Sunday Stealing: Compassion Intl

The Tough Coughs as He Ploughs the Dough

This Sunday Stealing segment is from Compassion Intl.

1. What three words best describe you?

Overanalytical, observational, musicality.

2. What makes you unique?

We’re all unique, I reckon. I tend to see how others, even strangers,  have to deal with a situation, and I look to see if there’s a non-intrusive but uncomplicated way to make it easier/better.

3. Who is someone important in your life?

Someone? There are lots of someones. I’ll pick C, whom I’ve only known for about 55 years and who has a good heart. They commented on this blog recently. 

4. What is something that always makes you laugh?

I almost always forget what makes me laugh. Then I read, watch, or listen to it again and fall on the ground, chortling. Often, it’s a silly mistake I made. I track my food consumption on Noom, and at the end of the day this week, I accidentally wrote that I had consumed one CUP rather than one TEASPOON of brown sugar! 

5. Who is someone who can always cheer you up?

The Big O, who I hope to see in a month. She’s bringing lasagna.

6. When was a time you were really proud of yourself?

Pride is not really my strength. Almost anything I’ve done, I often think I could have done more and/or better. But I’ll pick the 4th of July event at the Underground Railroad Education Center in 2023.

7. What is something that is difficult for you?

Do you know those people who can take a bunch of containers and lids and match them up easily? My wife is like that. I assuredly am NOT.

Traveling man

8. What three places would you love to travel to?

Only three? Ireland, Nigeria, and Italy. The first two are places where I have genealogical roots.

9. What is a fun memory you have with your best friend?

I think it was my 35th high school reunion. The event was okay, but seeing them was grand.

10. If you could have dessert for breakfast, what would you eat?

What makes you think I don’t? Warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream.

11. If you published a book or wrote a movie, what would it be about?

My father. He was a complicated man.

12. Which is easier, math or English?

My wife was a teacher of English as a New Language. As a native speaker, I’m pretty good at English, but it can be difficult for others. There are rules for adjective order, which I could not tell you about, even though I wrote about it a decade ago. I just know it by experience. Dr. Seuss’s book The Tough Coughs as He Ploughs the Dough is a fine example of how complicated English is.

Arithmetic always made sense to me. In high school, I was good in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, and I occasionally still use them in my life. Now, calculus, I didn’t “get it,” but I’ve survived that lapse.

13. What three things make you the happiest?

Music (listening, singing), revelatory conversations, when democracy works.

Ridin’ thumb

14. What is an event in your life that has shaped who you are today?

An event. Hmm. Okay. After I graduated from college in New Paltz, NY, I worked as a ticket seller for the student government. But I wasn’t making enough to survive. So reluctantly, I asked my parents, who had moved from my hometown of Binghamton, NY, to Charlotte, NC, and I moved in with them and my baby sister c. January 1977.

I hated being there for a lot of reasons. My parents were selling costume jewelry, so I spent much time helping them. At their primary venue, most people who bothered to speak to me seemed to resent every time I’d use a word with more than two syllables.

So, one day in April, I hitchhiked from Charlotte to Binghamton. It took me nearly an entire day. After that, I bounced around to NYC, New Paltz, and Schenectady, but at least I knew the turf. And 1978 was MUCH better than 1977.

15. Which is more important, being kind or being honest?

EASY! Kindness. Some people weaponize honesty. They can say, “I was only being honest, ” but they seem to relish being an @$$4013. BTW, CBS News has an ongoing series called Kindness 101. Here’s one video about the Secret Santa Club.

“A Phoenix elementary school teacher who uses Steve Hartman’s inspirational stories as lessons in kindness and character made a huge impression on his students with the tale of Secret Santa, a wealthy, anonymous businessman who annually gives out hundreds of $100 bills to strangers. That motivated the kids to raise $8,000 – and then give it all away.”

Compassion, Int’l: Sunday Stealing


This week’s Sunday Stealing is Compassion, Int’l, which refers to this organization. What the quiz has to do with the entity, I am uncertain.

1. Do you ever have funny dreams at night?
If by “funny,” they mean weird, strange, bizarre, then yeah. And I can have them when I take a 30-minute nap. I remember them for a time but forget them if I don’t write them down. That said, one recent one involved my late father.

Just last night, I played handball, two on two, but we played with full-sized cars that bounced instead of balls. (I used to play racquetball regularly from 1983-2010.)

2. If you could make a law for your country, what would it be?
A salary ratio so that the rich don’t continue to get richer.

3. What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
I’d sneak into some corporate entity and sneak out their documents proving their culpability in, e.g., polluting the air or water or creating other risks for people and/or animals. Then I’d leak ’em to the press. (Or should I post them on my blog first? Hmmm.)

4. If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be?
Elon Musk. And I’d give away 90% of his/my money to worthy entities feeding the hungry, fighting disease et al.

5. What would you like to change about yourself?
I want to eliminate some pain.

6. What is your daily routine?
Currently: I get up, post my blog to Facebook, do Wordle, Dordle, Quordle, and Octotordle, vote for my niece Rebecca Jade in five categories, vote for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame candidates, and check my email. Weigh myself, and take my blood pressure and pulse. Feed the cats, then feed myself. Then it depends.
7. What would your perfect day be like? What would you be doing?
Seeing a movie at a cinema, watching a play, or singing in the choir, and then getting a massage.

8. How old were you when you learned to read?
IDK. I don’t recall not reading.

9. What is the most interesting thing you know?
I don’t know that it’s INTERESTING, but I know all of the US Presidents, in order and year of inauguration

10 What makes you nervous?
Being late to take a plane or train.

11. What is your favourite flower?
Tulips. It’s an Albany thing.

12. Have you ever ridden on a horse or any other animal?
Yes, on June 9, 1975, I rode a horse. It was the day after I had my first hangover. Not recommended.

13. What time do you go to bed?
11 p.m., or maybe later if I have projects to finish.

14. What time do you get up?
7:15 a.m., when the cats want to be fed.

15. What is something that is always in your refrigerator?
Eggs, 1% milk, cottage cheese, grapes, and apples.

Justice, compassion and the common good

“Poverty is a matter of cash, not character.”

There’s a delineation in my mind about how one should do Christianity – and I think the faith is action, not just being – versus how certain elements of the faith have manifest themselves.

The theological divide is clear in these two titles: Advancing faith as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good versus Has Evangelical Christianity Become Sociopathic?

It causes one to wonder Is Your God Dead? “Building walls, banning refugees and ignoring the poor are the social expressions of bankrupt theologies…” ‘Any god who is mine but not yours, any god concerned with me but not with you, is an idol,’ Heschel writes.”

On a secular basis, I believe those same values of “justice, compassion and the common good” should be pursued by the state. I’ve become really fascinated that Finnish citizens were given universal basic income, without any reporting on how it would be spent. Not surprisingly, the recipients reported lower stress levels. Perhaps not intuitively, it provided them greater incentive to work.

In this TEDx talk, historian Rutger Bregman long believed, as many people do, that poverty was the result of a lack of character. But now he’s come to believe “Poverty is a matter of cash, not character.” In fact, he recommends that those folks doling out checks to the poor could be eliminated, with the money going to those in need.

To that end, I oppose drug testing or screening for public assistance applicants or recipients. “Such laws demonize the poor, violate constitutional rights, and are a waste of government money.” Fiscal conservatives should be drawn to that third point, the clear cost-ineffectiveness of these actions.

However, “maybe there is a difference between ‘handouts’ and subsidies designed to induce specific behavior. OK, I’ll bite, but that means that all of Wall Street — and shareholders too — should have been subjected to drug testing after receiving bailouts in 2008 and 2009.”

Pizza and compassion, to go

On this Thanksgiving day, I’m thankful.

pepperoniandveggieIt was a Monday in late September when I was coming from a meeting, and heading to church. This guy named “Tim” was looking for something to eat.

Being very close to a pizza shop on Lark Street in Albany, I asked him to come in and order a slice or two. While we were waiting, Tim told me what a screw-up he had been.

He’s fallen off the sobriety wagon, again, and he’s embarrassed that his brother will be coming to town to go to some rock concert. Tim knows his brother will be disappointed.

I had no words of wisdom. I told him that I thought he was being terribly hard on himself, that he should keep on trying.

As I packed up my pizza slice to go – I WAS already running late by then – Tim gave me a big hug. And I’ll tell you the truth: I wasn’t fond of Tim hugging me with his boozy breath and slightly malodorous self.

But what I remembered from a very different story informed me: Tim needed to hug ME, Tim needed to thank ME.

So, on this Thanksgiving day, I’m thankful. Thankful that I don’t have Tim’s addiction. Thankful that I had the means to buy him dinner. Thankful that I can try to see the situation from Tim’s point of view.

It’s hard for us to be inclusive, to embrace those who are different. We may be OK with gay people or black people, but waiting the extra time it takes for a person in a wheelchair to board the bus may make us cranky. I suspect there are areas we all have that push against our blinders.

May we all be thankful, and ask for greater awareness and compassion for those around us, especially those we might find different or “lesser.”

Also: John Green: On Not Seeing Hamilton

Eight Poets to Discuss Over the Thanksgiving Table

The Muppets auditioning for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Imagination of compassion, or something like that

I’m told that group referred to as ISIS, or ISIL, HATE to be referred to as “DEASH”.

The night after the shootings and bombing in Paris that killed over 125 people on Friday the 13th of November, the Albany Public Library Foundation held its second annual Literary Legends gala to honor two writers. One, Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked, who was born in Albany, ended his brief remark with a quote, which I failed to write down. I thought it contained the phrase “the imagination of compassion.”

this is what people say

Instead of finding what’s wrong with someone’s response to a situation, try to imagine the scenario with some compassion. The idea of imagination compassion is far more uplifting and far less destructive. “You remake the world when you imagine it compassionate.”

So while I didn’t change my status on Facebook to the French tricolor – in part because it feels, to me, that it gives the bombings in Beirut the day before the short shrift. And indeed, there are tragedies every day around the world that warrant our response, so one could argue Eurocentrism. Yet I’m opposed to criticizing those who did post the blue, white, and red because they are expressing their own compassion.

I note Arthur’s lovely tale, which I suppose would be characterized as an imagination of compassion, though I can see it taking place in Lebanon as well as France.

Hey, I understand the bias towards Paris. France is the US’s oldest ally. More to the point, there were three households I knew personally that night in Paris. One was a woman from Albany passing through. Dartmouth professor and writer Jeff Sharlet, who I knew when he was a child, was interviewed by MSNBC that night.

That Literary Gala’s other awardee was Barbara Smith, who has written a bunch of black feminist literature. I asked her if she knew my mother’s first cousin Fran, a noted writer in those circles, and she had indeed met her. Fran’s two daughters were born in Paris, and daughter Anne and her family are living there currently.
And then I get the real quote from Maguire: “The consolation of imaginary things is not imaginary consolation.” – Roger Scruton. Memory can be so faulty.

“Compassion: a source of comfort to somebody who is upset or disappointed.” So the above still holds.

Still, I’m told that group referred to as ISIS, or ISIL, HATE to be referred to as “DEASH”. Daesh (or Da’esh pronounced dɑʃ). It’s a term used to describe the terrorist organization, introduced by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. (Is this why they’ve been so focused on France?)

Fabius argued that since the IS is not Islamic and absolutely not recognized as a state, he said “…the Arabs call it Daesh…” (from Arabic “to tread upon”, “to trample or crush underfoot”). I’ve decided to refer to them only as Daesh going forward. My compassion can go only so far.

My pal Amy Biancolli, who has dealt with suicides in her life, is uncomfortable with the term suicide bomber. A reader suggested kamikaze, and I’m thinking that it’s more correct, perhaps with a qualifier of some sort.

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