The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘compassion’ Category


Perhaps you have become too involved in the political reality TV to which we have all been treated in the last ten days or so to notice, but there is a serious and largely unreported new health issue that has surfaced in America.  It’s called B S Syndrome.  The condition derives it’s name from chanteuse Barbara Streisand and its symptoms include an overly large mouth and an exceptionally loud voice.  To date, little research has been done to ameliorate or cure the disease.  In the absence of scientific progress to treat this ailment, I thought I would share my observations so that those in lab coats might get a bit of insight based on my empirical observations which may facilitate their research.

B S Syndrome is, I believe, an outgrowth of a fundamental mental condition which might well be described as “Mind over Meaning.”  In fact, it is little more than an extension of solipsism in which the only reality is that which exists in the ideator’s own mind.  As the creators of their own self-absorbed universe, reality is whatever they believe it to be.  This is convenient because as the self-creating deity they envision themselves to be, people with this condition consider their own outrageous behavior to be totally acceptable while condemning far more civilized behavior in others – should that behavior in any way conflict with their view of how they feel others should behave.

During the most severe periods of drought in southern California a few years ago – I refer to the lack of water and not the lack of intellectual capacity from which many of that state’s citizens seem to suffer – the local authorities quite intelligently implemented severe water rationing plan to combat the situation.  Reasonable people, whatever their political ilk, understood and tried to support the conservation effort.  But one Barbara Streisand apparently either didn’t receive the memo or felt that she was exempt from it.  Fly over photos of her lovely home showed that her lawn was as lush as one might expect to find on the most verdant of the Hawaiian Islands.  Perhaps the explanation for Ms. Streisand’s choosing to ignore this water restriction may be found in one of her own quotes.  “I just don’t want to be hampered by my own limitations.”

There is probably no one who has taken the time to think about how to conduct a moral life who has not strayed from the perfection their philosophy demands.  That is, in essence, the nature of the human condition.  The first step toward spiritual growth is being willing to admit that we all have slips and some of those turn into falls.  But at no time in my experience have I witnessed so many people who seem absolutely convinced that they and they alone have been blessed by seeing the light of truth.  Adherents of ISIS seem to believe in that – as do a fair percentage of our “progressive” stars and starlets from the left coast.  Their latest furor over President Trump’s temporary ban of individuals from seven middle eastern nations is remarkable – but certainly not unexpected.

As some great sage once said, “Actions speak louder than words.”  So to those in Tinsel Town and others who believe themselves to be “entertainers” in whatever form, I can only speak for myself when I say, “I am certainly willing to entertain your outlook if you can demonstrate your sincerity.”  How could that be accomplished?  That should prove to be fairly simple.

If I understand your compassion correctly, you are championing those who are underprivileged.  As the temporary ban on some refugees is in effect, you do not currently have the ability to extend your generosity to those who may not enter the country at this time.  But there is no lack of people in need who are already here.

So to those compassionate souls in Hollywood who abjure the lack of American generosity, like the Lady with the Lamp, light the way and be an example.  Throw open the doors to your 15,000 square foot mansions and welcome the many homeless who live in squalor a few miles away from you.  Be a beacon to light the night and show all of us the virtue of brotherly love.  And when you have done that, I will be the first to say that you have truly overcome B S Syndrome and become an example for all of us to follow.




It was a very quiet apartment building.  The forty units were mostly occupied by older people whose children were grown and had started families of their own.  Of the seven or eight children who were being raised there, we had all come from families who believed that their children should learn how to behave in public as well as at home so there were never any youthful disturbances which might annoy the other residents.

One of my earliest memories was of the two men who were the Superintendent, Juan Espinoza who was an immigrant from Cuba and his assistant, Lenny.  While I’m sure that I knew Lenny’s surname as a child, I’ve long forgotten it.  But while I may have allowed Lenny’s last name to escape my memory, I’ll never forget the man himself.

Lenny was a gentle, kindly, Big Ben type of fellow, but without the facial hair.  In his day had he had the opportunity to go to college, he easily could have qualified as a member of the school’s football team, at least based on his impressive size.  But that wasn’t why people noticed Lenny.  He had an unusual physical condition which I have never seen again in anyone else.  On his face there were outgrowths of skin, some the size of exploded popcorn.  It was impossible not to notice them – and I couldn’t help myself from seeing them.

I remember being six or seven and going with my mother to the grocery store when Lenny was in the hallway, mopping the floor.  And I remember asking my mother, “Why does Lenny have those bumps on his face?”  Fortunately, I had the good taste to ask this question when we had exited the front door and were far out of Lenny’s hearing.

My mother responded, “I don’t know, dear.  But we must always remember neither to criticize people nor make fun of people because of the way they look.  They can’t help the way they’re born – but they can control the way they behave – just as you can.  And Lenny is always there whenever we need some help in the apartment and does his job very well. That’s what we should remember.”

Although as I mentioned, there were only a few kids in the building, there was one boy who, despite his parent’s best efforts, occasionally had an outburst and broke all the rules of how to be a civilized young person.  He constantly referred to Lenny as “The Freak”.  Of course, like most cowardly people who enjoy belittling others, he only said that when Lenny wasn’t present.  At least that was a blessing.  I could only imagine how hurt Lenny would have been had he heard that comment.  And, although most of the rest of us kids told him that his statement was rude and cruel he persisted in referring to Lenny with that term.

At some point I came to the conclusion, largely based on this one kid’s bad behavior, that boys were more likely to be bullies than girls.  That is until recently.

I was watching a clip on Fox News on the most recent Republican presidential debate which was aired on “The View,” a program that I have never watched.  Of the people who I presume are co-hosts, the only one I recognized was Whoopi Goldberg.  But I did recognize the same sort of vindictive and vile level of incivility that my fellow apartment dweller used against Lenny.  Except that this time it was directed toward Carly Fiorina.  What’s disturbing to me is less that these women acted as though they were vicious attack dogs than that they have an audience which apparently enjoys watching them trying to dismember another human being.

So I guess these folks missed the lesson that my mother taught me when I was a little kid.  And, come to think of it, I believe the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said pretty much the same thing in his “I Have a Dream” speech.


Bullies have always existed and probably always will.  For whatever reason there are some who are so insecure that they must find someone whom they believe to be weaker than they to push around so that the bully can feel an importance that is born in cruelty rather than in conscience.

I knew a few bullies as a child and several more as an adult.  The pattern for the children was always the same – find a victim who was weaker or who was different from most – and launch attacks, physical or verbal – with the hope that their prey would cry or run away in fear.

The adults who were probably bullies as a child have changed their pattern of behavior – but only slightly.  They exhibit less physicality but more verbal abuse – particularly if their target was a different color or of a different ethnicity or different in any other way.

In order for the bully to take full pleasure in his torture it is important that he or she have an audience to appreciate him.  This gives him validation.  And usually those who gravitate in his circle are even weaker than he, gaining their own self-esteem by being in the presence of such a mighty person.

We are reading and hearing more about bullies – from how they harassed a young girl so badly that she took her own life – to a professional football player who left the Miami Dolphins because of his teammates’ incessant jeers and taunts.  So naturally, being the caring people whom we are, we will pass laws and stiffen penalties for those who engage in this blood sport.  And we will walk away from our legislative chambers with a smug sense that we have done our duty.

It does not surprise me that there seems to be more of this going around today than when I was a kid.  If there is one fundamental thing that ran through the bullies I knew as a child it was this – not one of them was ever courteous or thoughtful of others.  On the other hand their most noticeable characteristic was rude and loud behavior – as though to shout out to the world, “Hey, look at me.  I’m important.”

Perhaps they had to shout that loudly to quash the thoughts that ran through their self-absorbed minds that they were anything but important.  These were lonely, arrogant children who almost certainly grew into adults with the same deficiencies and longings to be needed.

It’s interesting that the two bullies who come to mind from my childhood were both from wealthy families, still they were latchkey kids – if you can call a very expensive co-operative apartment with twenty-four hour doormen on Park Avenue a ramshackle shack.  But their parents were both too involved in their own lives to pay much attention to their offspring.  They had nannies and cooks and servants, but they lacked the most essential elements that can turn a malleable child into a bully.  They lacked the love and attention and direction of their parents.

If bullying is on the rise it should surprise none of us.  What is left of the family unit is so distracted that it seems that staying together is more a matter of indifference than desire.  Obviously, there are many exceptions to that statement – but they are the exceptions rather than  the rule.

Passing a law to punish the effects of bullying is about as useful as trying to put a poached egg back into its broken shell.  Laws are punitive in nature rather than pro-active, and if we are to address the question of bullying effectively, we need to look at the cause rather than punish the result.

If a person has a good sense of his own self-worth, he or she is far less likely to become the subject of a bully’s malevolence.  The bully is essentially a coward and must find someone whom he believes is even weaker than he in order to achieve his goal of torment.  I know that in my case I was able to develop a reasonable sense of self-worth through the efforts and love of my parents and teachers.

I remember one particular incident when a kid who was three grades ahead of me began picking on one of my classmates – someone whom I really liked.  It was, of course, before Facebook.  Back in those days, the bully needed more guts than today and had to confront his victim face to face.

It began with little things like jostling my friend in the hallway.  And then there was tampering with his locker.  Nothing that you could really point your finger to as being threatening, but a pattern began to emerge and these little incidents became more frequent.  It began to wear on my friend and to have an effect on his performance in school.

I think that everyone in our class was aware of what was happening.  And we all were silent.  And it is in the silence of those who standby from which the bully gains strength.  But I’m sure my thoughts were much the same as my other classmates’.  “Better him than me.”  That is the statement of the ultimate coward.

Well, one day the bully got over exuberant and body checked my friend into a hallway.  Enough was enough.  I knew what he was doing was wrong.  And, more importantly, I knew that what I was doing – saying nothing – was just as wrong.  So I finally spoke out – in a loud voice and with a great deal of fear in my heart, “Hey, cut that out.”  My body was shaking as I expected to be the next one tossed against the wall.

What happened next surprised me.  This kid who was four years older than I looked stunned that anyone had stood up to him.  The best he could come back with was, “Yeah, you gonna make me?”

I don’t know where I came up with this but I said, “Maybe I’m not as big as you but with Timmy and me and our gang we can take you.  Now get out of here and leave us alone.”  And he left – and that was the end of Timmy’s being bullied by him.  I was never so scared in my life as when I uttered those words.  Neither Timmy nor I were fighters – and we didn’t have a gang.

As I thought about the recent episodes of bullying which made the news, I reflected back on a person who was the subject of a lot of sniggering when she tried to make a name for herself in the world of entertainment.  She wasn’t what most people would describe as attractive.  Sadly, most people make their judgments based on looks and if they don’t like what they see there, they never allow themselves the time to understand a person’s substance.

This Scottish lady’s name is Susan Boyle, and the video is a recording of her first performance on “Britain’s Got Talent.”  Fortunately, despite the audience’s and the judges’ initial reaction, Susan had the internal fortitude to stand in front of an audience and sing her song – fortunate both for her and for the world.

And that’s a lesson from which both bullies and their would be victims can learn.

NOSTROVIA (На здоровье)

A long time ago it was grapes.  And then it was lettuce.  Back in the 70’s we consumers knew how to make our voices heard.  So we boycotted those commodities to bring pressure on the growers to improve the wages and conditions of the migrant farm workers.

Whether it was withholding our purchases from these products which ultimately caused the growers to increase the wages they paid their workers or some other factor I’m not sure.  But at least we believed that we had helped make a difference.

if you’ve read this blog for any length of time you certainly realize that I view life through a relatively conservative set of glasses.  So saying that I participated actively in the grape and lettuce boycotts might surprise you.  Let me set the record straight.

No, I did not have some major catharsis which switched me from a liberal view of life to one that was more conservative in nature.  Unfortunately, largely due to an extremely biased media, we have come to equate the terms conservative and uncaring as being interchangeable.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe that it is every person’s moral responsibility to help our fellow man out as best we can.  That applies across both sexes and irrespective of race or creed.  I believe and always have that we are supposed to “Do unto others…” and that we are each others’ keepers.  I believe that is the message of true conservatism – however it may have been corrupted in practice or mis-stated on television.

For years I boycotted the products of Canada.  Not that I have anything against our friends to the north.  But I could never in my mind, after seeing several videos and the activity once in person (and that was enough) justify the slaughter of harp seal pups in front of their helpless mothers – all for the sake of human vanity.  That personal encounter left me sleepless for weeks afterward.

As a conservative (and a capitalist) I thoroughly endorse the concept of consumer boycotts.  If the basis of capitalism is making money, then withholding the lifeblood that sustains a company whose products we abjure, for whatever reason, seems a reasonable way to make our demands known and to instigate change on the part of the entity whom we consider an offender.

If you think about it, if we really wanted to force our lawmakers to implement a simplified and equitable tax code instead of spending generations talking about it, there is a simple way to achieve this.  This next April 15, if twenty million people simply refused to file their returns it would make a statement that would awaken even the most hard of hearing in the halls of Congress.  There is something to the concept of strength in numbers.

And that brings us to the topic of a boycott which is currently underway.  The target is Stolichnaya which we all know is a Russian vodka.  Actually, most of it that is produced for export is manufactured in Latvia (Premium Vodka) as opposed to the bottles which are produced in Russia and bear the labels (Russian Vodka).

The boycott began in gay bars in New York but have spread around the world to other such establishments because of the extremely oppressive stance that Vladimir Putin has taken regarding gays in mother Russia.  It is hard for me to comprehend Comrade Putin’s position.

This is not a matter of gay marriage (that is not anywhere near being on the table in Москва).  No this is simply a matter of human rights – and I would hope that people, whatever their sexual orientation, would come together solidly on the side of supporting those for everyone – including our LGBT brothers and sisters.

Perhaps the most difficult to convince in this struggle are those who self-identify as “conservatives”.  I can imagine what a member of the Westboro Baptist Church might do if they were to hear someone preach a sermon on the subject.  The result might be no different than the fate a gay man would expect in most of the Muslim world – death at the hands of an angry, righteous mob.

In St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Contra Gentiles” he offers the following about God and His creation:

“For the virtue of a being is that by which he operates well. Now every operation of God is an operation of virtue, since His virtue is His essence, as was shown above. Therefore, God cannot will evil.”

If God cannot will evil, then certain other conclusions follow.

“[1] From this it appears that the hatred of something does not befit God.
[2] For as love is to the good, so hatred is to evil; for to those we love we will good, and to those we hate, evil. If, then, the will of God cannot be inclined to evil, as has been shown, it is impossible that He should hate anything.”

Well, the Stoli boycott has uncovered a worm in the Tequila (pardon the mixed metaphor).  The Latvian gay community has appealed to their brothers and sisters to stop it – for fear that their this might upset their tenuous position in their home country.  We always should be cognizant of unintended consequences when we embark on something like this.  Whether their words are heeded by their brothers and sisters in the U.S., UK and Canada remains to be seen.

Let me close with a small consumer tip.  I used to drink Stoli.  It is good vodka.  But if you want to have some excellent vodka at a fraction of the price all you need to do is the following:

Buy a charcoal-based water filter (such as a Brita).  Use this filter solely for the purpose of filtering vodka – unless you want your kids walking around all day half smashed.

Instead of purchasing a premium vodka, (Stoli or Grey Goose or such), buy your vodka in the 1.75 liter size (usually around ten dollars).  Gilbey’s and Gordon’s both offer a good product – among others.  Run it through the filter twice, then store it in glass bottles and put it in your freezer for later consumption.  You’ll be amazed at how this improves the flavor and resembles the taste of the premium vodkas that are on the market.

I know that those of you who are vodka drinkers out there will be thanking me for this advice later.  But until then На здоровье!  (And “chin chin” to boot).


It was a Friday evening after a rough week and I had gotten home a bit late.  Tristan, my Irish Setter and Josh, my Belgian Shepherd/Newfoundland mix were waiting attentively at the door.  They really wanted to go for their walk.  So I dropped the mail on a table by the entryway, put on their collars and we hurried across the street to the park where the boys quickly relieved themselves.

When we returned to the condo I put their dinners together and sat down with an adult beverage for myself, kicking my shoes off and resting my tired feet on the coffee table in the living room.  I was just starting to get comfortable when the phone rang.

I debated for a moment whether I wanted to bother answering it or let Jeeves the Butler, the voice on my answering machine, pick it up.  But I was feeling a little more relaxed and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to unwind on the couch as Tristan had finished his dinner and wanted me to play with him.  So I told him to stay on the couch and went into the library to grab the call, setting my scotch on a coaster on my desk.

The caller was a friend named Marty.  I could tell he was upset and the reason for that soon became clear.  His lover of three years, Ted had dumped him and told him he had to move out of Ted’s apartment.

I’m not quite sure why, but for virtually my entire life, people have always asked for my advice or looked to me to provide a shoulder to cry on when they needed one.  I guess that’s a sort of compliment.  But sometimes I feel like the proverbial pile to which flies are drawn.

Because I try to be a compassionate person, I normally acquiesce to their request to provide counsel.  Usually, this leaves the person making the request feel good – and me feeling rather drained.

Anyway, Marty and I talked for a few minutes but I was really tired and the scotch was beginning to kick in.  So rather than go through the blow by blow, I invited Marty to dinner the following evening.  I had planned on making a roast and there would be more than enough for both of us and the two puppies who always expected to get some of whatever it was I was eating.

So the following night, Marty came to the apartment for dinner and he told me the whole story.

The two of them had met about four years earlier at a party which a mutual friend had hosted.  At the time Marty was 24 and working in a salon as a stylist (or in the parlance of the gay community was a “hair burner”).  Ted was 41 and worked in a corporate law department as an attorney.  About three months later they began dating and nine months after that, Ted asked Marty to move in with him.

Ted had an apartment in the Halsted Street area of Chicago’s near north side which was alternately known as the “Gay Ghetto” or “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”  I  was always incredulous that people who lived in this neighborhood could ever develop lasting relationships.  In a five block span there were at least 12 gay bars, each of which had a special night to attract revelers.  And the bars usually overflowed onto the street.  So many men – so much temptation.

And that is what ultimately did their relationship in.  Ted had gone out one night for a “walk”, met someone coming out of one of the bars; their eyes met and before you knew it the two of them were passionately in love and having sex in this new person’s apartment.

As Marty told me this story I tried not to show that I felt that was all rather sordid and shallow.  But that was a story not unlike many others that could be told in and of the gay community.  I learned that when I was first introduced to the phrase, “Your future ex-husband.”

Whether straight or gay, we’ve probably all had a relationship that ended – or hoped for one that never began.  So in that regard I could understand what Marty must have been experiencing.  But I realized how relationships were even more difficult within the gay community than in the straight world when Marty said, “You know, if I could choose to be, I would choose to be straight.”

I knew Marty better than I knew Ted.  And he always impressed me with his boyish good looks, but more than that with his romantic soul.  On several occasions he told me that he couldn’t be happier because he had met the man of his dreams and was deeply in love with him.  He looked forward to living out the rest of his life with the love of his life.  It just happened that the two of them were gay.  And because they were gay, there was no legal commitment into which they could enter.

I decided to stay up late tonight and write this piece (it’s nearly midnight) because I just read an article that gay marriage is going to become the law in the UK within a matter of days – although it won’t be implemented for a year.  And, of course, we all are familiar with the same issue being heavily debated in the U. S.

I have to admit that I can see both points of view on this issue and can’t say that I have really come down firmly on either side.  If I were on my high school debating team and the subject of gay marriage were the topic, I think I could advance arguments equally effectively either for the “Pro” or the “Con”.

As I think back thirty years to my conversation with Marty that Saturday night, I wonder, if gay people had the right to get married back in the ’80’s  and Marty and Ted had tied the knot, might that have provided some stability of which they were deprived and might that have resulted in their relationship continuing, even today?

On the other hand, I look at the failure rate of marriages among the straight community and wonder if having a contract “until death do us part” has any relevance in today’s world.

And let us not forget that there are any number of our Hollywood types who simply move in together, have some kids and years later decide to make it “official”.  Or not – as they deem fit.  No one seems to raise much of a stink over that.

Perhaps the solution, whether for the straight or gay community, is to enter into a “time limit” contract – for say, three or five years, renewable on expiration.  It’s only a thought – but it might save thousands in the fees for attorneys who specialize in divorce.

After dinner, I told Marty that I had an extra bedroom and he would be welcome to use it until he situated himself.  He thanked me for my offer – but Hyde Park was too far removed from his familiar stomping grounds and, to my knowledge, there was never a gay bar in the community.  So I think he felt that if he moved in he would be hampered in his search for the next love of his life.  He declined my offer and took an apartment with one of the female stylists from the salon.

He was involved in two more semi-long term relationships by the time I left Chicago.  I never did run into Ted again after the two of them broke up.

I believe that each of us has a need for love – both to give and receive it.  It’s hard enough to do that as a straight person.  And my heart goes out to our gay population who the straight world tells, even if they find that special someone, that relationship is forbidden.


deer god

my momma and mrs jones my sundayskool teechur they be tellun me that you seez evrythin and nos evrythin to an they be very smart and nice so i knowz iz so.

but you be so buzy seein and knowin you may nothas seed some of the stuf what happun at my skool las yeer .  speshully wif a boy in my klass we callz meen tyrone.

meen tyrone he jes always be lookin at wayz to make a fuss.  he pull at all the girlz hare and wen we be eatin our toona sanwich mean tyrone he com over and try to mush it up wif his fingurs.  so now when we seez him acomin we jes eatup our sanwich reel fast like so he dont have no chance to go mushin.

an he alwayz pickun at my bes frend a lil boy name of peter chen cause peter is a diffrun kolor than mos of us be.  kinda a yeller.  me an peter we be bes frenz an we likz to go on the swings to see whoo ken go up the hiest.  peter ken go hier than me an i think he be the best swinger that there ever was.  one day i drop a book an peter he reach down andd pick it up an give it back to me.  that was nice.

so i was thinkun that if all us kidz waz the same kolor than meen tyrone heed have no kall to be pickun at peter.  so could you make it so we all be the same kolor.  i think perpul would be nice.

i love you and i no you love me to


kiesha smith


Coming to live in Las Vegas I have had to adjust to any number of changes.  For example, I miss the snow and don’t care all that much for the heat.  Being able to play slot machines at your local supermarket, if you so choose, is another.  But perhaps the greatest adjustment affects my driving.

All along the streets, there are usually little printed and sometimes hand-written signs which sit on wire supports and which advertise some good or service.  They’re rather like the old Burma Shave signs except they’re lower to the ground and there isn’t a series of them to convey the message.

We have signs for all sorts of things.  Of course, “Open House” with an arrow is quite a big one.  And “Garage Sale” (or for those who are trying to sound more upscale, “Yard Sale” are others) – although I’ve always wondered where you would park your car if you sold your garage or plant your daisies without a front yard.  I hope to get to the bottom of that.

Then there are the signs for business opportunities, promising riches after you only do ten minutes work (call this number to hear our recorded message).  Those used to be solicitations for MLM “opportunities” but I think that most of those are now internet related.

No, those don’t pique my interest.  I’ve seen them far too many times.

One that did, but only for a moment, said, “New lawyer in town.  Get a divorce – only $399.”  Then, of course, the attorney’s phone number was listed.  I’ve seen these “cut rate divorce” ads before but they advertised $699 (and up) for the same service and appeared on regular billboards.  Apparently, those attorneys have been in town longer and have a bigger practice.  But since I’m not in the market for a divorce, I wasn’t particularly interested in that placard.

The one that did, and I’ve never seen it before, was a small sign with the lettering in both red and black ink which said, “Enroll now in Etiquette School.”  As I drove by it on the way home from the dog park, I nearly ran off the road and into a street lamp.  Imagine, in this day and age someone trying to sell the concept of etiquette?  And imagine, further, someone actually interested in taking them up on their offer.

I didn’t jot down the number but wanted to give them a call.  The following day I took a slightly different route home so I did not pass the sign.  And on the third day, I remembered to take my cell phone with me and had it all ready to add a new contact, but the sign had disappeared.  I’m not sure whether their class was over-subscribed or they had gotten no responses and in frustration decided, instead, to enroll in a cosmetology class so that they could learn the art of doing French nails.

Back in the days when wealthy families dressed in formal attire for dinner; when they assembled together for their evening meal at the lace tablecloth covered dining room table; when the servants brought out the repast and served the meal; when everyone knew which fork was to be used for their fish course and which for their salad; when young Missy discussed what she would wear to her coming out at the Spring Cotillion with Mama; that’s when we had people who were concerned with and knew etiquette.

The rest of us merely had manners.  Those came in two different forms – good and bad.  And I can’t help but think that is actually what this placard was offering to the public – a school in what constitutes good manners.

There is no question that there is a need for this service – and if I had gotten their phone number I would have called if for no other reason than to offer my encouragement and support.  But the absence of good manners today (or perhaps it is the lack of a realization that there is such a thing in God’s wide universe) may be the reason that the sign came down.

As I think about learning good manners, primarily from my family but from my teachers as well, I realize now how important that was and how it made a difference both in the way I feel about myself and how people feel about me.  Most people like me because the training I received as a child taught me to be considerate of others.

Whether it was learning from Mom that after I had blown my nose, the correct place to discard the soiled tissue was in a garbage can – not on the sidewalk; whether it was learning from Grandma that when an elderly or infirm person got on the bus, it was the correct thing to stand up and offer that person my seat; whether it was learning from Dad that it was the polite thing to hold a door open for the person who was just behind us; whether it was learning from my teacher that the reason that there was no talking amongst ourselves in class was because we were there to learn and even if we personally weren’t all that interested – others of our classmates were; these were the foundations in good manners that have served me well for a lifetime.

If you synopsize these little lessons they all come down to the same thing.  That each of us needs to understand that we are part of the universe but that universe does not revolve around us.  That extending courtesy and kindness are not options – they are an essential way of living.  That after learning the words “Mama” and “Papa”, the next three words every child should learn are “Please” and “Thank You.”  And that irrespective of whether the person to whom we extend a helping hand or a kind word acknowledges our actions or reciprocates, we should keep on doing it because it is the right thing to do.

So I’m going to drive around and see if I spot any more signs for “Etiquette School.”  If I do I will certainly call to speak with the folks running it.  They might need someone to help teach some of the classes.  And with the great need for the education they’re offering – I’d be willing to do it for free.


Every so often we all need a break from the assaults of selfish behavior and a reminder that there are at least a few people left in the world who are caring human beings.

The following story, unedited, appeared today on Yahoo News.  I know that it made me tear up and feel grateful for the NY Police Officer in the story and for all others who have the spirit of trying to help those of us who are far less fortunate than anyone reading this post – or writing it.

A photo of a New York City police officer kneeling down to give a barefoot homeless man in Times Square a pair of boots on a cold November night is melting even the iciest New Yorkers’ hearts online.

On Nov. 14, NYPD officer Lawrence DePrimo, who was on counterterrorism duty in Times Square, saw the older homeless man without shoes sitting on 42nd Street. DePrimo, 25, left and then returned with a pair of $100 boots he bought at a nearby Skechers store.

“It was freezing out, and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet,” DePrimo, a three-year veteran of the department who lives with his parents on Long Island, told the New York Times. “I had two pairs of socks, and I was still cold.”

The random act of kindness was captured by Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence, Ariz., who was visiting the city. Foster, communications director for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona, emailed the photo to the NYPD with a note commending DePrimo.

“The officer said, ‘I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let’s put them on and take care of you,'” Foster wrote. “The officer squatted down on the ground and proceeded to put socks and the new boots on this man.

“I have been in law enforcement for 17 years,” she continued. “I was never so impressed in my life. … It is important, I think, for all of us to remember the real reason we are in this line of work. The reminder this officer gave to our profession in his presentation of human kindness has not been lost.”

Foster’s photo was posted on the NYPD’s Facebook page on Tuesday, where it received more than 320,000 “likes,” 77,000 “shares” and 20,000 comments—most of them praising DePrimo, who seems to have restored Facebook’s faith in humanity.

“This is one hell of a police officer,” Desiree Wright-Borden wrote.

“Wow,” Jack Horton wrote. “It’s nice to know there are still good people out there.”

“Angels truly do walk on earth!!!” Charlene Hoffman-Pestell wrote.

Some commenters, though, were skeptical, saying the photo could have been staged.

“Clever stunt!” Louis Zehmke wrote. “The hobo is ‘parked’ at the entrance of a shoe shop.”

But Foster claims DePrimo had no idea he was being photographed: “The officer expected NOTHING in return and did not know I was watching.”


I’ve suggested for some time that we live in a society in which the pursuit of irrational self-interest has become the predominant religion.  By irrational self-interest I mean that we view the immediate gratification we receive from an activity as being of far more importance than the ultimate consequences of that behavior.

A simple example would be the person who goes out partying on Saturday night.  She has a good time getting looped, only to blow a 2.0 on the breathalyzer after she wraps her car around a lamp pole on the way home, killing someone waiting at a bus stop and then undergoes a series of plastic surgeries to return her face to something close to what it looked like before the accident.

I believe that if you were to interview anyone who found herself in this situation and asked,  “If you knew how going out and getting drunk would forever change the rest of your life would you still do it?,” she would emphatically respond, “No.”  Of course, by then it’s far too late to alter what has happened.

Society’s response to bad behavior is generally re-active rather than pro-active.  That is because society is made up of people who think in irrationally self-interested ways; elect legislators who think similarly to their constituents and who promulgate laws based on their after the fact mentality rather than trying to construct programs which might minimize the number of incidents for which we then specify a punishment.

I remember that in grammar school, in addition to the academic awards of “Honor Roll” and “High Honor Roll” which were presented to those of us who attained certain levels of proficiency in our studies there was another award that was given called a “Citizenship Award”.  In some ways, I prized this award the most highly.

I knew from my report cards whether I would make the High Honor Roll.  But the Citizenship Award was not measured by test scores and final exams.  It was awarded or withheld based on my conduct throughout the year and was conferred after my teachers and the principal discussed the behavior I had exhibited.

I’m sure there were a lot of factors that went into their determination about which of us students would receive this award.  Perhaps being on time for class was one of the factors and conducting ourselves appropriately during “fire drills” was another.  But these and the other factors that our educators considered all stemmed from one fundamental principle – whether or not we were respectful of ourselves and knew how to extend that respect to our fellow students and those who had devoted themselves to educating us.

Of course, I had a leg up because the same values that I was taught in school were ones that were practiced by my parents at home.  It was natural for me to be courteous and hold the door open for someone or to give up my seat if an elderly person boarded a crowded bus.  I saw my parents do that all the time and I learned from them.

Thirty or forty years ago such behavior was the norm rather than the exception.  I seldom find children with that same outlook today – but then I seldom find it in their parents either, a fact which no doubt contributes to their progenies’ attitudes and behavior.

I would have been shocked to read the story I reviewed this morning if we went back to the time that I was much younger.  This would have been so horrible that I would have wondered whether the media got it right.  How could anyone possibly be so insensitive?  But today, the story that follows is so typical of ones that we read each day that we have become de-sensitized to them.


“An Ohio man faces one month of jail time for teasing and taunting a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy after a video of the incident went viral.”

The story goes on to relate how William Bailey who lives next door to the little girl’s family, “was dragging his leg and patting his arm across his chest [while he was waiting for the school bus] to pick his son Joseph up.”  I asked him to please stop doing this. ‘My daughter can see you.’ He then told his son to walk like the R-word.”

Mr. Bailey is 43 years old.  His son, Joseph is 9.  Last summer this child stopped by to play with the little girl and her siblings in their home.  He brought a pocket knife with him and threatened to “cut up” the disabled child and then began calling her names.  By the way, the little girl who was taunted is named, Hope.

I have always enjoyed reading about the early civilizations which mankind forged together.  I was fascinated by Greek mythology as a child.  Referring back to that, when Pandora’s box was closed and the one remaining virtue left inside was “Hope”, I am afraid that it might have been hermetically sealed.


When I was ten I received a surprise birthday present from my aunt and uncle.  It was a brand new crisp twenty dollar bill.  I had seen one before, but had never actually held one in my hand.  And I had certainly never been the proud possessor of such a thing.  I was awestruck when I opened their Birthday Card and saw the bill inside.

Of course, this was many years ago.  Twenty dollars would buy two hundred comic books, instead of being a minor deposit on a pair of gym shoes or designer jeans.  I offer you that information just to put the gift into perspective.

Well we had a festive little Birthday Party, Grandma providing the catering, the finale being my favorite birthday (or any other occasion) cake, a three layer sponge cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries spread between the layers and topped with more whipped cream and glazed whole strawberries on the top, leaving just enough room for the insertion of the ten birthday candles.

After the company left, my Mom, who had whisked away her sister’s twenty dollar bill for safe keeping asked what I was going to do with all that money.  I had seen some ads on television from a group called CARE.  They helped out a lot of poor children in Africa and other underdeveloped countries.  So I asked Mom and Dad if it would be alright if we could send them ten dollars and if I kept the rest.

My mother hugged me and said that would be a very nice thing to do and she promised to get their address so that they could send in a check for my donation.  But as it turned out, after she sent in my ten dollars, she and Dad received a thank you from CARE and some information from them about the work they did, and they became regular monthly donors to CARE for the rest of their lives.

Apparently, even ten year olds can make a little bit of a difference in the world.

Since I made my little donation to CARE, many other organizations have been founded to help feed those who do not have enough food to survive.  Although I have forgotten the particular group that placed the ad, I remember one that said a ten dollar donation would enable them to buy enough food from a food bank to feed a family of four for a week.

Imagine that.  For the price of a couple of “Happy Meals” we could feed an entire family for seven days.  It’s something that we should all think about the next time we pull up to the drive in window.

But as much of a difference as each of us could make to the impoverished who share our planet, this is minor compared to one other benefit we could offer the world.

I’m not sure when we will see the final accounting of the amount of money that will be spent this year on the Presidential campaigns of the two candidates.  Not to mention the amount that will be spent on senatorial and congressional races and local offices.  But my guess is that $500 Million is probably a low estimate.  And that’s just for television advertising let alone all the mailers and flyers which besiege us at every one of these events.

What if, you’ll forgive my clinging to my childhood starry-eyed optimism, what if, instead of contributing to political candidates, those donors turned their attention instead to the charities whose mission is to feed our poor?  Can you imagine the impact that $500 Million would have in reducing the suffering, malnourishment and need of people both in America and around the world?

Instead of seeing an endless procession of ads bashing the other candidate and explaining why he or she is a thief, a crook and a liar – all of which I find extremely depressing, we might see an ad of a little girl in Somalia or Appalachia who said, “Thank you for helping my family by giving us our food.”  That would be an ad that I would actually enjoy watching and feel good about seeing.

As with all things it comes down to priorities.  But if a child of ten could see the misery of other children who were less fortunate, shouldn’t we adults have the ability to share that insight?  Shouldn’t we all CARE?

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