Excuses, Dishonesty, and Tragedy

A daughter’s collect call from jail interrupts Thanksgiving dinner

Jail is the New GroundedTo look at Everett and Ella, you’d never know they’re the parents of a troubled, incarcerated daughter. They’re both successful in careers they love and they both espouse the family values with which they were raised, albeit modernized ones. Their home, where my wife and I were guests for Thanksgiving dinner, sits on a nice street in a neighborhood just about any set of young parents could happily work with.

When the phone rang the air at the table thickened slightly, as if a fly had entered the airspace. If the fly knows what’s good for it, it had better not land. A second ring offered a perspective on what it’s like to be the fly, buzzing in during dinner, which for Everett and Ella is a consistently early evening affair.

It was their old-school land-line ringing, and because, like a lot of us, they live and work by their iPhones, that meant that whoever was being ignored was family. Who else, besides mom and dad, first dials a land line these days? Regardless, ring number three provided satisfaction in the parental example they were setting for their four-year-old boy: no matter who’s buzzing around, during dinner, nobody touches the phone or the television. Read more

What’s a Mitzvah?

Performing a kind act solely because you’re in a position to do so

WE LEARN BEST AMONG EACH OTHERI don’t know many Hebrew words, but Mitzvah is one of my *favorites. Technically, it means “commandment,” but it also goes by the above definition, which is how it was broken down for me. I think about the word often ‘cause I’m almost always in a place in life where my right-now resources are relatively rich. Yet shedding comparisons, quieting the noise, ditching conditions, excuses, and all those countless words I’d use to describe my otherwise good intentions only leaves “because I can.” So, “help that person because you can” has become a personal commandment.

Right. Well, nobody wants to hear about how I threw a dollar at a homeless dude as I exited Breakfast Coma Café, so don’t worry, that’s not where this is going. You probably don’t really care what I do; more relevant is how one can be coerced into developing character. Read more