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Babies and bathwater

Once upon a time, I wanted desperately to work for a healthcare organization that was and is doing remarkable, worthwhile actions for many thousands of people. This was during the time when I sought full-time, permanent employment, an endeavor that is no longer of interest.

After numerous applications and a few interviews, I succeeded at landing a position with this firm and worked in arguably the most wonderful, gratifying position of my life. One year and a toxic, immoral manager later, my dream job was over. All of this transpired about seven or eight years ago.

This week, I received an invitation from this company, the first email I have received from them since I left, asking me to do a fundraiser 5K that will benefit Covid-19 victims. While I never stopped believing in the company’s mission, I was dumbfounded that they allowed a corrupt manager to prevail.

Did I want to participate in an event that was created by an organization that did not intercede on my behalf? Does one situation delete the other? As one who seeks to help with Covid-19 patients and any other unfortunate souls, I am not sure that there is a decision, moral or otherwise, to be made.

Checking out is simply not an option. It amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater, an expression I haven’t heard in a very long time. One manager (who, by the way, left the company shortly after I did) doesn’t define the company mission, achievements, or 5K. I think I’ll do the walk and conclude that the act of helping others is vastly more compelling than my grudge over the dream job that perhaps, I could have handled more competently. We will probably never know. Shalom.

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Witnesses

For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing. Simon Wiesenthal

Those who study or have studied the Holocaust are necessarily familiar with the name of Simon Wiesenthal. Born in the Ukraine, Wiesenthal survived four concentration camps, living long enough to be a Nazi hunter and writer. His legacy of focus, strength and determination is a powerful and inspirational one.

This quote is especially significant to me in its timelessness and enduring truth. In our times, many are quick to complain about any subject at all. It may be government, politicians, climate, crime, unemployment – you name it.

The identity of “evil” depends on whom you ask. If you’re a Republican, the Democrats are evil. If you’re a Democrat, the Republicans wear the evil tag. But my view is that the majority of the complainers simply observe evil and take no action to rid the world of its struggles and troubles. My position is not to complain about anything – whether I can solve it or not. And if I can make changes, I would much rather take some type of action to correct than waste the time with complaints.

Imagine this: We establish a barter system; for every 10 minutes of complaining, you are required to complete ten minutes of community service. Imagine all of life’s evils that could be minimized or eradicated.

Of course, we would need to rely on the honor system so as not to establish a tyrannical form of government. Otherwise, complaints that are normally an egregious waste of time and energy can be converted into positive results.

Being a bystander can’t compare to being an upstander – one who goes to battle of some kind for what is right. Watching evil occur is inexcusable. My best guess is that much of the evil we witness can be counteracted or eliminated by intervention. Imagine the world that would emerge. Shalom.

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Remembering

As the Coronavirus proceeds with its deadly path through the world, we are often advised of the many thousands of people whom it has taken in the process. It is easy to become accustomed to these numbers but I would suggest that we all spend a moment of our time reflecting about the people that these numbers represent.

Recently, I found a statement often used in Judaism to honor the memories of those who have passed but it’s something I believe to be apropos at this time. The statement is often used to honor the memories of rabbis or other religious leaders and reads as follows: May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.

We don’t use the word “righteous” very often but I am thinking that it applies to many of those whom we have lost. The doctors, nurses, caregivers and other health care workers who have died are certainly righteous. The teachers, scientists, parents, retail workers and everyone else who has served others and died in the process can easily be considered righteous.

Let us not trivialize our losses by thinking of large numbers or categories. All those who have succumbed to an illness that no-one anticipated or could prevent are heroes in my opinion. They are often those who were attending to the needs of others, often without concern for their own safety and without the appropriate protection. The families that they have left behind will never forget or be able to replace their presence and it disrespects their memories to think only of the class of people to whom they belong.

A lesson that emerges is that of appreciation. If you haven’t recently appreciated those who have survived the disease or have been so fortunate to have avoided it so far, express your gratitude for the existence and influence of those people. Any day without mourning is a good day and we are blessed not to say goodbye to our loved ones. May the memory of all the righteous be for a blessing. Shalom.

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Not her fault

It’s no secret that the Coronavirus has been difficult for all people who are capable of understanding its power and presence. That includes most of us, if we are old enough and smart enough to realize how insidious it is.

We all have different methods by which we can respond. Denial is one and is probably the most dangerous. Obsessiveness is another, if you are fond of living in a sanitary bubble for the foreseeable future.

From my standpoint, anger is not an acceptable response. Barking at retail employees doesn’t improve the lives of anyone. In fact, it does no good whatsoever. The only byproduct is embarrassing onlookers and hurting the employee’s feelings.

What led me to this observation was sitting in my backyard and having the misfortune of hearing one of my neighbors who was at least 500 feet away. It seemed that her child, probably four or five, had injured herself in some way.

The “mother,” instead of offering love or support, yelled at the child. This was not the first time I had the misfortune of hearing her. On this occasion, at least ten times, I heard her bellow, “Why are you crying?” Not surprisingly, the child continued to cry.

As a mother, grandmother, educator and someone with basic good sense, I couldn’t stand to hear it. The child probably doesn’t know Covid-19 from WD-40 or 98 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s reasonable to believe that the mother was stressed because most of us are. And of course, I don’t know the nature of her interactions before I heard the child crying out for help. But the child doesn’t understand the stress and she didn’t cause it. By doing what the mother did, the child was compromised and most likely, didn’t feel any less anxious.

We can be kind to each other. Many of us are accustomed to thinking only of our worlds, priorities and pressures. This truly is the time to be part of the earth community and refrain from punishing others for what we are enduring. Shalom.

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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.