Friday, October 23, 2015

Poverty -- a bittersweet moment

New York City is a place of contrasts. I think we see the contrasts of wealth more clearly here than in many other places.

I'm having a good day today, as I have a good job, plenty of nice clothes to wear, and plenty of good food to eat.

There is an increasing number of homeless people in the city. People are asking strangers for help. One such woman got on my subway car as I was headed for work this morning. She had a loud and clear voice. Perhaps she's a singer. She had a prepared speech where she said she's not homeless, she pays rent, and here are her keys, dangling from her waist. She needs help for food and has no food. Some people reached in their pockets and got out dollar bills for her. As it happened, I had packed a nice lunch for myself. I gave it to her, and she seemed quite touched that I gave her a full meal, and she thanked me very well and said I should have a blessed day.

I hope it helped, and I suspect it did. If so, I'm glad it helped. It's a small thing for me, and it might be a big thing for her.

But it's sad that things are like this, that people can't afford food for themselves, even when they are doing the best they can, working and living where they can. Perhaps this woman recently hit rock bottom and is lifting herself up, and if so, she deserved a helping hand. And perhaps she'll be doing better soon. I hope so.

It was a moving moment. I got a little teary-eyed, though I don't think anyone would have noticed. I didn't notice anyone looking at anyone else.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Inspiration from a boy

My friend found a note on her 16-year-old son's desk. It said, "Be better." It was signed by the son and addressed to himself.

What does "be better" mean? What does it mean to this clearly soulful boy? What does it mean for any of us?

It could be a harsh reprimandation for doing badly. I don't really know. This was my first thought. But that reveals too much about me that deprives me of further reflection. At Rosh Hashanah services on Monday, the rabbi, in his sermon, reflected not merely the need for righteous behavior, and we all can agree that we, individually and collectively, could stand to improve our behavior.

There is a point we too often forget, that we are worthy of life, love, and prosperity. (And by prosperity, I mean more than just money.) The rabbi mentioned this, though I don't remember how he worded it. Perhaps I can find the text of his sermon. On Friday, I attended the annual orientation to Manhattan College, where I work. I learned that the college's stated mission is to form full human beings, in intellect, body, and spirit. In one of the talks, the speaker described the life of John Baptiste de La Salle, a man who, in 17th century France, innovated teaching techniques and performed the novel practice of teaching poor, hungry children. He is named Patron Saint of Teachers. The speaker gave his view of what a saint is. It is not someone who only does everything perfectly throughout his or her life. It is someone who becomes the person he or she was meant to be, fully personifying his or her full potential.

And this, I believe, is a worthy goal. No one can be perfect, but aiming for perfection is worth the effort. I fail constantly. I need to realize that this fact will never change. What I aim to change is to act and feel more forgiving of myself. I need to be content and pleased with who I am and what I have accomplished so far. Only by doing this can I continue towards my potential. The first step, I think, is to remind myself that I am worthy of the space that I occupy. Prosperity is nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of. I owe it to myself and to others. We all should be prosperous enough that we can pass some of it on to others. Prosperity is the achievement of our potentials.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Confrontation and consciousness

I stepped out of my building with my dog in tow. In front of our coop building we have a new tree, where we constructed an iron fence around the new tree. The fence is there to keep dogs out. A woman was there, letting her dog in the fenced in area.

In a gentle tone of voice, I stated something I believe is obvious: "We put a fence around this tree because we don't want dogs in there."

Of course, the woman got defensive, and a common way to speak defensively is to avoid what someone has said directly. "I have a bag! It's not like I'm going to leave it there!"

If I had had my wits, I would have repeated my first sentence verbatim. Having a bag does nothing to mitigate the fact that we don't want dogs there, whether you pick up after your dog or not. I told her that it's the urine that is the real threat to the tree's health, which is true, but in a sense, it was also beside the point. We don't want dogs there, and that's really all there is to it, reasons or no reasons, good reasons or bad reasons. Why else would anyone put a fence in? Would anyone rightly think a fence is a reminder to dog owners that they should pick up after their dogs? No. A fence says unambiguously, "Stay out." It does not say, "Behave yourself when you enter (or allow your dog to enter)."

So what thought goes through the minds of dog owners when they allow their dogs inside tree-surrounding fences? Silly question, I know, because I'm using the words "thought" and "mind," as if they are actually involved.

I'm tempted to hang a sign on the fence that says, "The fence is here to keep dogs out. Please don't let your dog in." Is that likely to get people to engage their minds? Maybe not, but it will give some people a chuckle. Or at least, it will give one person a chuckle.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Gender identity: what do we call people?

Times are changing. How do we deal?

A friend wrote:

I don't want to offend anyone, but the subject doesn't interest me enough that I'd want to really work on getting it right.

It depends on what the meaning of "work" is. Skimming the wikipedia article on Transgender, I see it's complicated. I know I have to respect that there aspects of all this that I can't or won't understand, and no one wants to know if I think any of it is a good idea or bad idea. It just is. I accept that.

My decision is to listen. I will listen. I am listening.

One of my daughters is gay or something. She doesn't want any labels. I respect that many young people now say let's not use labels. It seemed hard at first, but in just a few months, I found that I accept that, and it's not hard any more.

LGBTQ people raising children is becoming common and open. My daughter is interested in having kids eventually, and I predict Julia will be a good parent.

I just learned that my cousin's fiancé was raised by two mothers. He is about 29. It doesn't change my view of him. No, to be honest, it does. I like him even more now.

Acceptance of all this new stuff seems to be spreading like wildfire, even in conservative areas, though I'm far from those areas to see accurately.

What's happening in your corner of the world?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Please, no more war!

To all of our  Senators and Representatives,

War is murder. Military action is murder. We have to stop murdering each other. No more war, please. We don't need to kill Syrians to get Syrians to stop killing Syrians. Neither will it work. And it does not give us higher ground to stand on, if we've killed in the name of the end of killing.

We've stood by for over a year while the government of Syria killed thousands with guns and bombs and knives. By taking action now, we are saying that the killing that occurred before the use of chemicals was just fine.

Killing does not stop killing. Let's be the change we want to see. Please vote against
 so-called military action. Please encourage your colleagues to vote against it, too. Please tell everyone you speak with to oppose any such thing.

Tom Reingold
New York, NY

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Jersey is rated among the top ten states for cyclists

I read about this on The Patch at the article here. Here is the comment I posted:

I'm glad New Jersey got this designation, because it encourages everyone to keep going in the right direction. I would imagine it is not because conditions are in the top ten but because the legislation and plans are most forward thinking. For example towns and counties are adopting "complete streets" policies, which I hope will lead to better built streets and roads, giving equal access to pedestrians, motorists, cyclists, and wheelchair users.

I co-founded the South Orange Maplewood Bicycle Coalition, which, sadly, is shutting down. Those of us who ran it no longer have the time or energy to continue. We held various activities to encourage cycling and show how we can cycle on the roads we currently have. We advocated to our towns to adopt "complete streets" policies, and we succeeded.

I hope the vision continues to grow. I believe the world will be a better place when we drive motor vehicles less and walk more and cycle more. And it will be necessary, because I predict that fuel prices will reach unimagined levels eventually. We might as well start new habits now. If you think you can't cycle to school or work or the supermarket, please contact me or a local cycling expert or someone at There is a lot of help and encouragement in all kinds of places.

Please support a cycling portion in your schools' physical education program. We should all be in the habit of moving by our own power.

Saturday, March 3, 2012