Monday, September 19, 2011

Acts of Loving Kindness

Good friends were at Reno this past weekend. Lynn and Chuck, along with the rest of their party, are safe although the crash was very close to where they were seated. Because their company was a corporate sponsor of the air races, they found themselves with hotel rooms and catering contracts that would have been cancelled. Instead, everything has been turned over to the organizers of the event to be used for the families of the victims. It was the right thing to do. It was also gemilut act of loving kindness. These are nice people. Nothing less would have been acceptable to them.

Sunday here brought its own challenges. We were at the cemetery for my friend Amy Ringold’s unveiling. She was a remarkable woman with challenges that would’ve been insurmountable for others.  When she knew she was dying, rather than remaining out east where she had grown up and had been living the last year, she made the decision to come back to Saint Paul where she was a vibrant part of this community. She’s buried not far from Steve, so I always make it a point to visit Amy when I go to the cemetery. Well, on this day we were there for Amy. It was a good gathering, a chance to re-tell Amy stories…which are always full of strength and our admiration for her.

But it's also Elul, so when the prayers for Amy were done, the rabbi and I walked the few steps over to Steve. He chanted El Moleh Rachamim. Some of the people at the unveiling had also been there for Steve. They stood nearby. I got to say how much I missed the ol’ grey beard, and we all got to laugh because there’s creeping Charlie on just Steve’s plot and unbelievably there was no hand reaching up from the ground to yank it out.

Thank G-d we didn’t yet know the Vi-queens were about to blow a 17-0 lead in the second half to lose to Tampa Bay 24-20. For sure, he would’ve risen up hollering, “Fucking Vikings, yer breaking my heart!”

It was drizzling just like it had on the day of the funeral. Our friends stood with me in that spitting rain anyway, gemliut chasadim and rememberance. It’s little things like that that keep me going; when I think I'm all alone out there, a little noodge reminds me that I am not.

Which brings me to the big point in this week’s self-indulgence: gemilut chasadim ~ acts of loving kindness. When we take stock of this past year, the really difficult question isn't "what sins did I commit?", but rather, "where could I have been more compassionate in my response?"

This question seems to have gone missing from the public forum these days. Anyone who wasn’t abjectly horrified by Ron Paul’s cavalier attitude towards those without health insurance has some serious assessing to do. How “okay” are they with paying for the medical bills of someone in need, and how far does that commitment go? Listening to the Republican candidates is a very interesting window into what they each think constitutes the American personality. And the thing I keep running up against is the lack of social responsibility in the general responses.

But there’s little anyone can do about that…as a single person. Perhaps collectively we would have more luck, and that’s what elections are for. But in the meanwhile, I think it should be a rule that everyone has to sit down ALONE and answer the following questions:
  1. Can I afford to cover my parents/kids/aunts/uncles/grandparents/closest friends’ medical bills in an emergency where insurance is not available or adequate to cover their needs?
  2. If the roads/bridges/tunnels are no longer safe enough to bear the usual traffic levels, is there alternate transportation to get me to my job?
  3. Can I afford to live out the remainder of my days on the money I’ve put aside without the assistance of Social Security?
If you can't yes to all three questions, you're probably part of the 95% of the non-wealth controlling majority of Americans. And you have some serious thinking to do. I would recommend the first question you ask yourself is "was I as compassionate in my response to things as I should have been?"

And if you are not sure about that new first question, not to worry; you can fix that starting right now.

The Wifely Person's Tip O'the Week
Always keep a filled water bottle and a couple of stones in the car; 
they're handy in case you have to run out to the cemetery. 

Bonus Tip for the Poetically Impaired
Reading between the lines isn't de riguer;
sometimes it just is what it is.


  1. Libertarian beliefs are all about the individual. Ayn Rand's philosophy will never resonnate with the majority in this country. Problem is that we see so many people grasping onto rhetoric that extols personal accomplishment and condemns those who (deliberately or not) depend on the efforts of others to survive. Talk radio and Fox News barrage the air waves with the meme that our country is "socialist" and a "nanny state that diminishes individual responsibility". Unfortunately, much of the voting public fail to listen or try to understand more than the pat sound bites and sloganeering of political commentators they are pre-disposed to agreeing with. (Sigh) I fear that voters don't get what is at stake during elections because too many don't seem to understand there are true differences in the political parties. Too many voters vote on the basis of their emotions, whatever their last emotional outrage happens to be.

  2. I thought the only people that really care about what Ron Paul has to say are Jon Stewart and The Daily Show's writers. You mean there are people out there taking his stuff seriously? Uh-oh.

  3. I always keep a bag of crystals from the New Age store around for when I go to cemeteries. I like to leave something colorful...and perhaps the people who maintain the cemetery find them and it adds some brightness to their day.

  4. My family has been known to paint rocks for the cemetery...especially green ones for my British grandmother...her birthday was March 17th. But I confess I do look for "interesting" stones to bring along. But there is some merit to the crystal idea. I like that.

  5. Dear MS Schwaidelson,

    I am writing to comment on your NYT response to Paul Krugman's Editorial. I really like your example of using Boaz, however I think you really missed the mark in your comparing his actions to governemnt handouts.

    First of all, Boaz did he good voluntarily. Contrast this with government force to confiscate my wealth and redistribute. Boaz also choose to use his own property to provide for the community, not the property of others.

    Boaz's actions did nothing to create dependency. His charity forced those in need to work for their "hand-out." Today's government does no such thing and creates a toxic dependency that creates a never-ending cycle of poverty.

    I am Libertarian and believe people reep what they sow. I also believe helping those in need, but on my terms not the government's.

    The rich got rich becuase they provided goods and services that people value. People were willing to trade their goods (money, labor, etc) for those items because it made their life better in some way. So I agree with Ms. Warren in that respect, but those people do no owe society anything. People are free to choose and the rich were able to provide better goods/services to accumulate that wealth.

    The other thing to consider is people's upward mobility. Very few people were in the bottom 25% in 1975 then again in 1995. Krugman always overlooks this very important fact. In addition, Krugman also seems to think prosperity is a fixed pie. It is not. Economic growth through captial formation has made our "poor" the richest in the world. Now we have politicians than want to discourage capital formation by taxing it more. This will only lead to more job losses and loss of standard of living.

    Best regards,

  6. For shit sake, please don't use the F word.

    Your Farter