Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

To be a hero

Following up on the tribute to RBG, it occurred to me, both as a writer and an educator, to imagine what is required to be a hero. What I know about RBG is that she did not set out to be one but achieved that status nonetheless. Her biography tells us that she was committed to working for others, being honest to herself and the rest of the world, and doing what was right.

Let’s assume that you decide at an early age that you want to commit your life to doing good deeds for your world. In order to get there from here, you must first learn as much as you can. Sources of knowledge are family members, religious leaders, educators, and endless books of all types.

We make a mistake when we narrow research to a very small field. No matter the discipline, learn as much as you can about as many subjects as possible. My experience suggests that truly learned people have studied fields ranging from astronomy to zoology.

Defining the scope of your heroism is the next step. If you want to be a national or international icon, you will probably need to distinguish yourself in politics, scientific research, or global humanitarian achievements. If your definition of heroism is more local than global, you may want to focus your time and energy on matters within your immediate space. That may be your block, community, town, religious group, city, or state.

There are numerous ways to make yourself known for good works. Teaching is one choice. If you don’t have the credentials to teach, schools of all sorts always need volunteers. And if education isn’t in your heart, there are as many volunteer organizations as there are diseases, causes, or political inclinations.

And if you choose to be a hero to your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew, that’s a major responsibility in itself. Carefully choose the words you utter. Do everything possible not to insult those around you. The kids are listening and inclined to imitate what you say and do. When you are unpleasant, unpredictable, and unkind; these are the phrases and behaviors they receive.

Most likely, few people wake up and declare, “I am going to be a hero.” RBG certainly did not. That doesn’t mean that we can be reckless or accidental about the messages we transmit. You may never know when a man or woman will one day think of you as a hero. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Goodbye, RBG

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The world has just lost a giant, someone who changed the world forever and who will leave a legacy for all those who take the time to consider who she was and what she did. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has just died, a victim of pancreatic cancer who fought that disease with all of her might and endurance.

This quotation is as much a character statement as any I’ve seen about RBG, my personal hero. She fought prejudice, sexism and social injustice but did it in a way that encouraged others to join her.

Fighting as a sole patriot or trailblazer is clearly less effective than being a changemaker and one who encourages others to participate. Good managers realize that they can be most successful in leading others when they participate in processes. Autocrats and dictators generally don’t succeed, either in the corporate environment or anywhere else. We have notable exceptions throughout history, including Hitler, Stalin, and at least one of our current political figures.

But if we look at those figures in history who were most admired and followed, they were those who involved as much of the constituency as possible. JFK comes to mind, as do Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and others. All of these leaders have been venerated throughout history and my guess is that RBG will be as well.

If you’re not a fan of religious equality or elimination of sexism in the workplace, the legacy of RBG won’t be as significant to you as it is to the rest of us. But in addition to leading a life of discipline, foresight, responsibility, and wisdom, she will be remembered as a pioneer in both of those areas.

For my part, I can’t think of too many women who have distinguished themselves as she has. We need leaders of both sexes, those who have paved the way for little girls and boys who seek excellence and integrity. RBG, you will be missed but because of your efforts, those who follow will have clearer paths as well as a brilliant role model. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

One little lie

A student approaches me in the hallway, stopping abruptly. He says, “Hi! You’re my favorite substitute! Do you remember me?”

Here’s the lie: “Of course. I remember my students, especially the terrific ones like you.”

“Are you my teacher today, I hope?”

“No, but I wish I were.”

On one level, I do preserve memories of all my students, good, challenging or otherwise. Some have left much better memories than others, to be sure. But the reason for my little lie is simple. People large and small want to be recognized and remembered, especially if they have warm feelings for you. While I would have had to guess his name, he probably wouldn’t have cared.

Telling the truth is one of those essential habits that I frequently discuss. But ironically, doing so often requires small untruths.

It’s an awesome drawing. You obviously have talent as an artist.

The story is great. Maybe you should think about being a writer.

The other kids in class really admire and respect you.

Having you here makes a huge difference.

No matter how many ways I look at it, no harm is done. Maybe these are potential writers, architects or graphic designers. Whether they are or not, they know that someone somewhere believed in them.

Most of us will benefit from someone enhancing us, especially if it’s one of our favorite teachers. How grateful I am for that designation. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

America at its best

It may be my writer radar, but I am excited and inspired to find charm and value in extremely unlikely places. Most recently, it was in the unforgettable town of Cozad, Nebraska.

Lunchtime on the road produced no desirable results until we spotted the sign for Runza and exited at Cozad. Runza is a fast food delicacy that is a trademark of Nebraska and northern Colorado. It’s a sandwich of German descent with a thick bun and tasty fillings.

The stop in Cozad was a good one in all dimensions. This location had an immaculate interior and staff who were young, freshly-scrubbed and delightfully wholesome. When our order was ready, one perky young lady wanted to carry it to the table. She thanked me profusely when I declined her generous offer. To wrap up the tone of this experience, a stranger in the nearby gas station delivered a huge and sincere smile while returning to his car.

Beyond the excellent meal, I feel as if I had consumed a large slice of American pie. The service, the town, the cleanliness and the stream of cars filled with happy children at the drive-through all persuaded me of one truth. I was in the middle of what’s beautiful about America, as depicted in its rural elegance. Shalom.

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Veterans Day thanks

While I never had an opportunity to serve my country in one of our branches of service, I have immense respect for those who do and did. My fellow Americans join me today in expressing our appreciation for your sacrifices and dedication.

Thankfully, I was honored to carry the title of Navy wife for a number of years. During that time, I became aware of the complete commitment associated with faithfully serving our country.  All of the activities in which I participated or that I witnessed made a profound impact on my love of country.

In addition to your monumental acts of heroism on the battlefields, oceans and in the sky, you give much more. We understand the missed births and birthdays of your children, the wedding anniversaries and the daily events that your wives, husbands and children must survive or endure without you.

Thank you for all that you have done, all that you have given and all the sacrifices large and small that you gladly made. Your country celebrates your bravery, conviction and courage and we shall never forget all that you have done to ensure our freedom. Shalom.

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A time of tears

As we contemplate the recent events in Las Vegas, we can only shake our heads and shed tears for the indescribable tragedy suffered by so many. Can we learn any life lessons from this devastation? The teacher, mother, grandmother and American components of me will respond with a definite yes.

One lesson emerges:  Because we don’t ever know the number minutes we have to love, learn, nurture, teach or complete any other actions we treasure, each moment must be sacred. None of those who were shot, trampled or hospitalized could have anticipated the Mandalay Bay events. We can only hope that they used abruptly shortened times on earth to live as their hearts directed them.

For those left behind, there are only memories and images remaining to preserve and cherish. As always, senseless acts leave us in wonder and profound sadness.

Our country and our world mourn your loss and work to find ways to assist. This is not the time for politics, bandwagons or harsh warnings to those of us who have been witnesses. Know that we share your pain and join in the prayer that brings you comfort. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Heroes 

With which hero did you spend your childhood? Was it a traditional hero such as Superman or Batman? Maybe it was a less traditional one like the Lone Ranger or Gomer Pyle. Or was it your dad or granddad, mom or grandma?

Heroism doesn’t require dramatic acts of courage or skill. Although many of our well-known heroes demonstrated bravery and sacrifice within military service, many have not. Becoming heroic definitely doesn’t necessitate the three miracles required for sainthood.

Happily, small acts of citizenship will make you a hero to someone. It’s always exciting and invigorating to see heroism in everyday life. Recently, I saw a news story where a teenager begged her mother to stop the car in order to check on someone by the side of the road who was lost and dehydrated. I’ve also witnessed the activities of a local young man who spends all of his spare time assembling and sending packages of food to troops stationed overseas.

The best part of heroism is that its persistence is entirely irrelevant. Better yet, the hero doesn’t need to become aware that he or she is one in order for heroism to occur.

We have endless thrilling opportunities to recognize heroes and to be one. Tell a child that she is as delicate as a princess and see what happens. Give up your parking space to the driver behind you. Offer your umbrella to someone without one.

Being a hero is easily accomplished, whether you call it an act of kindness, a considerate gesture or being a caring member of the human community. By magic, this act reproduces itself in those around you who want to see how it feels to give something important to someone else. Shalom.