Friday, October 23, 2015

Poverty -- a bittersweet moment

New York City is a place of contrasts. I think we see the contrasts of wealth more clearly here than in many other places.

I'm having a good day today, as I have a good job, plenty of nice clothes to wear, and plenty of good food to eat.

There is an increasing number of homeless people in the city. People are asking strangers for help. One such woman got on my subway car as I was headed for work this morning. She had a loud and clear voice. Perhaps she's a singer. She had a prepared speech where she said she's not homeless, she pays rent, and here are her keys, dangling from her waist. She needs help for food and has no food. Some people reached in their pockets and got out dollar bills for her. As it happened, I had packed a nice lunch for myself. I gave it to her, and she seemed quite touched that I gave her a full meal, and she thanked me very well and said I should have a blessed day.

I hope it helped, and I suspect it did. If so, I'm glad it helped. It's a small thing for me, and it might be a big thing for her.

But it's sad that things are like this, that people can't afford food for themselves, even when they are doing the best they can, working and living where they can. Perhaps this woman recently hit rock bottom and is lifting herself up, and if so, she deserved a helping hand. And perhaps she'll be doing better soon. I hope so.

It was a moving moment. I got a little teary-eyed, though I don't think anyone would have noticed. I didn't notice anyone looking at anyone else.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Inspiration from a boy

My friend found a note on her 16-year-old son's desk. It said, "Be better." It was signed by the son and addressed to himself.

What does "be better" mean? What does it mean to this clearly soulful boy? What does it mean for any of us?

It could be a harsh reprimandation for doing badly. I don't really know. This was my first thought. But that reveals too much about me that deprives me of further reflection. At Rosh Hashanah services on Monday, the rabbi, in his sermon, reflected not merely the need for righteous behavior, and we all can agree that we, individually and collectively, could stand to improve our behavior.

There is a point we too often forget, that we are worthy of life, love, and prosperity. (And by prosperity, I mean more than just money.) The rabbi mentioned this, though I don't remember how he worded it. Perhaps I can find the text of his sermon. On Friday, I attended the annual orientation to Manhattan College, where I work. I learned that the college's stated mission is to form full human beings, in intellect, body, and spirit. In one of the talks, the speaker described the life of John Baptiste de La Salle, a man who, in 17th century France, innovated teaching techniques and performed the novel practice of teaching poor, hungry children. He is named Patron Saint of Teachers. The speaker gave his view of what a saint is. It is not someone who only does everything perfectly throughout his or her life. It is someone who becomes the person he or she was meant to be, fully personifying his or her full potential.

And this, I believe, is a worthy goal. No one can be perfect, but aiming for perfection is worth the effort. I fail constantly. I need to realize that this fact will never change. What I aim to change is to act and feel more forgiving of myself. I need to be content and pleased with who I am and what I have accomplished so far. Only by doing this can I continue towards my potential. The first step, I think, is to remind myself that I am worthy of the space that I occupy. Prosperity is nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of. I owe it to myself and to others. We all should be prosperous enough that we can pass some of it on to others. Prosperity is the achievement of our potentials.