I Can See!

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.  For indeed that’s all who ever have.”  — Margaret Mead

A few years ago, Donna and I were on a tour of Vietnam. Always on the scout for autograph and manuscript material, we stopped in antique shop after “old stuff” shop.  We found a place called “54 Traditions” in Hanoi. The shop is run by Dr. Mark Rapoport — an American pediatrician who served in Vietnam during the War.   He opened 54 Traditions in 2001 stocking it with his collection of textiles, jewelry, art and tools from Vietnam.   I bought a few nice goodies. But what made an impression was Mark.

During the War as a medical intern, he worked in a hospital. While visiting an outlying village, a very old woman was unable to see something on a piece of paper. He handed her his reading glasses.  Tears filled her eyes.  She could see.  Clearly.  Mark was so touched by the experience that he gave the woman his glasses.  She said she could now embroider again. 

Mark went out and bought a few extra pair of reading glasses.  And gave them away to others who could not read or see “close up.”  Since then he has given away thousands of reading glasses (1.5x – 2.0x).   And he helped inspire the Reading Glass Project — http://www.readingglassproject.org an organization dedicated to providing glasses to those in developing countries who are dealing with age-related presbyopia (vision which impedes reading, threading a needle or doing visually-detailed tasks).

The Reading Glass Project sells glasses for $2.00 (a lot cheaper than at the pharmacy).  But they urge us – when we visit developing countries – to bring along some reading glasses to give to those without.  The motto of this group is
“Be more than a tourist.  Be a hero.”    




The Cherry Juice Gang

My collective family goes through about 30 gallons of cherry juice a week. Well almost. . . . My wife, daughter and granddaughters have tart cherry juice (organic, pure) for every meal and often in between. There is never a need to ask Eve or Elin “what would you like to drink.” The answer is an enthusiastic “CHERRY JUICE!”

Donna drinks hers with sparkling water.  Lauren often straight up.   And the girls – usually half and half – with water.  I have become a cherry juice devotee — having my cherry juice “neat.” 

Cherry juice is loaded with antioxidants.  It is more than just “healthy.”  Tart cherry juice is an anti-inflammatory.  A 2012 study showed that people who drank cherry juice twice a day for 21 days experienced a reduction of the pain normally felt from osteoarthritis.  A Louisiana State University study found that those who drank tart cherry juice twice a day had 84 minutes more sleep than those who did not (or drank a placebo).  Cherry juice is rich in melatonin (the sleep hormone) and tryptophan (the amino acid which creates more melatonin).  Livestrong.com suggests that cherry juice fights heart disease, offers cancer protection and protects against muscle damage. 

When we buy tart cherry juice, its usually Knudsen’s or Lakewood.  And it’s always organic.  It’s a natural remedy with literally no downside — and only upside potential.  I still like the occasional glass of red wine.  Or two.  But I am now on the cherry juice bandwagon.  Giddyap!

The Library

In my post of February 10, 2013, I talked about a visit to Boca Grande, Florida. Wonderful. Memorable time.    And I alluded to the Boca Grande Public Library. 

Fast backwards about 32 years ago. Donna, Lauren and I were in Boca Grande with our dear friends Diane, Dave and Dave Jr.  Dave said “want to go check out the library?”  And we did.  The Johann Fust Community Library.  Nice library.  Lotsa books.  In the back on the far right, there was a cage of sorts.  A fenced area.  And a locked fence door.  I walked back and peered in.  Oh my socks and shoes

In that cage, on the shelves, I recognized books that were hundreds of years old.  I began to perspire. The librarian Pansy walked over.  “Can I help you?”  “Ummm. . . may I look in there (pointing)?”  “You’re in interested in that?”  Mmmmm. . . sure.   She opened the lock and let me in.  And I drooled. . . . .  Dozens of first editions (e.g. Origin of the Species – 1859) and books dating to the 1500’s.  Without appearing too enthused, I casually asked “what are you going to do with these books?”  Pansy folded her arms, shook her head and said “I just don’t know.”  Now I am not as dumb as I look so I offered – “you . . . ummm . . . want to sell them?”  And she looked at me incredulously “you would want to buy them?”  And I said yes.   And I did.   Suitcases and boxes full of rare books donated years before by Charles Goodspeed of Boston’s famed rare book shop.  All brought home.  And quickly deaccessed.   

It was a memorable “score.”  Like buying the Rock Island Railroad archives (5/15/14) and finding the amazing cemetery of books  (8/24/14).  I’ve always liked libraries. . . .   

Soooo, Wise Guy. . . .

In my post on the book Ghettoside, I suggested that caring folks with pure hearts and sound minds could make inroads into poverty — and the terrible disease of gang violence in black communities — if not hampered by politics, social agenda and political correctness.  The blight of poverty is complicated — affected by a constellation of factors – both inside and outside these communities.   

Over the last few weeks, I have compiled a list of causes of poverty — offered with a pure heart and (reasonably) sound mind:  educational shortcomings; family dynamics (72% of black children are born out of wedlock) — resulting in single parent homes; young mothers who have trouble “parenting” — which triggers the 30 million word gap (see post of 9/4/15); a lack of positive role models — which helps inspire gangs; lead poisoning; mental illness; unemployment/underemployment; a culture of entitlement; resignation; political convenience; unspeakable violence on television, in movies, video games and music — which inspires a “culture” of violence — resulting in post traumatic stress; prohibitions against the teaching of values, discipline, direction and competition; cultural malaise; nutrition; obesity; drugs; low income; symmetrical, poverty-stricken neighborhoods; a lack of accountability; demonization of police by groups like Black Lives Matter (though usually not by folks who live in the neighborhoods).  “Racism” is a factor as well though the term is often too casually used for political purpose.

And I’m sure there are other reasons.  Where am I going wrong?  What can we do?    

Batteries I have known

In my post of April 26, 2014, I opined that it is better to be a thermostat than a thermometer.  It is better to be in control.  In helping, healing, comforting and improving the human condition.  Rather than to sit back and passively observe the world going on around you.  The small things we do for others may mean nothing to us.  But they may mean everything to someone else.  Ahhh. . . to be a thermostat. . . . 

Ever notice when you buy batteries for a flashlight.  The dry cell batteries start out strong.  Bright.  Over time they get dimmer.  And dimmer.  And gradually flicker out.  Lithium cell batteries on the other hand pour out 100% power until – like a light switch – they go out.  Most of the folks I know are thermostats.  Powered by lithium cells.  They are productive, active and moving.  All of the time.  Regardless of age.  Pouring out energy, activity and contribution.      

Cemeteries are full of unused potential and squandered talent.  Imagine if each plot had a light shining above reflecting the occupant’s productive time on earth.  How many would be crisp beams of lithium cell brightness.  How many fading dry cell lights.  How many would be dark.


Death was bad enough. The death of a child, unbearable. But the murder of a child? There was nothing worse.”

The hurt was too great for crying—tears belonged to a realm of earthly physics, but the murder of her son had transcended the coordinates of her world.”

Jill Leovy nailed it in her classic work Ghettoside:  A True Story of Murder in America.  This bestseller deals with the poisoned soul of gang violence which is endemic to inner city, poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Los Angeles.  She targets the horrific black-on-black murder rate that soars in these communities (witness Chicago with its thousands of victims of gang violence – the vast majority – black).  I don’t need to “review” the book.  Suffice to say I recommend you read it.  

To me, the big question is what do we do about this blight of violence?  One political party profits from poverty — because the poor are a voting block.  The other political party is accused of coming up with only tough love solutions.   And – like certain other issues today – no one is allowed to discuss the root causes of poverty lest they be accused of racism or bigotry.  So it goes on.  And gets worse.  Wouldn’t it be great if caring folks with pure hearts and sound minds could deal with problems in America unencumbered by politics, social agenda and political correctness?  Nahhh.   That’s way too much to ask. . . .        

So this Little Old Lady

So this little old lady is working in a hardware store. She is dusting and cleaning and fussing. In walks a large workman wearing bib overalls and high-top boots.
She smiles “Can I help you?”
Lady, I need to buy a file.”
She puts her hands together “Oh my – we have all sorts of files.” She turns and points to the array of tools. We have these.  And these.  And these. . . . .”
I really need a bastard file,” he says.
The old woman puts her hand to her mouth and runs to the manager. She glares sternly “that man used a bad word in front of me.  He said he wanted a ‘bastard’ file.”
The manager smiled and said “it’s not a bad word. There are wood files and metal files and a ‘bastard’ file is actually a type of file for metalworking (this is true). Why not go back and sell him the file.”
So she did.

A few days later another big workman came in. He said “Ma’am, I need a file.”
She smiled. “Would you like this bastard here?”
“No” he thought. “I’ll take that SOB* over there. . . . ”                             

*This term is subject to personal preference.