We believe that no person should have to go through the pain of not knowing what to feed their children.
-Chef Jose Andres (Naturalized U.S. Citizen)
The 30 days of pay that people will be out – there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it and we’ve seen a number of ads from the financial institutions doing that.
-Wilbur Ross (Billionaire Secretary of Commerce)
one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another
― Charles Dickens
There is no such thing as the public interest
You’re gonna hafta serve somebody
On Friday Feb. 15th the President of the United States declared this country to be in a state of emergency. In this rarest of an instance I agree with him. We are in a state of emergency. I disagree as to the nature of that emergency.
The true national emergency has nothing to do with “caravans” of brown skinned “bad hombres” “invading” our southern border. No, it is that these less than united states of ours are in the midst of a sweeping contagion of intolerance and fear. Our national communion has been sacrificed to the gods of a soulless digital cannibalism devoid of conscience or any genuine purpose.
Amplified “tweets”, and media extravaganzas present to us in bite sized intervals of product placements celebrating celebrityhood and diverting our attention from our own friends, family and neighbors. Victims of poverty are blamed for their condition with exclamations of positive job growth, while the reality of wage growth is falsely characterized. We waddle past the destitute on our streets daily without a glance, even as their numbers swell, and their demographic skews ever younger. When the only faces we notice any more are the ones staring back at us from our own mirrors then, as the old Pogo cartoon warned long ago, truly “we have met the enemy and he is us”.
The “loyal opposition” in our legislative bodies are billed as enemies, or worse, traitors. A coarse demagoguery corrodes our collective national soul. Our guardians of truth, a free press, have either become completely propagandized or demonized as fake news.
But hear ye, hear ye! All hope is not lost. Ministers of social communion still stand in our midst.
The mountainous natural beauty surrounding Espanola, New Mexico belies the poverty and evaporation of spirit down in the valley where the sunniest days too often are clouded with despair. The refuges of drugs, alcohol and gang association can be difficult to resist. It is statistically true that youthful offenses can eradicate transformative opportunities and the rehabilitation of scarred human beings may be substituted for a type of education where recess is determined by parole boards and graduation may not come until middle age, if at all.
Art teacher Celia Harlow of Espanola Valley High School offers alternatives with a thin budget and a thick wad of her own blood, sweat and tears. Each year a friend from her Tai Chi class in Santa Fe, a city with more galleries and artists per capita than New York City and approximately 30 miles to the south, donates her home for an exhibit for a specially selected student. The walls of the tiny casita are cleared, and art is hung for exhibition. The artist and family are invited to stay as guests, sparing them the half hour drive back and forth to Espanola. Her friend finds alternate accommodations for herself during this period. The student has the opportunity to exhibit and sell their art in a community with a rather discerning eye. The optimism created is exhilarating. An exhibit in Santa Fe for a 17-year-old artist is a BIG DEAL!
Ms. Harlow returned to her classroom recently after a brief illness to find it vandalized. Works of art were destroyed, but Celia Harlow was intent on salvaging her students’ spirit. She persuaded them to take the opportunity not to “repair” the work but to incorporate the damage in such a manner as to create something better while reclaiming their power as artists to conquer adversity and celebrate revival.
At two years of age Charley Phelan was diagnosed with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. At 6 he began ski lessons. Thanks to an optimistic nature, two loving and determined parents, a dedicated ski instructor and a passion for skiing Charley thrived. He eventually volunteered as a children’s skiing instructor before moving to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to work for Adaptive Athletics Specialists where he brings the excitement and joy of winter sports to disabled people of all ages. In 2015 he was named the Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic Instructor of the Year. Charley’s own challenges have brought home to him the importance of tutelage and support. In Charley’s own words:
“I love doing what I do because it creates life changing memories and experiences. From the 5-year-old boy who only stood for 5 minutes to watching him ski, standing for three hours the next day…The veteran who was blown up and is now confined to a wheelchair and has a caregiver…watching him ski down independent with no help at all. Giving him the freedom, he deserves…The man who was paralyzed in a car crash walking home by a drunken driver, who loved riding the chairlift because it was the only time in life where he could converse with a peer looking down at them…The man who rarely leaves his apartment for work due to TBI(Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and getting him to the top of a mountain to see the world…the small things we take for granted as “able” people.
In 1954 Margaret Moffat Toy, a Philadelphia social worker, began a program to provide meals to the city’s shut-in population, based on a similar one in the United Kingdom during the 2nd World War for folks left homeless by the blitzkrieg. High school volunteers known as “Platter Angels” did most of the deliveries then. The program expanded quickly to cities like Columbus, Ohio and Rochester, New York. Today Meals on Wheels operates globally. In New York City alone 1,500 volunteers deliver over 2 million meals to thousands of homebound elderly annually.
America doesn’t need to be made great again because what truly defines American exceptionalism, is its ability to grow despite its infirmities. Racism, sexism, misogyny, religious intolerance, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and a slew of other maladies still haunt us. But at our best the spirit of our founding principles drives us forward. This national emergency of spirit can be quelled. You don’t have to teach art, adaptive skiing, or deliver meals to the home bound elderly. But you can do something. And any something is never too small.
The 35th President of the United States challenged Americans to “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.” Doing for your country is doing for your countrymen.
Randian objectivism may be fine for the ethically challenged Secretary of Commerce who thinks unpaid civil servants should stop bellyaching and take out low interest loans. But note well that at the end, when Atlas shrugged Ayn Rand relied on Social Security and Medicare. As the 45th president preens in the mirror, our best hope is to look to each other again in communion.
For information on how to assist the art program at Espanola Valley High School contact: Celia.harlow@K12espanola.org
Adaptive Athletic Specialists: www.teamaas.org (Charley Phelan’s group)
Meals on Wheels: www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org
If you’re a New Yorker consider these
www.cityharvest.org City Harvest
www.bowery.org The Bowery Mission
www.centralparknyc.org/donate The Central Park Conservancy Because if you love the park, you should.
www.humanesocietyny.org The Humane Society of New York For our furry friends because who else can freely lick your face and get away with it? They deserve better and this one is a no kill zone. Among the highest ratings on Charity Navigator.Org
*Note- HSNY is not associated with The Humane Society of the United States. Most rescue facilities and shelters with the word Humane in their title are NOT associated with HSUS and may or may not be no kill zones. Check your own area listings regarding local shelter policies and practices.
www.shatterproof.org Shatterproof (Addiction rehabilitation)
www.heart911.org Heart 911 ( FDNY, NYPD, PAPD and NYC Building Trades Volunteers who dispatch all over the US when there is an emergency.)
National Giving Opportunities
www.directrelief.org Direct Relief (Working in all 50 states and many countries but were very involved in the California wildfires)
www.mariafund.org The Maria Fund Hurricane Maria (Because Puerto Rican- American CITIZENS deserved a lot better from their government.)
www.woundedwarriorproject.org Wounded Warrior Project (Exactly as the name implies)
www.habitat.org Habitat for Humanity (Because refrigerator boxes will always be substandard housing for human beings.)
www.redcross.org The American Red Cross (137 years and still on the job)
www.bornthisway.foundation Born This Way Foundation ( (Advocating kindness and mental wellness in young people. Anti-bullying. Founded by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta.)
Medical Research and Support
www.amfar.org The Foundation for AIDS Research (Because there is still a lot to be done)
www.nationalmssociety.org National Multiple Sclerosis Society
www.apdaparkinson.org American Parkinson’s Disease Association
www.cancer.org American Cancer Society
www.heart.org American Heart Association
www.lung.org American Lung Association
www.alz.org Alzheimer’s Association. (Aside from Alzheimer’s there are myriad forms of dementia and they are there to help with all of them.)
http://www.epilepsy.com The Epilepsy Foundation (Because 1 in 26 people will develop it in their lifetime and it can appear at any point in life)
www.ucp.org United Cerebral Palsy
Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights
www.weareplannedparenthood.org Planned Parenthood (Because women’s health and security deserve better and now is the time, if ever there was one)
www.guttmacher.org The Guttmacher Institute (Advancing the cause of sexual and reproductive health rights)
Civil Liberties and Human Rights
www.splc.org Southern Poverty Law Center (Scaring hate groups since 1971)
www.aclu.org American Civil Liberties Union (Because, unfortunately, too often, the Bill of Rights needs protection)
* This one is a little tricky. Direct donations to the ACLU itself ARE NOT tax deductible. However, donations to their FOUNDATION ARE! Go to the homepage and look for the link on the right to TAX Deductible Giving.
www.amnesty.org Amnesty International (Let freedom ring)
www.hrw.org Human Rights Watch
www.doctorswithoutborders.org Doctors Without Borders (Just because charity begins at home doesn’t mean it should end there)
www.sierraclubfoundation.org The Sierra Club Foundation
**Like the ACLU, donations made directly to The Sierra Club cannot benefit from a tax deduction. However, donations to The Sierra Club Foundation can.
www.nrdc.org Natural Resources Defense Council
Just a sample. Or you can volunteer. Or offer to walk your sick neighbor’s dog. You’ll gain two friends for the price of one act. Treats are greatly appreciated.
Charity Navigator ( Because you have a right to know how your money is spent)
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
Thanks for reading.