Friday, April 6, 2012


She was pushing a supermarket cart across a busy thoroughfare.  In the cart was a young child as well as a few skimpy plastic bags of groceries.  For two days I had been looking for her. Not this particular woman...just a woman who looked like she might need what I had in the glove compartment of my car:  the collective generosity of twenty-five women who had participated in my nascent philanthropic idea:  "WWWW"

She continued along a narrow walking path, through a weed-filled empty lot. I followed her. I turned at the light, made a quick left turn into an apartment complex and parked my car. I got the small bundle out of the glove compartment, grabbed my I-phone and walked toward her from the other end of the path. She had abandoned the grocery cart and was walking, hand in hand, with her little girl who was wearing pink pajamas, her silky brown hair in a casual pony tail.

For some time, I had wanted to come up with a way of charitable giving that had no administrative costs attached to it.  Absolutely none, just pure giving.  I was looking for an idea that would help women in need, an idea that would be easy and possible for almost every woman to join.  "WWWW"  As the idea began to take shape, I imagined it spreading by way of the various social networks and becoming a national project.  Maybe even a world wide project.  The four "W"s stand for World Wide Women of...the final "W" could be Wisdom, Wealth or Wonder.  I never quite decided.

NOTE: You can read more about the project on The Wonder Institute web site:

"Excuse me, my name is Linda. I want to give this to you."  And I handed the woman a bundle of dollar bills, tied with a pink ribbon.
"What!  Is this a joke?"
"No, it's not a joke.  It's a gift from a new organization of women helping other women."
"Will I get in trouble?"
"No, not at all."
I gave her one of the Wonder Project Post Cards.  She said she'd look up the web site when she went to the library...

...I have been collecting these dollars from friends, slowly, slowly.  In candor, I didn't know until recently that I had actually begun a real project.  For a long while it was just a topic that came up every now and then when I was with friends.  Every time it did, someone said, "I'll give you a dollar."  And they did.  And they followed my idea/instructions by writing four "W"s on the bill, initialing it and then tearing off a small corner--on which they had also written four "W"s---and putting the corner in their wallets.  The corner is "proof" of membership.

The woman and I stood and talked for a few minutes.  I asked if I could take a picture---not of her face but of her hand and the package of dollars. 
"This is a miracle,"  she said.  "I can't believe it.  Are you sure?"

Yes, yes, I'm sure!

And then she started to cry...and then I started to cry.
She told me that she was really concerned because she only had four diapers left for her daughter and she didn't have enough money to buy more. 
We hugged each other.  I took a picture. 
She thanked me.  I got in my car.  She and her little girl walked to their apartment.  I drove away.

It was Good Friday---for both of us.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


"And learn O voyager to walk
The roll of earth, the pitch and fall
That swings across these trees those stars:
That swings the sunlight up the wall."            Archibald MacLeish   Seafarer  (1933)

It is my nature to "look on the bright side" and to "see the glass half full."; I dislike the phrase---"It's probably all for the best"---although I usually think "it" (whatever "it" is) may be just that:  "all for the best"!   Surely it's not likely to be all for the worst!  Nor all for the so-so!  One for All and All for the best, I say---at least most of the time...Sometimes I feel darkened by the passing shadows of my own deep disappointment...

Something good will come of it, or follow it, or replace it.  I tell myself. 

Fortunately, for my depressed friends (we all have them these days), I choose not to saddle their already saddened and suffering ears and hearts with any of my easily conjured, faux-comforting utterances.  For example, I never say to them, "It's always darkest before the dawn"  nor "It's an ill wind that blows no good."  nor  "When one door closes, another door opens."  These things do not comfort those who need comforting.  They sting.  They miss the point.   Most often, those well-intentioned utterances do not  have comforting results.  When a friend is sad or disappointed, it is more thoughtful to say something like, "Oh, that must be disappointing."  or  "I'm so sorry that happened to you."    Sometimes the best response to offer to one facing a serious dilemma or dire straits or even a plain old bad day is simply (?) active, silent presence. 
What, I wonder, can one do when one is alone...and things are difficult...or have gone totally awry?  I know what I do.  I sing out loud and strong.  I write. I look for inspiration in literature and song.     I must know dozens of poetic quotes and platitudes that urge the disappointed, the disenchanted, the damaged, the deserted, the devastated onward...upward.  My soul surrounds itself with those comforting phrases.  I say them to myself.  I write them on my bathroom mirror.  I scribble them on scraps of paper---or, if handy, in a journal. 
Actually, when I am challenged with some negative situation---like today---I make a psychic sprint to a solemn place of serenity---immediately after saying aloud (or to myself) "Oh, Fuck!" 
Actually, saying "Oh, Fuck!"  helps a bit.  It acknowledges the disappointment, the failure, the mistake...But then what?  Acknowledgement is a good first step.  Personally,  I do not want to linger on that first step---not when there are other steps to mount/surmount.
So (drum roll for candor) earlier today, I got turned down for an employment position I really wanted...a position for which I applied and for which I sincerely believed I was (virtually, I guess I must say virtually) the perfect candidate.  I know the players, the field, the history, the problems...and I have a strong sense that I know the way out of the thorny thicket that has consistently plagued the company.  At Corporate Headquarters, many of the-powers-that-be want me/wanted me...but there are rules that must be adhered to and there are serious repercussions for failing to follow the set-in-stone rules of this august institution...and there is one small requirement that I lack!  So:  rules are rules and requirements are requirements and lack is lack.  And that is that!  I lack, I lacked...
Alas, Alack!

Now what?  I've already said, "Oh, Fuck!"  I already reported the unfortunate news to a few people who had been optimistic about this adventure on which I had dreamed of embarking.  I moped until lunch time.  Now it is evening.  Now it is time for thoughtful re-grouping.  Time for poetry and music and platitudes and anything that can set my mind to rights.  Tonight there is time to be gentle with myself...Time to listen to Johnny Hartman sing, In the Wee Small Hours of The Morning.  Time to visit the words of  some of the poets and writers who inspire me...

I choose:  Anna Akhmatova    (1942 Tashkent)

"Probably much still remains
To be celebrated by my voice:
That which, wordless, rumbles around,
Or in darkness grinds stone underground,
Or makes its way through smoke.
I haven't yet closed my accounts
With flame and wind and water...
Because of that, my drowsiness
Suddenly flings wide such gates to me
And leads beyond the morning star."

(translated from the Russian by Judith Hemschemeyer)

Yes, now I feel better.  Time to summon the sun in my soul. 

"and indeed there will be time to wonder..."*    one great thought from T.S. Eliot 
                                                                       The Lovesong of J Alfred Profrock