Friday, November 26, 2004

Teaching a Man to Fish


If you've ever been in the pages of my email address book, you've likely already read this, but I want to take a minute to encourage anyone who might happen by here to check out

This organization provides one-time grants to WORKING people derailed by unexpected expenses like major car repairs, unexpected need for child care, illness, etc. The key factor in determining eligibility for a grant is that this one time gift will allow a household to remain (or become) self-sufficient where that might otherwise have been impossible.

The average grant from Modest Needs is only $180, but allows the recipient to obtain transportation, equipment, child care, etc. necessary to begin or continue to work. The fact that $180 can make that difference means that if you spread this message to seventeen of your friends and relatives, and each of you sends this organization a mere TEN DOLLARS, you will have single-handedly changed the course of a family's life.

It might be hard to imagine that $180 could be life altering--but aren't we LUCKY that it's hard to imagine that? In today's economy, a job lost due to loss of transportation or child care might not be replaced for months...months during which that family will be forced to subsist on public assistance. That lowered standard of living will make it even more difficult to find alternate employment, since the family will likely be unable to maintain telephone service, obtain substitute transportation, etc. In the end, the lack of that one week's child care payment or a relatively minor car repair can mean months of unemployment, the start of a vicious cycle that's difficult or impossible to break, AND thousands of your tax dollars being paid out to support someone who was willing and able to support herself.

If you've been reading the other entries here, you know how I've been thinking about ripples lately. Think about the ripples keeping just one family self-sufficient will set in motion...better lives for the adults and hope and better health and a positive work ethic for the children...and that's before we even begin to consider the ripples they might themselves set in motion, one day, because of that opportunity.

17 emails and $10 can set those ripples in motion. Don't you think it's worth it?

(if you choose to make a contribution, or to solicit your friends and family, please post a comment here and let me know...I love to watch those ripples)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Giving Thanks to a Stranger

RockStories: "t"

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday, and taking a moment to count the blessings in my life always reminds me of how richly rewarded I've been. It isn't something, though, that I usually do in public. This post is something that, under other circumstances, I would never write in a public place. All efforts to locate--or even identify--the person it's directed to, though, have been in vain, so on the eve of Thanksgiving I've decided to send these particular thanks out into the universe and hope that somehow, someday, they find their way into the hands of the young doctor who was interning in the maternity ward at Jackson Park Hospital on the night of June 4, 1966.

The story of the night I was born probably isn't an unusual one in most ways. My mother, 21 years old and pregnant with her first child, appeared at the hospital on her due date. A jaded nurse told her that being due didn't necessarily mean the baby was coming, and largely dismissed her complaints. My mother's doctor was advised that he had plenty of time to go out to dinner before I made my way into the world. This was, remember, in the days long before cell phones and pagers.

The doctor was a warm, wonderful, conscientous man who cared for my family for decades without a glitch, but he took the nurse at her word and went out to dinner. Minutes later, my mother said that she had to go to the bathroom and the nurse lost her lackadaisical outlook. When the intern entered the room she commanded, "Try to hold her back until her doctor gets here!"

In the cold light of 2004, of course, every layperson knows what happens when a baby is deprived of oxygen in those critical moments. That intern knew it, too, whatever the nurse had said to him...he turned to my mother and said simply, "Push."

As I grow older, I find myself thinking more and more about the ripples we cause in the world and never even notice. I think about the differences I've been able to make, in volunteer work, in my law practice, with the words I've written and the students I've worked with, and the way that those contributions might carry forward, the gifts that others might one day pass along because of some small thing that I gave to them. And lately, I've been thinking about that doctor, and how all of those ripples can be traced back to him, how a moment or two of hesitation on his part would have robbed me of the gifts of language and analytical insights that have defined my life.

And so, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I want this year to give thanks to a young man who had the courage and the confidence to trust his own judgment when it counted, 38 years ago. I want him to know--and everyone who has ever made a split-second decision that made a difference and then simply gone with his life to know--that the ripples go on forever.