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...]

Paid Back in Full Without Receiving a Dime

I took the afternoon off work and headed up to meet my friend Clemetin at the Social Security office some miles from where I live. Clemetin had received a notice from Social Security stating that his monthly benefits were being cut and giving him 30 days to appeal. But having spent many years in prison, Clemetin has an aversion to people in government offices. He's quick to anger when they seem to disrespect him. And he's quite sure that's what they'll do. So I offered to … [Read more...]

On Race and Fear: The Power of Context

I've been reading the new, thought-provoking book, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It's a long letter that he wrote to his teenage son.  It's not easy reading, and I don't always understand what he has in mind. But this book has me thinking about race differently than I've ever thought about it before. Lack of Fear: An Unearned Privilege Coates comes back again and again to the effect of pervasive racism has on people of color. They, unlike people who … [Read more...]

Finding Common Threads Among our Differences

Most every morning, I visit St. Mary's Park in the South Bronx where I walk and run and work out. It's a lovely park with big trees arching over a wide path and big natural rock outcroppings on the hills. A running track tucks into the back of the park with slant boards and pull up bars in its center. The park is beautifully laid out, but it's not well-maintained. Litter isn't picked up regularly. The grass is poorly cut. Weeds grow through the pavement here and there. And … [Read more...]

The Universal Need for Unconditional Support

Yesterday, my friend Clemetin wound up back in prison. He didn't end up there because he's dangerous or has done anything particularly bad. He was put there because he hasn't shown up for court-mandated appointments. Several months ago, rather than putting Clemetin in prison, a judge assigned him three years of probation during which he has to show up regularly to meet with a probation officer. But that has proven to be too much for Clemetin. He showed up at the … [Read more...]

Artificially Prolonging Life: The Gawande Condundrum

Have you read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande? If not, you should! Everyone should. This remarkable book describes how dying has become medicalized. It used to be that people got sick and died. They were killed by influenza and TB and heat attacks, cancer and strokes. These things happened to them and, well, they just died. But now, someone has a stroke or a heart attack or cancer and off to the doctor they go to be cured. Or, if not to be cured, to have their lives … [Read more...]

Shoplifting, Central Booking and Cookies in the South Bronx

This was quite a week. My friend, Clemetin, was picked up by the police not once, but twice. Why? For shoplifting! Now you might think as I did, "What's that matter with Clemetin that he would shoplift anything even once, let alone twice!" And I'll get to that in a later post. But for now, put that question aside and read this most unlikely story about cops being nice. Altruistic Police Officers My phone rang on Wednesday afternoon. It was Clemetin, calling from the … [Read more...]

Living Full Whack

Do you measure things precisely or are you a pinch-of-this and a drop-of-that kind of person? I think that people generally fall into one or the other of those types. Either you attend to details with great care or you don't really fret about the details. I've found that it's not so easy to switch. Being a pinch-of-this and a drop-of-that kind of person, I was tickled this morning to run across a recipe from the remarkable chef Jamie Oliver who, rather than telling you … [Read more...]

Friends for Life — Your “Through-Line” Friends

Do you have people in your life who have been friends for so long that you speak in a sort of code? People who have been with you through thick and thin? Friends who know you inside and out? Most people have hundreds or even thousands of acquaintances, but relatively few long-time, deep friends. I've just spent the day with Barbara, one of my closest friends. We've known one another for decades. We've laughed together and cried together. We've encouraged one … [Read more...]

My First Adventure with Miracle

Meet Miracle Edwards. Miracle is a beautiful 8-year-old girl I met over the summer with her father. She had never seen a ballet or anything like it before, and I thought it would be a wonderful idea to treat her to a performance. Preparing for the Big Day I called her father, Jeff, several times and left messages but didn't connect.  I let some days pass and was about to call again when my phone rang. It was Jeff, returning my call. He and Miracle had talked about … [Read more...]