket, I saw an older lady wearing both surgical gloves and a mask. Given her increased risks due to age, I’m thinking that it was an intelligent decision.

We all have occasions to convert our healthy dose of fear into responsible action. When six feet is the required distancing space, it must delete hair styling, manicures and other activities that include close proximity. An excellent alternative to protect that professional’s income is to purchase a gift card or certificate.

More can be done with regard to the employment crises that surround us. A significant number of local restaurants are offering curbside or delivery service of selections from their menus. In addition to paying that restaurant’s bills, many have chosen to pay their servers with some of the proceeds, taking some of the sting out of their lost gratuities. If you are at all like me, cooking every meal is tedious and by electing to go meals, we are doing good for everyone involved.

And some of my favorite news stories are those of small groups of residents joining together to provide meals or groceries to those within that group who are in need of support. Today, I surveyed my neighborhood to see if any around me needed groceries that I could collect for them on my trip. The next time I leave to shop, I will make it a point to see if others have needs.

It’s easy to convert fear into action. From my standpoint, not to act is to invite a horrible disease to appear and end life – a conclusion that is absolutely undesirable. Shalom.

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Sharing and holidays

Sitting in my recliner and pondering the events of the day, our doorbell rang. We have been besieged with deliveries from somewhere or another, so I assumed that it was yet another courier. But to my joy and surprise, it was a neighbor delivering a collection of holiday cookies. We had seen this neighbor before when he approached us in our driveway, introduced himself and welcomed us to the neighborhood.

The cookies were festive, tasty and decorated in glittery tissue paper with red acorns that were painted to look like trees. Reflecting on the gesture, I was touched and enchanted.

Isn’t it sad that a neighbor who shares holiday cookies comes as a remarkable surprise? Have we become so isolated and unfriendly that seeing someone going to the trouble of bringing a treat is shocking? When we were a society of small towns, people sharing the lives of their community members and generally living as villagers, this gift would be customary, not surprising.

With further reflection, I confirmed my intent to reciprocate although the gift was clearly offered with no expectation of anything in return. Both for the sake of extending good cheer and for telling neighbors how much I treasure their spirits, cookie baking is in my near future.

Thankfully, I have no intention of dismissing cordial treatment from those around me. The store personnel will receive thank you and holiday greetings as they are dispensed, I will open doors, relinquish parking spaces and tell as many veterans as possible that we appreciate their service. My most sincere hope is that I will never become too old or cynical not to value gestures of kindness and sincerity.

Many signs of neighborhood geniality suggest to me that our society is not in decline.  A promise that I will fulfill is to continue finding methods by which I can cherish and salute my fellow man. Shalom.

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Veterans Day

There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded. Mark Twain

Each year at Veterans Day, I begin to think about the gratitude that many people and I share for those who have served and continue to serve our country in the context of military service. This quote from Mark Twain reminds me of those in that esteemed category.

From the beginning of our country through the present, our safety and security have been preserved and ensured by those who have committed to the branches of our military. No matter what the role, wartime or peacetime, armed forces personnel have often made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to make certain that their families and ours will enjoy all of the freedoms that our country has established and perpetuated.

Does that mean that those who do not or did not serve in the armed forces accomplished nothing worthwhile? Certainly not. Both inside and outside of our government, many thousands of people have contributed to the preservation of this country and its citizens. Whether you have delivered mail. contributed to the aerospace program, taught our children, served in our courtrooms or countless other roles, you have completed work that has built and nurtured our society.

Those who claim to have accomplished things are probably those who have accomplished least. My experience suggests that the true heroes and distinguished citizens rarely need to or want to publicize their achievements.

Thank you to the veterans who have dedicated their lives and careers to making this country strong, safe and secure. Thank you to all the rest of our great nation’s citizens who daily complete countless actions of wisdom, bravery and selflessness, all of which combine to make our country the epitome of virtue that it is. Shalom.