COMMUNION

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)

 No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another
― Charles Dickens

There is no such thing as the public interest

-Ayn Rand 

You’re gonna hafta serve somebody

-Bob Dylan

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.

DONATIONS 

 For information on how to assist the art program at Espanola Valley High School contact:  Celia.harlow@K12espanola.org

(note when sending checks please ask for a receipt to be sent back to you and in the note section of any check to Espanola Valley HS please indicate that funds are specifically for the Art Program.)

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.fdnyfoundation.org                          

www.nycpolicefoundation.org

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)

Environmental Organizations

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.

FYI

www.charitynavigator.org                        

 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.

-Anne Frank

Thanks for reading.

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