The Perfect Holiday Gift to End the Year

This week, I’ve gotten flowers and candy and peanuts from people who want to thank me for something I’ve done for them. These gifts are fine. I do appreciate them.  And I’m happy to be on people’s gift lists. But honestly, I’d rather they just called or left a message or texted me. I try not to eat candy or peanuts. I actively dislike most of the cheap, yellow cheeses and pepperoni that arrive in fancy gift baskets. I’m offended by the huge amount of packaging that … [Read more...]

Lean in Softly

Have you ever listened to someone in order to gather evidence that what he or she is saying is wrong? Have you ever felt yourself lying in wait until the person phrases something in a way that you can grab and throw back, killing what might have been a fragile thought trying to become better formed? That kind of listening is geared to winning rather than connecting. People often use words and ideas to build walls of confrontation.  We harden our hearts and build walls … [Read more...]

My Silent Decry of “Idiot” Chased Her Away From the Table

In the heat of the political season, I'm finding it difficult to talk with people who don't share my views. Even as I try to frame a comment or question in a non-judgmental way, my brain quietly inserts "You idiot" at the end of each sentence. For example, I found myself sitting across the table from a woman who supported Trump. We were both staying at the same Inn in Denver and six or seven of the guests were having breakfast around a big communal table. The subject … [Read more...]

Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Joy

If you've been reading this blog for a bit, you know that I walk most mornings at Saint Mary's Park in the South Bronx. Walking to the park on school days, I'm often struck by fathers and mothers dropping their small children off at school. The pride and love and hope are palpable. Perhaps this sense is so present because in a neighborhood like this, parents walk their children to school rather than dropping them off from a car. So for blocks around, you see mothers and … [Read more...]

A Sobering Life Lesson: Don’t Wait Til It’s Too Late

When my daughters were in their teens, they made big sign and hung it in the kitchen.  It said: I have found that the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want to do and then advise them to do it. Turns out, that's a rather famous quotation from our 33rd president, Harry S. Truman. Given that our kids were in their teens and doing things we would rather they didn't, it was a bit of a stretch to take their sign seriously. But that idea … [Read more...]

Be Kind to Those Close to You and Reap the Benefits

In 1943, the French philosopher Simone Weil (pronounced Vey), starved herself to death. With her family and friends in close proximity and plentiful food at hand, she decided to stop eating. And at the age of 34, she died -- not in a Nazi camp and not because there was no food. But because she had decided to to stop eating in solidarity with the millions of people being persecuted by the Nazis. Last week at the Ojai Music Festival, I heard a haunting and beautiful piece … [Read more...]

You Caught Me: Solemn Words from a Former Felon

Then you caught me. That's what my friend Clemetin told me yesterday. You might imagine that when Clemetin, who spent 27 years in maximum security prisons, talks about being caught, he is referring to the many episodes of being caught by the police for doing nothing more serious than sitting on a park bench. But no... He was talking about being caught by a net of support just when he was about to fall again. Clemetin was reflecting on the fact that he's been out … [Read more...]

Aspirin and 5 More Tips for Successful Parties

Spring is party season. And I'm thinking about inviting a few people over. I'm sure you've been to parties that just haven't taken off. Gatherings where the conversation felt stilted and people left early. Deadly... especially if you're the host. Ever wonder what you can do to increase the chances of that your party will have a lively effervescence? Here are six suggestions. Don't miss the last one! 1. Serve food that shows you care. Make sure that at least some … [Read more...]

Wear a Badge to Express Your Goodwill

My friend Liz Jackson, also known as The Girl with the Purple Cane, has come up with a fascinating idea. With the help of the Michael Graves design studio, she has developed a Seat Share badge for people to wear on the subway. Wearing a badge indicates that you are willing to give up your seat to someone who might need it. The idea is that some people have invisible disabilities and though they don't want to call attention to their problems, they really do need to … [Read more...]

The Discipline and Practice of Gratitude

Have you ever gone out of your way to do something nice for someone and not been thanked? How did that feel? Conversely, how do you feel when someone lets you know that they both notice and appreciate your help? Stop reading for a few seconds and conjure up those feelings. Pull back that slightly bitter sensation that you went out of your way for someone who didn't even let you know they noticed. And now, remember the little sweet glow you felt when someone let you … [Read more...]