Archive for the ‘Help’ Category

Service of Getting a Leg Up

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Getting a leg up

Jared Kushner’s responsibilities in running the country continue to expand to the point that even some conservative talk show hosts, like Todd Schnitt on the WOR Radio morning show, question the background, aptitude, experience and competence of 45’s son- in-law to handle so much. During a recent program Schnitt noted that Kushner’s Dad had paid for his spot at Harvard.

This comment inspired today’s post. Kushner’s not alone.

I looked into the allegation. Daniel Golden corroborated it. Golden penned “The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance Into Harvard” on Mother Jones as well as the book “The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets left Outside the Gates.”

Lend a helping handIn Mother Jones Golden wrote: “My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their underachieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes 1 out of 20.)

“I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.”

I once knew a sculptor who said she felt guilty because she’d inherited a ton of money and wasn’t the typical starving artist and thought, because she could afford a fancy studio and had a fat marketing budget that this would slow her road to success.

Photo: bigartfest.com

Photo: bigartfest.com

I also benefited from a leg up and took good advantage. My sister was accepted at one of NYC’s most prestigious and tough-to-get-into private schools and because they loved sisters, daughters and granddaughters to attend, I profited. At five I could play canasta, checkers and dance the Charleston, also thanks to her, but doubt that this had anything to do with my admittance. Surely any tests I took—tests being my downfall—would not have been a key inside.

We haven’t yet seen what Kushner is capable of. Maybe we’ll be lucky. The sculptor was lazy and because she wasn’t hungry her inheritance was probably more of a hindrance than a help to her career as an artist. I work as hard as I do largely because of a dozen years at that school. As we often read in corporate reports, I “exceeded expectations,” [though in my experience, in corporate speak, that  could mean that I fell short. In this instance, I’m taking the words at face value.]

Having an advantage doesn’t always involve money as my example illustrates. Do you think getting a leg up is right or wrong? How would you change the system if it’s wrong? Can you share other examples?

Getting a leg up 2

Service of When Man Worsens the Impact of Nature & the Happy Ending

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Snow March 2017 at RR station 1 turned

It’s bad enough when you’re not on the spot to eradicate damage left by a hefty snowfall while the precipitation is fresh and easier to remove. That can’t be helped when you park your car at an outdoor lot by a railroad station and you’re not planning to return for a few days or more. Best you can do is hope for a few warm, sunny days to melt the damage if you’re lucky.

When the people hired to clear the snow make it harder for customers to extricate their cars from igloo-like conditions they cause by their lazy snow removal strategy, it’s enraging. None of the other lots on the two hour trip north looked anything like ours—see photos above and right–and we’re told that the last lot on the line a few miles farther north—Wassaic, N.Y.–wasn’t nearly as much of a mess.

There is plenty of space in this lot to dedicate an out-of-the-way areaSnow March 2017 at RR station 2 turned for a giant mound of snow which is standard practice in the northeast. The plows at the Dover Plains station clear the roadway by piling snow against the cars as they go past which makes it much easier and quicker for them and much worse for us.

We’d asked one company what they would charge to get us out and were told, “We’ll let you know when we’re done.” Translation: “Open your checkbook and we’ll see how much we’ll charge you.”

Snow Angels

Our friends Bob and John exit the train in Wassaic. Last Friday they took the early train upstate, extricated their car and drove down to free ours. This was a huge gift. Even if we had the tools, we don’t have the strength for this chore.

To make things worse, I’d jumped the gun in anticipation of spring and committed the mortal error of parking nose first. Not only did they remove the snow-turned to ice that was as high as the trunk and halfwayup the doors, [photo below, left] they had to clear the front, the sides, and where the wheels were to go and then they turned around the car so it was facing out. When a few hours later we walked out of the train and into the car we left the station in minutes singing their praises.

We have no control over nature but we can manage how we deal with it. Have you seen sloppy or spectacular cleanup jobs after storms? Can you share examples of friends who donate not only their muscle and know-how but their precious little free time to help others in a pinch?

The Before: Our car is in the middle

The Before: Our car is in the middle

After: Our car ready to roll.

After: Our car ready to roll.

Service of Making the Best

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Photo: news.bbc

Photo: news.bbc

Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out,” is credited to three-time All-American basketball player and coach John Wooden. I’ve chosen three examples to illustrate this great quote.

Patrick Donohue

Patrick Donohue

I first heard it at The Christopher Awards last week. If there is one person who took this quote to heart it’s Patrick Donohue who said it in accepting the James Keller Award, named after the organization’s founder. His daughter’s baby nurse shook the infant so violently that she destroyed 60 percent of the rear cortex of the child’s brain. That was 10 years ago. Since then Donohue founded a research initiative as well as the International Academy of Hope—iHope—the first school for kids with brain injuries like Sarah Jane’s and other brain-based disorders. It’s in NYC and he plans to expand to other US cities. 

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Carol Graham and Major General Mark Graham [retired] accepted Yochi Dreazan’s award. Dreazan was honored with a Christopher for his book, “Invisible Front.” The Grahams also illustrate the Wooden quote. The book is about how the Army treated the deaths of their sons. Jeff was hailed a hero after being killed while serving in Iraq and Kevin’s death, by suicide, was met with silence. Today the Grahams work to change the Army’s treatment of soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], to erase the stigma that surrounds those with mental illness and to remind active duty, National Guard, Reserve, veterans and family members that seeking help is a sign of strength. This summer General Graham and associates plan to convert two call centers into one which will be supported with private funding: Vetss4Warriors.com @ 855-838-8255 and Vet2Vet Talk @ 855-838-7481. The keys to their crisis prevention telephone program: Trained peers counsel and advise callers, provide referrals and follow up with them. 

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz is the third example in this post. A stranger to us, we attended his memorial concert at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College last Sunday. A passionate music lover with a special appreciation for Gustav Mahler, Liebowitz paid for the concert–Mahler’s Symphony No. 9–so that it was free to the mourners as well as to the community. He made the arrangements with Bard president Leon Botstein before he died. Tributes in the program described Liebowitz as “modest,” “kind,” “direct,” “generous,” “loyal,” “disarmingly unpretentious,” “delightful,” and “warm.” But he wasn’t always successful. This Bard board member went bankrupt when his first business failed. His New Jersey egg farm thrived until supermarket chains put him out of business. He earned his fortune in his second career as a Florida real estate developer.

Botstein wrote in the program, “Murray Liebowitz was a true gentleman. He was a man who enjoyed enormous success in business but one who never let success in life go to his head. We live in an age where money and wealth appear to be valued above all other achievements. They stand uncontested as the proper measure of excellence. To be rich, it seems, means that one might actually be superior to others. This corrosive calculus is one in which Murray never believed. He was without arrogance.”

Many face personal tragedy, devastating business reversals—and even overwhelming success—and make the best of the way things work out. Can you share additional examples?

making the best of bad situation 1

Service of Hit and Run

Monday, August 11th, 2014

falling down

A good friend raised my goose bumps when she told me two men deep in conversation ran into her on Lexington Avenue near Grand Central Station three months ago, knocking her to the ground. They kept on walking, never looking back. Another man and a policeman helped her up and checked that she was alright. She is.

A few weeks ago, inside the station, a man slammed into me with such force that he threw me into the path of another man and I bumped into him. I apologized, he looked at me as though I had nerve and the first person, long gone, never said a word.

danger of falling down stairsAnother friend reached her upstate New York stop one Friday night on a commuter train with a dog that was so anxious to hit the grass she dragged her down the stairs so she fell. Did the passenger behind her stop to help her up? Nope. He hopped over her as though she was a puddle and dashed off to the parking lot.

Years ago I flew in the air and then to the ground on a subway platform as I walked from a local to an express train. The young man who crashed into me because he was running on the platform at top speed was mortified, apologetic, helped me up, and kept asking me if I was OK as I hobbled into the second subway.

So what’s going on today?

helping someone upI’ve lived in this city most of my life. I had a kind of antenna that guided me through crowds, across busy streets and on swarming sidewalks with zero contact most of the time. Is the city more crowded now? Are there no more unwritten rules of navigation?  Wherever we live are we so deadened to what’s going on around us we can cause injury and not even realize it?

child helping up another

 

Service of Hunger

Monday, June 10th, 2013

pie eating contest

Joey Chestnut ate 68 hotdogs at Nathan’s July 4th 2012 contest and over the June 1 weekend this year, he scarfed down 25 half pastrami sandwiches, both in 10 minutes. The latter contest was to celebrate the Katz’s Deli 125th anniversary at the World Pastrami Eating Championship. Chestnut won both competitions.

In films about life in small-town America we’ve seen countless pie eating contests at charming country fairs. Paul Newman’s character, Luke Jackson, memorably ate 50 eggs on a dare in “Cool Hand Luke.”

land of plentyWe’ve always thought we were the land of plenty and these contests seemed like harmless fun. Yet according to nokidhungry.org, 16 million children in this country “don’t get the food they need.”

I read about Patty Stonesifer in Maureen Dowd’s opinion piece, “She’s Getting Her Boots Dirty,” June 2 in The New York Times. Dowd wrote about the executive whose new job is directing Martha’s Table, an organization in Washington DC that provides those in need with food, among other things.

Children eating“After serving as the highest-ranking woman at Microsoft, Stonesifer helped Bill and Melinda Gates start their philanthropy in an office above a Seattle-area pizza parlor in 1997,” wrote Dowd. Stonesifer, who works for free now as she did for the largest charity in the world, explains that Bill Gates taught her to think big. “So here, instead of simply figuring out how to move from providing 60,000 meals a month to 66,000, I want to think about how to end child hunger in D.C,” Dowd quoted her as saying.

About this philanthropist Dowd reported: “Her 89-year-old mother started a Bread for the World chapter in her retirement community in Indianapolis and, until just recently, continued to do volunteer work for St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity.”

She meets her clients and observes, as Dowd reports: “ ‘These folks are just waiting for a bag of food,’ Stonesifer marvels as she looks over the mound of bags filled with vegetables and fruit, cereal and soup. ‘They come early because they believe there won’t be enough. It looks like the Depression, this long line. And they’re not sitting on their butts, waiting for a handout. They’re scrambling to meet their basic needs.’”

I don’t believe that Katz’s or Nathans mean any harm or hurt by conducting these traditional American events because if I did, I wouldn’t identify them. Before its contest, Katz’s, that sells 20 thousand pounds of meat a week according to CBS NY, gave a fundraiser/Shabbat dinner to benefit the Henry Street Settlement, a charity in its neighborhood.

However, I question the validity and symbolism of food contests these days with so many millions of starving people here. The marketing/PR minds I know, if charged with the task, could design any number of other wonderful ways to celebrate and create new traditions for food businesses like these as well as for country fairs, at least until hunger is a memory and ours is, once again, a land of plenty. What do you think?

 Corn field

Service of Snow

Monday, January 31st, 2011

snowman

Snow’s been in the news: There’s far too much of it in and around New York–more expected–and not a flake in China where it’s needed to assuage a drought.

soupSnow brings income to folks working snowplows and shovels. Sanitation workers in city and country must be celebrating their overtime paychecks. Boot, sand and salt sales are soaring and I saw a growing line of 18 waiting for soup at Hale & Hearty in the basement of Grand Central. There were countless other  super food choices-great pizza, fabulous hot dogs and brisket sandwiches–but snow inspires hot soup cravings.

Meanwhile a client bemoans the weather’s affect on retail sales, restaurants are empty and timing couldn’t be worse for Restaurant Week in New York–through February 6-where participating eateries charge $24.07 and $35 for lunch and dinner, respectively. [Can’t figure out the reason for seven cents. Why not $20.11 and cut down portions?]

I buy newspapers from a man who sits on the sidewalk on Lexington Avenue and 44th Street. I asked him how he’s doing. The storms and frigid temperatures have severely affected his monthly take. He nevertheless smiled at me and wished me a good weekend. I’d like to bottle his spirit.

shovelGood Samaritans are busy: Snow seems to bring out the best in people. One helped us out of a bad spot and wouldn’t take anything but our heartfelt thanks. We park our car outdoors at a railroad station. Snowplows had piled over 20 inches of frozen stuff at the back of our car and there was another 30 inches in front. We were using our gloved hands and a foot-long brush with plastic ice chipper to clear the car windows when this angel jumped out of his car offering to shovel us out. Even with this help, it took a while to free the vehicle. Cat litter we’d purposely left in the trunk provided essential traction for our spinning wheels. There was ice under the snow. The Samaritan didn’t leave until the car was on a clear road and the remaining snow removal was viable with our limited equipment. He said, “I hope someone will help me one day when I need it,” and drove off.

In another instance, a friend asked me for gift ideas for her Dad’s neighbors, a family with three young children. Her Dad lives alone in a house on Long Island which has been severely and consistently hit by December and January’s mega storms. His neighbors have routinely cleaned his driveway with their snow blower and if they’ve hired someone with more powerful equipment, they send the plow over to his driveway and pay for the service. They never ask; they just do it.

Do you have any snow-related thoughts and tales to share?

christmas2010-018

Service of Help from Obvious Places

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

yardwork

In a Wall Street Journal article, “In Jane Austen 2.0, the Heroines and Heroes Friend Each Other,” Arden Dale and Mary Pilon write about 19 year old Ben Kemper, a Jane Austen fan/member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, who planned to dress up in period clothes for the annual Austen birthday tea in Boise, Idaho.

janeaustenAs interesting to me as the Austen craze among mostly young women that the article describes is Kemper’s proposed solution to fulfill his dress up plans: “The outfit will be ‘the whole shebang’ says Mr. Kemper, who hopes to scare up some yard work so he can pay for the new threads,” wrote Dale and Pilon.

With the exception of babysitting which seems to be a thriving business, [older teens with driver’s licenses can get $12/hour while tweens with parents nearby $3-ish per hour according to about.com] it’s been eons since I’ve seen or heard of youngsters doing yard work or odd jobs or asking for same.

At least I don’t see young Americans doing yard work in our upstate town. Wonder if they are applying themselves to career-enhancing internships? Have all figured out how to pay the pocketbook-boggling college tuition fees ranging from $20,000 to almost $60,000/year by lining up scholarships or did they all land with rich parents and do they have transportation to get them to and from higher-paying KP or order-taking jobs at MacDonald’s or Burger King?

kidspaintingI’m not convinced that youngsters are paid more at these places then at home. My mom hired a sister and brother team to paint her apartment. These college students were careful with her and her furniture, did a spectacular and clean job and she was happy to pay them a higher-than-average wage for their attention-to-detail and to her needs. They came when they said they would and finished on time. What normally is a disruptive and horrible experience turned out to be kind of fun as she also enjoyed the kids’ company!

Do you think Kemper turned to such work because he’s of another period, the 19th century, or because he lives in a part of the country where normal things still happen? How long has it been since you’ve hired or heard of a youngster doing crucial odd jobs for you or for anyone at home?

 kidschores

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