Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

Service of Essential Answers: The Christopher Award Winners Have Some

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

From Left Katie Sullivan, Patti Ann McDonald, Conor McDonald

I’ve asked the question in many posts over the last nine years of this blog: How do people get over feelings of adversity, anger, frustration, helplessness and loss? Some of the answers were peppered throughout the room this Tuesday at the 68th annual Christopher Awards by the authors, writers, producers, directors, illustrators and special award winners honored.

Was it a gloomy occasion? No. Joy, hope, support and love stared pain, disappointment and loss in the face. It truly was a stunning affair.

Nell & Matt Weber with baby Rose

One of the winners for his book “Operating on Faith,” Matt Weber, brought newborn Rose and wife Nell from Boston to celebrate while Patti Ann McDonald, widow of NYPD Detective Steven McDonald who died in January, brought her son Conor. She was given the Christopher Leadership Award. Matt’s book tells with humor how Nell helped him through a life-threatening illness months into their marriage. Conor and his girlfriend Katie Sullivan are supporting Patti Ann who is suffering with the loss of her husband. From the time he was shot and paralyzed in 1986, Detective McDonald credited Patti Ann with giving him the will to live.

Caron Levis’s book for children, “Ida, Always,” helps young ones deal with loss through a story about two polar bears who lived in the Central Park zoo. The HBO documentary “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing,” provided an intimate look at the lives of those who lost limbs in the Boston terror attack, the physical and emotional battles they faced in the recovery process, and their unyielding efforts to reclaim their lives.

From left authors Joan Bauer, Kobi Yamada, Mike Massimino, Susan Hood, Susan Wern Comport & Caron Levis

Kathy Izard’s book, “The Hundred Story Home,” shares her journey from award-winning graphic designer to soup kitchen volunteer to developer of housing for chronically homeless men and women.

Dr. Chuck Dietzen

Mary Ellen Robinson, The Christophers and Dr. Chuck Dietzen

won two awards: The James Keller Award, named after The Christophers’ founder, recognizes individuals who are positively shaping the lives of children. He also won for his book “Pint Sized Prophets: Inspirational Moments that Taught Me We Are All Born to be Healers.” Dr. Chuck, as he likes to be called, is a pediatric rehabilitation doctor. He founded Timmy Global Health, which enlists students and medical volunteers in its mission to bring healthcare to those in need around the world. “We weren’t all born to be doctors and nurses, but we were all born to be healers,” he said. He arrived at the awards fresh from a trip to China.

This is just a sample. There were 22 winning feature films, TV/Cable programs, and books for adults and young people honored this year.

The ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”— guides The Christophers’ publishing, radio and awards programs. The 72 year old organization has lived through plenty of periods of extraordinary rancor and divisiveness and it never loses hope. Have you read books or seen films or TV/Cable programs that fit this saying?

Marathon HBO producers, writers from Left Jameka Autry, Jake Abraham, a guest, Nancy Abraham and the Christophers’ Tony Rossi

Service of Sayings

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016


Ernie Anastos and Kathie Lee Gifford

Ernie Anastos and Kathie Lee Gifford

Hardly a month goes by without at least one email filled with beaux mots or insightful sayings. I enjoy most and wish that I could create some worth repeating.

I heard a few last Thursday spoken by presenters and winners at the 67th annual Christopher Awards.  I’ve written here about different aspects of the awards over the years. I’ve been lucky to help promote them. The awards are presented to authors and illustrators as well as film, TV and Cable writers, producers and directors whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” The Christophers, rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity, is guided by the ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” which explains the gracious, uplifting atmosphere at the Awards.

Back to the sayings. One was “a tsunami in cultural change,” a powerful collection of words to describe the climate in which the series “When Calls the Heart,” [Sunday night on the Hallmark Channel], has nevertheless been successful—renewed for the fourth year and a winner of the Christopher Spirit Award. In the midst of the storm of self-centeredness, finger-pointing and negativity in much of society, this show, for family members to enjoy together, tells “universal stories with themes like forgiveness, redemption, sacrifice, courage, and banding together to help one another,” said Brian Bird, executive producer who also spoke the words above. “The characters on our show reflect those virtues and hopefully make a lasting impression on our viewers.”

As a presenter Kathie Lee Gifford, Today Show co-host, referred to “Bringing shalom to chaos.” In referencing “shalom,” she said she meant the word in its original definition–a sense of well-being and harmony–not the now familiar greeting.


Joseph Kim, author, "Under the Same Sky"

Joseph Kim, author, “Under the Same Sky”

Many of the stories told by winners do just this. One example is the story of Bard student and author Joseph Kim [photo right]. Today he looks and sounds like most college students, focusing, for instance, on how he’ll cover next semester’s tuition and board. But in his book, “Under the Same Sky,” you learn that his road to college was far from routine. Kim documented his journey from starvation and homelessness–his mother and sister escaped to China leaving him behind in North Korea. His new life here was made possible by activists and Christian missionaries. He hopes, some day, to find his sister–hence the book’s title.

In his book for children six years old and up, “Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton,” Don Tate writes about a slave who taught himself to read and became the first southern African American man to be published. Tate’s goal was to present the topic of slavery as more than just an uncomfortable word and to demonstrate the poet’s relevance in children’s lives today. Too many kids graduate from high school functionally illiterate. Tate’s publisher, Margaret Quinlin, [photo below], Peachtree Publishers, accepted the award for him.

Ernie Anastos, honored with the Christopher Lifetime Achievement Award, quoted a Greek saying that he “had a wish to die young but as late in life as possible.” This remarkable newscaster has been at it nonstop since he worked at a radio station at 16. He shared his frustration when he says, “Good evening,” to his audiences–he’s the news anchor at 6 pm on Fox 5–only to proceed to prove it’s not, which is why he focuses on positive news. He said you are measured not by what you’ve learned but by what you’ve taught.

The Greek saying reminded me of the bravery of the subjects of some of the winning books who, while young, sacrificed self for cause. Two young Jewish women in Meg Wiviott’s book for young adults, “Paper Hearts,” risk death in Auschwitz by creating a forbidden birthday card. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills lost all his limbs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. He fought through painful rehabilitation and today lives a full life as husband, father and veterans advocate. His story is in the book “Tough As They Come.”

Can you name other initiatives that emphasize the positive? Do you have favorite sayings?

Jim Wiviott, author Meg Wiviott and publisher Margaret Quinlan, Peachtree Publishers

Jim Wiviott, author Meg Wiviott and publisher Margaret Quinlan, Peachtree Publishers


Service of Hope: Art and Flowers

Monday, August 17th, 2015


Creatures left these perennials alone this year.

Creatures left these perennials alone this year.

I was full of righteous indignation when I first read Sonja Sharp’s Wall Street Journal article, “‘Summer Streets’ Art Swiped Again.” As the title hints at, for the second year, people stole art that was made into signs. The project was commissioned by the Department of Transportation [DOT]. 

Not a blossom in sight.

Not a blossom in sight.

A similar thing happens to me though the perpetrators are animal, not human. I returned to our house on Friday night to discover barren sticks where zinnias and dahlias once thrived. Where were the flowers that I’d patiently deadheaded, fed with Milorganite that has a smell repellant to deer [and me], and watered? Answer: In some wild creature’s stomach. Something like this happens every year. More later.

Sharp wrote about what she described as “A series of cheeky street signs bolted high above Manhattan intersections” commissioned by the DOT to enhance areas of the city throughout August. Starting with 30, some installed seven feet high, she reported that there were only a handful a week after they were installed. “’It’s the nature of signs in public,’ artist Stephen Powers said upon learning that his vinyl-on-aluminum ’emotional wayfinding’ series had apparently been dismantled by sticky-fingered fans. ‘They print a lot of ‘Stop’ signs and they print a lot of ‘One Way’ signs because they tend to walk.’”

Summer Streets 2015Reading about the stolen signs my kneejerk reaction was, “With so much that needs attention, what the dickens is the DOT doing spending resources and staff time on a project involving cool signs that just scream to be taken and always are?” And “Why hang some so high that few would notice them in the first place?”

Adding insult to injury, the first sentence in DOT’s “About” section reads: “DOT’s mission is to provide for the safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of people and goods in the City of New York and to maintain and enhance the transportation infrastructure crucial to the economic vitality and quality of life of our primary customers, City residents.”

Sharp quoted a DOT press release: “These signs will surprise and delight passersby offering them clever food for thought.” So what does this have to do with the mission?

Later she added about the artistic street signs: “’The miracle of it is they’ll live forever on Instagram,’ Mr. Powers said of his work, adding, ‘That’s kind of where art lives now.’”

So what about my flowers? I have a perennial garden that survived relatively unscathed this year [photo at top] so I’m lucky. Once a pond dweller rodent broke every stem and had the nerve not to eat the blossoms of black eyed Susan’s, Echinacea, St. John’s Wort and other flowers I look forward to seeing and picking. Other summers, deer decapitated every colorful top leaving a lozenge-shaped garden of tall green leaves and beaver felled a precious cherry tree we’d planted and nurtured for years.  Like the DOT, I have a list of repairs to which I should direct money and time yet I spend it on flowers.

My husband is blessedly understanding and calm about the annual financial and floral devastation. About the latter, he says, “It’s nature.”  Isn’t the DOT working with similar trust and anticipation?

Do you also think these instances are analogous? Do you repeatedly toss money at hopeless causes?


A day after I took this photo the orange zinnias, like the dahlias in the middle, were also gone.

A day after I took this photo the orange zinnias, like the dahlias in the middle, were also gone.

Service of Looking on the Bright Side

Monday, March 10th, 2014


When things aren’t going my way I try to look for the bright side—there’s so often a silver lining if not for me, then for someone. It helps divert a train of thought headed towards gloom.

Lighten Up

Feeling exhausted because you lost an hour due to the Daylight Savings time change? Some will be grateful to leave work in daylight.

Park It

Those who park on city streets on the east coast must celebrate this difficult winter. They’ve enjoyed weeks of forgiveness from alternate side of the street parking rules.Alternate side of the street parking

I did this for only a short time years ago. What a rat race it was zipping out early to grab a spot and sitting in the car until 8 a.m. adding to morning chores of walking the dog and getting dressed so as to arrive at work on time. And on certain evenings there was another car deadline to add to all those at the office which involved a heart-in-throat dash back home to move the car and grab a good spot only to begin again the next day.

Quiet Mice

Speaking of rodents—as in rat races–or more precisely, mice, homes and apartments prone to these pesky mammals have benefited from the cold. I don’t know where they’ve gone but we’ve seen evidence of almost none this winter. That meant a huge savings on mousetraps. I’m chicken so we use an expensive trap. I’ve saved literally $100s in addition to not having to deal with them which is best of all.

What’s in a Name?

Idina MenzelAnyone watching the Oscars last week knows that John Travolta’s mispronunciation of singer Idina Menzel’s name—Adele Dazeem is what he called her–gave her far more traction than had he mouthed her name correctly in introducing her [photo left] and her song. I’m sure Travolta wished that people had done what the song’s title suggests: “Let it Go.” From Sunday night through the next day his faux pas was repeated far and wide on traditional and social media.

You are Cordially Invited

I love having something fun to look forward to. We’re invited to a St. Patrick’s party with appropriate food at the home of great friends whose other guests are consistently lovely too. Can’t wait!

I Can’t Believe I Did That

Pope Francis, Photo: Wikimedia.orgWhen you can’t forgive yourself for a dastardly act or mistake, think of Pope Francis who admitted to taking a cross from the open casket of his dead confessor. The cross was on the priest’s rosary. Pope Francis kept it in his pocket until his dress changed to wearing a cassock so now he hangs it from a pouch underneath it. He reaches for it when “a bad thought comes to my mind about someone,” Nicole Winfield wrote in “Pope confesses he stole his late confessor’s cross in hopes of having half as much mercy” that I read in her Associated Press story on the Minneapolis Star Tribune website.

If things aren’t dire or excessively bleak–in which case little but time helps—does thinking of silver linings help you emerge from the blues?

lit candle

Service of Lit Candles

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

One candle

Disasters, disease, misfortune, war, rampant selfishness and news of criminals in all industries are enough to turn the most passionate optimist into a cynic. It’s easy to get stuck in negativity and hopelessness. Fortunately there are talented, inspired people who tirelessly buck the deluge. Organizations such as The Christophers and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra are two.

64th Annual Christopher AwardsI’ve written several times about The Christophers–I help promote its annual awards about this time of year. If at 5 a.m. you’re tuned to 710 WOR AM radio in NYC you hear Tony Rossi, the organization’s director of communications, share the Christopher Minute he writes. In addition to these segments, that also play around the country, and the awards, the charity’s publishing and leadership programs are inspired by the ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

This year 19 feature films, TV/Cable programs, and books for adults and young people won Christopher Awards. “The creative forces behind the projects we’re honoring are improving our culture by telling stories that awaken hope instead of despair, acknowledge the necessity of sacrifice in the service of a greater good,” said Rossi.


From the left are: Arthur Fleischmann, “Carly’s Voice,” Mary Ellen Robinson, vice president/COO, The Christophers, Colleen Carroll Campbell, “My Sisters the Saints,” and Nicole Lataif, “Forever You: A Book About Your Soul and Body.” Photo Credit: Paul Schneck.

From the left are: Arthur Fleischmann, “Carly’s Voice,” Mary Ellen Robinson, vice president/COO, The Christophers, Colleen Carroll Campbell, “My Sisters the Saints,” and Nicole Lataif, “Forever You: A Book About Your Soul and Body.” Photo Credit: Paul Schneck.

The books for children tackled sophisticated, tough, grownup subjects. In “Forever You: A Book About Your Soul and Body,”  (Pauline Books and Media), Nicole Lataif tells children as young as pre Kindergarten what it means to be fully human and about building character. Jo S. Kittinger describes the loss and shock so many children face when they have to move to unsavory living quarters when their family has lost their home or a parent a job. In “House on Dirty-Third Street,” (Peachtree Publishers), the community helps the child and her mother rebuild. In another book a bullied fifth grader with a facial deformity learns to appreciate the gifts he brings to the world in R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder,” (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children’s Books). Palacio called it a “meditation on kindness.”

Three of the books in the adult category address autism, Alzheimer’s and drug abuse. “Carly’s Voice,” (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster), by Arthur Fleischmann and his autistic daughter Carly reveals their family’s astonishing journey from believing Carly would never develop intellectually beyond the abilities of a small child to her current status as a smart, perceptive and funny high school student. 

Eric Blehm shares the troubled life and heroic death of Navy SEAL Adam Brown, whose early life was derailed by drug abuse before family, faith and the U.S. military gave him the courage and strength to fight his inner demons. His book: “Fearless,” (Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group/Random House).

While dealing with her father’s descent into Alzheimer’s, author/journalist and Catholic television network EWTN broadcaster Colleen Carroll Campbell demonstrates the modern relevance of saints like Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux in her quest to find personal fulfillment and professional success in her spiritual autobiography, “My Sisters the Saints,” (Image Books/Random House). Starting this summer Campbell will be anchor of “EWTN News Nightly with Colleen Carroll Campbell,” the global network’s first-ever daily newscast.

West-Eastern Divan OrchestraThe Christophers celebrate hope in books and film while the Argentinean-born Daniel Barenboim turns to music to shed light on peace. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra [photo right] that the Jewish conductor and pianist co-founded in 1999 with [the late] Edward Said, a Palestinian scholar, is scheduled for a seven city European tour starting in July.

Wrote Anthony Tomassini of the orchestra originally made up of young musicians from Israel, Palestine and various Arab countries of the Middle East: “The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra takes its name from a book of poetry by Goethe exploring the concept of world culture. In 2002 the orchestra, adopted by the Andalusian government in Spain and a private foundation, set up its summer headquarters in Seville. Since then a number of European players, especially from Spain, have taken part.” 

Continued The New York Times critic: “From the project’s start, Said, who died in 2003, and Mr. Barenboim made no great claims for the transformative potential of the orchestra. But dialogue is a precondition to understanding. And dialogue is unavoidable when young musicians play music and live together.”

Do you believe that light–as small as that shed by one candle or the synergy among musicians in a single orchestra–will overcome darkness? Can you share the names of other organizations in the business of hope?




Service of Busy Hands

Thursday, November 11th, 2010


My father spent months at an Army hospital in Colorado after World War II. He told me that for bedridden patients who were able to knit, one of the therapies was to teach them how. Every day a man who might otherwise feel useless and hopeless would see progress even if he could only manage a few rows, while at the same time, he’d feel productive, by making someone a handsome, warm scarf.

The NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital turns to handwork in a different way. There’s an arts and crafts program called Charna’s Kids, for siblings of sick children. For hospitalized children who undergo a series of procedures, there’s Beads of Courage. With each hurdle, a child gets a wonderful colored bead to string and wear with pride.

americanartmktecardMy clients, Joanna and Richard Rothbard of American Art Marketing, understand the importance of arts and crafts to artisans who have perfected their skills and to those starting out in life who might be helped by them. This is the first year they are producing the American Craft Show NYC at the Javits Center the weekend of November 19th-Friday through Sunday. For every ticket sold at the craft fair and its sister show, the Contemporary Art Fair NYC, the Rothbards are donating $1 to the The NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

They’ve supported artisans for over 30 years through the craft fairs they produce and through An American Craftsman Galleries, boutiques in Mass. and Ga. with four in Manhattan. Richard, a juggler of multiple projects, is a craftsman himself. He designs puzzle boxes of wood.

I’m mostly a buyer of arts and crafts, though my sister taught me to knit when I was about five. I used to knit and would like to soon again. Just thinking about it calms me. My great aunt hooked rugs and also taught me how and my aunt does needlepoint. Do you know anyone who is great at an art or a craft or who turns to either as therapy?


Service of Gratitude

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

The New York Women in Communications Foundation has launched a Gratitude Wall on its web site. For $10 you can let the world know that you are grateful to someone and why. Along with the message, you can also post a photo.

The initiative–recently posted–helps support student scholarships. It got me thinking about appreciation and of whom and about what I’m grateful.

Even in the best of economic times, every year has its downs for someone–it’s a universal condition my sister reminds me with each crisis. A friend, Anne, says “Nobody gets out free,” especially when you tell her about the So-and-So’s who live picture-perfect lives in a Father Knows Best 1950s-style family. All grandparents are around and in good enough shape to enjoy their brilliant grandchildren–slated for Harvard, Yale and Princeton–and siblings on both sides of the family live near one another in Kumbaya-mode–cousins, too–and, of course, there’s plenty of money all ’round.

I could take this occasion–the cusp of the New Year–to compare this year’s losses, fears and stresses and see which one of us “wins.”  I know that some readers are in the proverbial eye of life-transforming tornadoes.

But to help readjust the balance in our hearts, especially if the bad currently outpaces the good, I’ve opted to list some of the things for which I am grateful and welcome you to do the same. Every time I think I am done, I think of more things. That’s a good sign.

**My husband, friends and family. Without them, bereft wouldn’t begin to describe my feelings.

carasmall1**My furry, huggable, destructive, mouse-killing, lap-snoozing, moody kitty cat.

**When my Blackberry, computer, printer, telephone and the electricity work.

**Every day I get to enjoy our country house.

**The Millbrook Free Library [where I write many of my posts].

**When I can renew an unfinished book on line.

**The office I go to and the people in it.

**The students I mentor and continue to be in touch with.

**Dinner at home is a treat and often a surprise. My husband has become the most creative and superb cook and we eat far better chez nous than in most restaurants.

**The view of the East River from our apartment.

**When I discover a craftsperson who makes something creative in a fabulous way.

**NCIS, The Closer and Law & Order, even in reruns.

**George Stephanopoulos on Sunday mornings.

**Everyone who takes the time to comment on the posts in this blog and/or to contribute a post.

**When someone gives me spectacular service or is courteous.

**When I discover a great topic to cover on this blog–I’ve already thought of a bunch for the New Year.

**Flowers and plants, especially the ones that survive winters in a chilly house.

**A spectacular concert. We heard a goosebump-raising one recently by the Bard College student orchestra that brought the audience to its feet.

**The hope and promise of a New Year.

So tell me, what are you grateful for?

Service of Forecasts

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

How many days ahead do you start listening to weather forecasts when you’ve planned a beach day, picnic or pool party?

Are you involved with product introductions? Does your company belong to a color forecasting organization so that its bathroom fixtures or towels coordinate with what’s cool in ceramic tile?

Much like people who hope for positive signs or good news from a doctor as they sit by the bedside of a sick friend or relative, I read as many forecasts and prognostications about this economy as I have time for and check out every article that seems to have an answer, looking for inklings of a solid turnaround.

These days, coming to your own conclusions and becoming a forecaster is complicated! Just yesterday, a “Marketplace” headline in The Wall Street Journal screamed, “Maguire Properties Warns of Loan Defaults.” {The article says that Maguire is “one of the largest office building owners in Southern California.”}

 The same paper, on the same page, but with a smaller sized, less prominent headline, announced: “Networks Hold Back Selling Ads In Advance.” The reason? They are betting that the economy will improve and are hoping to be able to charge more than now. Before I got too optimistic, I saw in the “Money & Investing” section another bold headline: “Debt Burden to Weigh on Stocks: Consumers’ Inability to Drive Economic Growth Likely to End Big Gains.” 

My heart skipped a happy beat when, also yesterday, The New York Times declared: “Seattle Paper is Resurgent as a Solo Act,” and reported that the word “profit” is one that now falls from executive lips at the paper in the Emerald City.

And didn’t we–and President Obama–rejoice just a few days ago over the less-than-expected job loss figures? {Is this equivalent to “the patient’s fever is down to 104°?”}

When Paul Krugman agrees with a bailout, do you sleep better? Or when Alan Greenspan furrows his brow, do you follow suit?

What’s your take on forecasters? Has your faith changed? And what about your antenna for predictions–is it picking up strong signals these days?

Service of Tradition

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Certain things happen every year and thank goodness.

Ruth and Jimmy visit. They’re a duck couple who swim on our pond for a day or a week. They come unannounced when the landscape is various shades of brown–making it especially hard to see Ruth.

We welcome the birds and delight in the first Jimmy and Ruth siting. Named after dear friends, the human Jimmy makes the best Donald Duck impersonation on the east and west coasts.

It’s at this time of year that some observe Easter or Passover in churches and synagogues and enjoy the respective traditions of these celebrations. Some children look forward to coloring and/or hunting for Easter eggs and others to participating in a ritual Seder feast.

Especially when life seems up in the air, traditions serve to calm me.  Do you have favorite traditions associated with April? Do they bring joy or stress?

Service of Signs

Friday, March 20th, 2009


Do you believe in signs? A found penny means good luck and a dime, quarter or more even better fortune? Could finding money on the ground mean the economy is improving?  I used to think so [others would have picked it up before me if money was tight, no?] until I saw a former colleague reach into his pocket for change and throw it in a wastebasket. And he more than anyone else complained that his salary was too low.


To me, spring signals renewal, beautiful weather ahead, magnificent blossoms, and the energizing scent of earth and promise of picnics, long stretches of daylight and summer. All these welcoming signs, spring fever, included, serve to cheer.


What signs inspire good things to come for you?



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