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, editing, editorial, philosophy

What we waste

One of the frequent conversations in our household is the imperative to finish everything that is on your plate. From my standpoint, one should eat until hunger has been satisfied and the state of satisfaction has been reached. The other approach is that you are obligated to finish everything on your plate.

Is there one correct answer to this debate? The reasoning behind everything that is on your plate is that it is a crime to waste anything, be it food on your plate or leftovers in the refrigerator. My position is that the world isn’t negatively impacted by leaving some food when I have eaten as much as I want or need.

Here is the question that I offer to you. What truly constitutes waste? Is it leaving food on a plate or cooking enough for 45 when there are only two or three who are eating? What is the consequence of cooking too much? We deplete food sources and supplies but is this really harmful? My response is that it’s only harmful when others will not have the food they need as a direct result of our gluttony.

If we extrapolate a bit, how can we reduce waste of many of the resources to which we have access. For one, it seems to be a waste of gasoline to drive to a nearby location when walking is easily accomplished. From there, it seems to be a waste of resources when we use too many plastic bags and fail to recycle them. Likewise, paper bags can also be recycled if we spent the time and a small amount of effort.

Better yet, use the heavy duty bags that are available in large chains and grocery groups, eliminating the brown and skimpy plastic bags. In other words, it’s clear that a large component of waste is pure laziness or lack of concern for protecting and preserving our world. Somehow, it all amounts to doing the right thing for our planet and the smaller parts of it in which we reside. I’ll stick with my belief that the world isn’t harmed when I don’t finish what’s on my plate unless I have purchased and prepared too much food to help those who don’t have enough. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Reprisal

Dictionary.com’s definition of reprisal is the following: (in warfare) retaliation against an enemy for injuries received, by the infliction of equal or greater injuries. It goes on to define, the forcible seizure of property or subjects in retaliation.

The research I have uncovered most recently in preparation for my next book has furnished the word reprisal. While the US is in disputes with various countries, we are not in the midst of a declared war. As a result, we don’t see or hear this word very often.

During World War II, one of the many reasons why Jews and other captives generally did not attempt escape or brutality toward captors was the fear of reprisal. When one captive hurt or killed a soldier, killing in retaliation would take place. One of the authors I’m reading (Martin Gilbert) estimates 1200 deaths of reprisal to one escapee or injured Nazi.

All of this causes me to wonder about what we do to others out of reprisal. Cutting someone off on the road who has tailgated you or done something similar surely constitutes reprisal. Refraining from writing to someone who hasn’t written or emailed you in some time is reprisal. Putting your child on timeout simply because you had a rough day and can’t handle his behavior is reprisal.

Someone hurting you doesn’t give you license to hurt anyone else. Yes, it’s pretty obvious that it is never acceptable to do intentional damage to someone. But the point is to examine our motives in terms of our actions toward others.

One of the countless truths I’ve learned from my husband is the wisdom of giving others the benefit of the doubt. If he hasn’t heard from someone, he speculates that the other person has been busy or ill. In all of our years together, I have never seen him get angry while driving, much less committing acts of reprisal. The example is an excellent one for all of us to follow.

These days, we have few occasions to worry about reprisal in terms of acts of war or violence. But retaliation and reprisal are probably more common than we realize. Once we consider the examples and symbols of reprisal throughout history, it becomes clear that injuring someone because someone injured you is simply unacceptable. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Changes

Maybe because it’s been too long since I’ve been in the classroom, I have substantial time to dedicate to thinking. One of the observations that I have made as recently as today is that I have spent too much of my life avoiding changes large and small. When you avoid change simply for the sake of not making changes, it may be to your disadvantage.

Just because you’ve been doing something in a particular way for a certain number of years, it’s going to be an excellent idea to change it up. Yesterday I saw an article about a woman who has been feeding pigeons on her front lawn for the past many years, much to the chagrin of her neighbors who object to the noise and refuse. Maybe she ought to think about feeding hummingbirds (provided that they exist in her area) and do the world another type of contribution.

Imagine that you’ve been doing your grocery shopping at the same store for a long time. They know you there (maybe) and you know that you can usually get the items that you need without worrying about quantity or quality. But there’s a neighborhood co-op down the street that features products from local growers. Stop in there and you may be very pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer. In addition to that, you will be benefiting the local farmers who have had a rough summer due to the restaurant and school closures.

For my part, I’ve changed a few small things and was pleased about two conclusions. One is that the world as we know it continued to function without any disruption whatsoever. The second is that I felt some satisfaction about knowing that I wasn’t inappropriately fastened to a habit that had no merit whatsoever.

Throw some change into your life and see what happens. Depending on what you modify, no-one or everyone will notice. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about it but you. Except for such issues as yielding the right of way or paying bills, most of the modifications that you are able to make will be for the greater or smaller good. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

The words we use

If you are at all like me, you have the occasion to visualize someone from your past for no particular reason. From there, you recollect one or more conversations with that person.

Sometimes you may be able to reconstruct those chats, completely or in part. Sometimes you simply can’t remember what was said by you or the other party. But what if somehow you had the ability to recover whatever part of whatever communication you wanted?

I’m not talking about some kind of voodoo or magic. But let’s imagine for just a quick second that you could go back to any time and place you choose. The reason for going back there is to remember precisely what was said.

The first step might be the venue. It could be a graduation or wedding ceremony an interview, a first date, or an accidental encounter. Maybe it was last week or maybe it was nineteen years ago.

Once that is established, the other party may or may not be a given. If I consider my college graduation, for instance, there were at least two or maybe three people there to celebrate the occasion. What I am seeking is the exchange of words between those present and me.

You may choose to delete a particular day or place and simply relive the experience of being with someone in particular. It may be an afternoon or an evening that you spent with someone who has since passed away.

The chances are pretty good that multiple have, do, and will think of you and the words you shared. We can’t control recollections of the past but we can certainly control remembrances of those conversations that we are having or are going to have.

My recommendation to students is never to say anything that they want to retract. While I hope that those who remember me recollect the good words I’ve uttered, I can’t guarantee it. All I know for certain is that since I’ve learned the importance of choosing speech carefully, I hope that I haven’t created an unpleasant recollection for anyone. Shalom.

Holocaust · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Gifts

Imagine for a moment that you are one of those people who derive enjoyment and gratification from doing good deeds for others. That inclination may take any number of forms. It may be contributing to a particular organization – the American Cancer Society, the Parkinson’s Foundation, the Salvation Army – it doesn’t matter which one.

Beyond that, you may derive enjoyment from volunteering at organizations within your community. That may be a senior center, a pet adoption center, a zoo, or any other group representing a cause in which you firmly believe.

For the purposes of my fantasy, let’s imagine that you suddenly have unlimited ability to distribute good, either in the form of volunteering, donating, or anything else. You weren’t expecting to have that potential and discovering that you have it is both exciting and inspirational.

Today, I had the realization that I am in that position, simply by virtue of publishing the book that I have been occupied with writing for the past number of years. If you haven’t seen it, the book is:

Two papas: a tale of impossible Holocaust survival  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08G3PGK41/ref=cm_sw_r_em_api_HHupFbW4BEP89.

While I am certain that I will hear from those who know me or have previously read my work, I have no idea whatsoever who will be reading what I have created. The internet and rapid distribution of publications have made that possible and I am grateful for that reality.

And so, if I have brought understanding, enlightenment, hope, or any other reaction to the readers whom I don’t know, this is my gift. Perhaps I have been so occupied with the way people whom I know will react to the book, I never thought of the others. But I have no idea who else will benefit in any way, either from scrolling through Amazon, word of mouth, or another medium.

Words are insufficient to express how happy this makes me. Call me naive that this is the first time that these thoughts have occurred. That fact would certainly explain why I feel that I have donated to the world in a way that can’t be measured in volunteer hours or cash contributions. Thank you. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Ethical dilemma

Relaxing in my recliner yesterday afternoon, I was beginning to feel guilty about the process of sitting there, doing nothing. You’ve just published a book, I reminded myself. There are numerous actions you can take to promote said book. A few people in your address book haven’t been told about it. You could always create a press release. And on and on it went.

Suddenly, I began to think about the Protestant work ethic that we learned and practiced, no matter what our religion, geography, philosophy, socio-economic level, or shoe size. The gist of that was that if you work hard, and are thrifty and efficient, you would be entitled to eternal salvation.

To those of you who are too young to have heard of the Protestant ethic, we were introduced to it when we were forming methods with which we would be living our lives. Laziness is not an acceptable option. Neither is wasting time. While my personal religious beliefs don’t allow for buying or working my way into heaven, it’s curious that I was feeling that I was committing some type of sin by doing nothing at all.

How do we get to such beliefs? One easy answer is that many of us make ourselves responsible for ongoing hard work and producing results – at all times. In other words, if you are relaxing, you are not accomplishing anything and that’s bad. In addition to working on promoting my book, I could be working on cleaning some clothes out of my closet, dusting, writing my next book, or beginning dinner. In other words, sitting on my chair with only my thoughts for entertainment was a mistake and something inherently negative.

Clearly, I need to redo this type of thinking and allow myself the ability to do nothing without benefit of guilt. But before I do so, I will still need to persuade myself that the Protestant ethic as I interpret it is obsolete or irrelevant.  I’m pretty certain that demanding activity and energy from myself is a reasonable expectation. But maybe, ethics, Protestant or otherwise, can and should be suspended in deference to peace of mind and self-preservation. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

The right thing

One of the expressions that I use constantly, both inside the classroom and in the rest of the world, is that you never need to apologize for doing the right thing. I have dedicated quite a bit of my thoughts to this subject. Near as I can tell, I created it while many have issued variations of it throughout history.

Sometimes, doing the right thing is much more difficult than doing what’s easy or convenient or undetectable. This may be taking responsibility for an action that wasn’t necessarily committed by you, for the sake of leaving another party blameless. If, for instance, you are in a parking lot and see someone accidentally drop some trash, you pick up said trash and dispose of it. Or a child leaves the classroom door open and you suggest that maybe it was your omission.

This doesn’t mean that you need to continue exempting others from the actions that they completed; it’s simply taking the blame for some liabilities that may have a negative impact on the one involved.

In other cases, while it may seem unusual to refrain from apologizing for doing the right thing, sometimes our beliefs drive those decisions. You contribute to the political party of your choice when those closest to you support the other party. Or you vote for the candidate of your choice while others hold that candidate in low esteem. Being true to your principles is the process of doing the right thing.

All of this is the same as not apologizing to any one at any time for being who you are. It doesn’t matter how you got there, how many feel otherwise or what you excluded to be in the position that you occupy. Doing the right thing is as personal a choice as there is, not subject to justification or rationalization. Always do what you feel is the best choice and most likely, it will be the morally and philosophically correct path to take. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Promises

As an observer of the world around me and the people in it, I am frequently intrigued by the seriousness of the word “promise.” My students are taught from an early age that promising is never to be done casually or without complete intent to fulfill that promise.

I haven’t identified the origins of the “pinkie promise,” but if you and someone else lock pinkies, you are both solemnly committed to completing your end of the commitment. Having been asked to participate in this type of oath, I am happy that we are successful at teaching our young people about the importance of keeping their words.

Are we Americans faithful about being true to our pledges? Marriage vows generally include statements about fidelity and respect, yet we see frequent spousal abuse, infidelity, and abandonment. Every time I see someone burning a US flag, I shudder. For all my life, I have promised and will continue to promise to defend that flag and have nothing but disdain for those who do harm to it.

And on it goes. We are going to build a wall. No we’re not. We are going to send money to those who are without income and resources to feed their families. No, we need a month’s recess. The adults who should be demonstrating the urgency of being true to their words are failing to do so.

When I tell my students that they will have the opportunities to do craft projects, I must make certain that those projects materialize. Likewise, if I promise a treat, that must also come to pass. Our actions must verify that our words are to be believed or nothing is ever going to be believable.

Someone named Rodd Thunderheart once said, “A man’s only as good as his word.” Sadly, I don’t know who Rodd Thunderheart is or what drove him to the observation. But a more reliable and familiar source also tell us, “A man is only as good as his word,” and this is Proverbs 20:6, Hebrews 13:8.

Beyond that, I prefer this quote from someone named Marie Forleo. She says, “To be responsible, keep your promises to others. To be successful, keep your promises to yourself.”  As I contemplate the subject of promises, I must agree that we begin by making and keeping promises to ourselves. Once we are adept at that, keeping promises to others is likely to be our standard practice. Shalom.