You’re getting my help whether you need it or not!

I’ll always remember you as the fine blue-eyed, brown haired fellow who cared so much more about others than he did about himself.

My sixth grade “girlfriend” wrote me this message about thirty-two years ago. I wonder if she still remembers me. I look a lot different now.

When I was graduating elementary school, we had the option to purchase an autograph (not a year) book. It was a handsome little book with a faux (green) leather cover that had

6a00d834516d4069e201156fc0660c970c-320wi

I also distinctly remember one of the teachers inadvertently signing her note “Best Wishes, Pat Wishes” Suffice it to say “Wishes” was not her last name.

our school’s name emblazoned on it. It measured about 5”x7” in size, meant to be held landscape, had a zipper closure and was filled with different colored, blank pages. Each page was meant for a classmate or teacher or parent to offer well wishes for a successful future.

 

And I distinctly remember this message, as opposed to the other 30 some odd messages in my autograph book for several reasons. It was from her, I felt it was a little bit impersonal (not sure what I was looking for), I was impressed with its style, and, even in my adolescence, while her message was thoughtful and meant to be nice, it bothered me that she thought I cared more about others than myself. But there was evidence to support her assertion then and still today.

Years later, I remember a conversation I had with a best friend who challenged me because I always seemed to yield to oncoming foot traffic. He suggested I was regularly capitulating. Essentially losing. While he was right in that I often do this, I disagreed with his conclusion. In my opinion, I am being harmonious, nice, polite and caring about my fellow citizen. And I don’t consider there to be any consequence in being this way; it’s not as if my doing this sets me back in any way so why not step aside, smile, and know you probably made someone else feel good, which goes a long way to doing the same for yourself.

I have learned there should be no greater love one should have than the love for oneself. While doling out love is not a zero sum game – there’s plenty to go around – it’s extremely important to make sure one’s self comes first. It’s taken me a really long time to learn this. Being in touch with my threshold for emotional pain, I often took a back seat to others because I thought I could help them, which meant in certain circumstances making sure others were happy before I addressed my needs. This is not a good strategy for loving oneself and having a successful life, whatever that looks like.

But as long as I don’t make my needs subordinate to others, I’m going to continue to be a do-gooder, and a help to all.

I will continue to help folks cross streets, help carry large packages, take garbage out for the elderly in my building, and hold doors open for folks. I will continue to ask anyone I see who look as though they’re having problems if they’re alright, and helping out if they aren’t. On the bus or subway, I will still rarely take a seat, and when I do, my head will always be on a swivel looking out for folks who need the seat more than I do. That’s just who I am.

I’ll continue to try and acknowledge every person I come in contact with. I’ll do my best to remember names, and address people with a common courtesy everyone deserves.  And every time I take the subway or bus, I will continue to thank the conductors/drivers for the trip. I will continue to engage every clerk at every store I shop in with a smile, a “hello,” a “please,” and a “thank you.”

I’m not looking for feathers in my cap, a pat on the back, or a “he’s such a great guy,” but imagine for a second if everyone went out of their way to engage others in a gracious, friendly and helpful way. Seriously, imagine that for a second. While it is a wonderful world we live in, imagine just how much more wonderful it would be?

Or folks can at least try…

Like some weekends ago when my family and I drove down to Washington DC for my cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah. It also happened to be Memorial Day weekend. In the weeks and days leading up to the affair, we had a fair amount of trepidation about having to take a trip to DC over Memorial Day weekend because as New Yorkers we knew it would be as crazy as Times Square is every day. And we make it a habit to stay as FAR AWAY from Times Square as we can, every day, if possible.

We left NYC early that Friday morning and after a 3 1/2 hour trip, we arrived in downtown DC and went straight for brunch at Founding Farmer’s. I highly recommend eating there if you can. It’s a farm to table restaurant and the food was absolutely delightful. After stuffing our faces with as much food as possible – we weren’t going to be able to doggy bag it – we took off with the goal to take in as many sites as we could as long as time and my daughter’s patience permitted.

We started off at the White House – one of the sides of it – and made our way down to the Lincoln Memorial. It hadn’t been until the Vietnam Memorial that I started to pay a little1057_Vietnam_Washmoument_credit_Michael_Kleinberg-4152 more attention to the fact it was Memorial Day and why we celebrate it. The Memorial is a very solemn and touching reminder of the soldiers who paid the ultimate price for our country’s sake. And I was reminded that we owe them and all who serve our country a great debt of gratitude, whether the war was warranted or not.

So, I made it my mission to shake hands with every veteran I saw and thank them for their service.

There were a great number of soldiers that flocked to DC that weekend, and it seemed most, if not all, were bikers. And that made sense because it was also the Rolling Thunder Run, the world’s largest single-day motorcycle event in DC, a ride originally taken to remember servicemen left behind, which I think has now evolved into a more holistic celebration of all soldiers.

So it was pretty easy to spot a serviceperson. The standard dress code included a sleeveless jean jacket with a lot of patches. And these patches helped me determine who served. Each encounter took a little bit of maneuvering on my part to catch a glimpse of these patches, but once I was able to confirm service I extended my hand and offered a “thank you.” And the soldiers genuinely appreciated it, it seemed.

All was going swimmingly until the end of the day when the walk and the heat had taken its toll. We were exhausted and it was time to head back to the hotel. About a quarter of a mile from our car, we passed the State Department and I noticed a young man emerge from the building. I wasn’t quite sure if he was a soldier so I waited until he walked past us and turned to catch a glimpse of his knapsack. He’d fought in Afghanistan.

“Excuse me.”

He turned and I thanked him for his service… and then SALUTED HIM! Yes, I saluted him. And to make matters worse, it was a lazy salute partially because I was exhausted, partially because I am not, in fact, a soldier, and partially because midway through the salute, in that split second, it dawned on me that civilians weren’t actually supposed to salute soldiers.

I got a lukewarm-at-best “thanks.” And what I think was a semi-malocchio. I hope he recognized the sentiment not for my sake but because I genuinely wanted to thank him. I was a little bummed out but pulled it together so I can be ready for my next encounter, which looked like this…

Later that night in Arlington, after a wonderful dinner with my family, we were walking back to our car when we encountered two blind men. They were headed in a direction perpendicular to us, and I noticed it was directly in line with a tree box adjacent to the corner they seemed to want to get to. They ended up hitting the box.

And that’s when I leaped into action and ran towards them. I think because I have a propensity to help disabled, injured or elderly folks by physically reaching out, gently grabbing their arm, and steering them where the need to go, I instinctively reached out and grabbed one of the men by the arm.

“WHOA DUDE!”

He jumped back startled, his arms flailing and his white cane suddenly looking more like a bo staff. (I have no doubt he would’ve kicked my ass but that’s another story.) I’d forgotten he couldn’t see me, and I honestly didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to grab a blind person’s arm, even gently as an offer of help, and even if he is about to take a tumble into a tree. I guess it’s one of those rules: don’t pat a service dog, don’t salute if you are not a soldier, and don’t grab a blind person’s arm without asking….

vision-mate

ASK FIRST!

In my eagerness to help out, I scared the living shit out of him. I apologized and we moved on. I bore the brunt of jokes that evening, which was fine, but I learned something about myself, which is that I’m going to continue to look out for folks I can help… whether they want it or not!

 

World… it’s on!

Epilogue – I wrote this post a few weeks back, before the shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. No, not just for some but for everyone…

Thanks so much for reading!

If you liked it, please share on social media. Not only would it mean a lot to me, but more people will see and enjoy the post. Also, please subscribe to my blog to be alerted once new posts are published – this is a foolproof way to read my work and not be held at the mercy of Facebook’s wicked algorithms!

Poetry and the musical, “Hamilton”, again.

As part of this semester’s curriculum, my daughter and her class learned about poetry. The lesson(s) culminated in them writing individual poems, which would be displayed for parents on Poetry Night and subsequently on the bulletin board outside her classroom.

My wife and I missed Poetry night. We didn’t realize it was Poetry Night. And we also had no idea our daughter was working on a poem that was to be included in any type of exhibition. But thankfully and mercifully, it didn’t seem to be that big a deal, which was tacitly confirmed when there was nary a whine let alone a mention of missing it. A narrow escape.

I did get a recap the following morning from a buddy of mine. He had snapped some pictures to memorialize certain poems he “liked.” And by “like” I mean a show of shock and concern. He proceeded to share…

He read of dismemberment, sadness, loss and death. All extremely upliftings subjects. I was taken aback and felt a bit uneasy. I asked him, in his completely unprofessional opinion, if I had cause for such concern. He didn’t think so and I supposed that since these poems were put up for public consumption, enough folks who were professionally trained, read: TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS, had plenty of time to review and assess.

And then he mentioned that he saw my daughter’s poem.

“Really? I didn’t realize her work would be displayed let alone that there was a Poetry night.”

(I have an admission to make. I usually give informational emails sent from her school, no make that the subject lines of emails sent from her school, a quick glance and that’s about it. I don’t pay much attention to the content so a miss like this is common. I’d like to work on that a little bit more for next year.)

I was curious to see what she’d written and made my way to her classroom to review her poem hanging on the wall just outside the class. I found hers and read it. And I was pretty disappointed. Truly. But not because of the content or syntax of her poem –  it was well-written and celebratory – I was disappointed in the subject she chose to write about. She chose to write about soccer.

As it happens, I love (watching) soccer. (I prefer to call it “footie” to respect the nomenclature of those who created the sport and not blindly subscribe to American ethnocentricity.)

But I know she doesn’t.

marcus-rashford-manchester-united-premier-league_3434875

Marcus Rashford!

She certainly might like it. But definitely not to the extent of enthusiasm she showed in her poem. She’ll watch with me on television on occasion (but I think that’s more about watching television), but as she’s made it abundantly clear by refusing all our overtures to sign her up for a league, as well as sitting off to the side at soccer-themed birthday parties and lastly, asking out of soccer after school, she has absolutely no interest in playing. But you certainly wouldn’t know that from the poem.

I literally stood there shaking my head because I knew why she chose to write about “soccer.” She wanted to fit in. She wanted to be a part of something that’s very popular in her class even though it isn’t something she likes. And that did not make me happy.

One of the things that keeps me up at night is worrying that my daughter will not honor who she is as a person, and won’t be secure enough to pursue and speak openly about what she does like.

So far she’s been great. As I’ve written, my daughter is very secure in her individuality – https://worlditson.com/2016/01/19/dapper-dandy/ – and while it’s still at times tiring to remind folks she’s a girl because of her style, we’re so very proud of her and all the more happy to do so. But I really want her mettle to shine through in every aspect of her life. And in this case I felt that she was failing herself, and this disappointed me.

So I talked with her about it. It turned out to be more of a one way conversation – she opted against engaging. Which was fine.

I gave her my famous ice cream example. The one about some people loving vanilla. Some people loving chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan and on and on and on. It’s a perfect example because no child has ever said they loved all flavors equally. In fact, strawberry is always left over in all Neapolitan cartons (except mine)! And when asked, they’ll always throw their support around the flavor they do love best regardless of who’s eating what.  And it’s okay… to be different.

I think she understood. I’m hoping she did. But maybe it’s something to be learned along the way. And I need to let this be handled experientially. But it’s hard to back off in some cases.

I don’t think I mishandled this one though. I’m going to continue to support her and encourage her to speak her mind as long as it’s respectful of others.

Apropos of speaking one’s mind and having the confidence to dissent, I’m going to try a little sociological experiment. (Wringing of my hands… Mmmmwwwwahahahahahaha.) Let’s call it A/B testing of a piece I wrote.

I recently reviewed the play “Hamilton” in  “No, I did NOT love Hamilton” , and some folks didn’t like what I’d written. I received a bit of discordant feedback which I found amusing because the fact is we LIKED the show, just not as much as most folks. From some of the reactions one might have thought we absolutely hated it.

I think it started at the mere sight of the name “Hamilton” adjacent to any word with negative connotations, in this case, “NOT”, which drove people to read the post with a bias and get angry instantly. So let’s try this on for size:

I LIKED Hamilton!

My wife and I went to see the hit sensation, “Hamilton,” last night. I bought the tickets directly from the box office nine months ago as an anniversary gift to us. Face value. Yeah, boyyyyy!

And we liked it! So much so that while we usually grade Broadway shows on a harsh scale, Hamilton earned a 7 out of 10! Bravo!

We were particularly impressed with the melodies and lyrics, although we felt the sound system might have impaired our hearing a bit and made the words a little more challenging to decipher.

King George

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be back.

We absolutely LOVED King George. I think it goes without saying anyone who’s seen the show recognizes how masterfully played that role was, regardless of which actor they saw. Apparently, during its limited engagement, there’ve been three men to play the role. And from what I’ve read, all of them to equally fantastic reviews.

Had a great laugh watching Thomas Jefferson’s “What Did I Miss” performance. In fact, speaking of what did I miss, I think I had my head in the clouds during that lesson in American History and didn’t realize Jefferson was in France the whole time. Or maybe I did know that… at some point in my life.

My wife (not I!) cried during the extremely poignant scene where Philip Hamilton died from gun shot wounds as a result of losing a duel. (Sorry if I spoiled that for you. Actually, I’m not sorry… it’s American History.) Again, very well done.

With a nod to the brilliantly written and performed rap battle, one final moment that caught my eye was the curtain call the whole cast took… together, as opposed to individual bows. I’m not sure whether this happens a lot, but it’s something that stood out to me and that I appreciated.

Again, BRAVO to Hamilton. On a good day, and maybe if I listen to the soundtrack a bajillion more times, I might increase my score to ≈ 7.5/8. We’ll see. Until then, I recommend going to see it, but wait a couple of years to secure tickets at face value.

In the meantime, considering what an influential man Alexander Hamilton was in our great country’s history, I, who lives in HAMILTON Heights (get it?), fully recommend you go visit the Hamilton Grange National Memorial in St. Nicholas Park. The grange was Hamilton’s home for the last couple of years of his life. It’s a National Memorial, and the NATIONAL Government did a wonderful job preserving it and curating an exhibition to support it. I HIGHLY recommend going to see it.

EPILOGUE – Since I wrote both Hamilton pieces (the above had been sitting in my queue for weeks), I’ve tried to listen to the soundtrack on a couple of occasions (at the gym). And it’s simply not working for me. Neither my wife nor I ever play it in the apartment let alone talk about the idea of playing it in the apartment. Looks like it’s not going to happen for us and Hamilton. I very much appreciate that a great majority of people got so much joy and pleasure from the show, and again, I’m in awe of the idea and production of it, but it just didn’t work for me on that level.

And speaking of people getting a lot of joy and pleasure from content, the latest youtube craze, that woman in the Chewbacca mask, just didn’t do it for me, either. I’m thrilled it made so many people laugh and lightened up their days, and I’m happy this woman got her children’s college paid for, and it’s nice to see she should be able to profit from this both monetarily and “professionally,” but boy did I not get it. I think (and have been told) I have a great sense of humor but I don’t think I broke a smile once. I kept on waiting for someone to knock on her car window or bump her car or… SOMETHING! Anything other than to hear that laugh and see her play around with a kid’s toy. I just didn’t get it. But to each his or her own.

I’m going to enjoy my STRAWBERRY ice cream. And World… it’s on!

Thanks so much for reading!

If you liked it, please share on social media. This way more people will see and enjoy the post. Also, please subscribe to my blog to be alerted once new posts are published – this is a foolproof way to read my work and not be held at the mercy of Facebook’s wicked algorithm!