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While many of you were reading last week’s note, Beauty, I was sitting in a synagogue attending the funeral of a friend.

He was a regular reader of these weekly missives, occasionally sending me an email to compliment me on my writing or to check in on the health of a loved one I referenced in a particular piece.

By all counts, he was a kind and loving man with a full life.


Beauty

There seems to be something that makes us more inclined to see and respond to the ugliness and conflict all around us. How easily triggered we seem to be. Whether it be the failings of others, the bad news that bombards us every day on our phones and screens or the turmoil in our own minds, our antennas seem to be particularly attuned to what we consider threatening.…


Trying

Tracy Chapman’s song, Fast Car, tells the story of longing for a better life.  Over the course of the song’s four and a half minutes, you’re taken on a ride of yearning, frustration, resignation, and hope.

It is a simple but beautiful song about the complexity of trying to better yourself and your situation.

I heard the song at a pivotal moment in my life where, like the characters in Chapman’s song, I too was longing to escape –  to in her words, “leave tonight or live and die this way.”…


Regret

I have lived a blessed life with so much to be grateful for. Perhaps naturally, my regrets are limited not to any major life decision but rather rest almost exclusively in the domain of how and when I showed up for other people.

Generally speaking I’d like to consider myself a pretty decent human being yet there are times when I have not been decent to others.…


Mothers

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. A time to celebrate, honor or at least recognize the person who literally – and in so many other ways – made us who we are today.

It is so easy and unfortunate, to take our mothers for granted or become frustrated with what we see as their mistakes and missteps. To say that moms take a lot of grief would be an understatement.…


News

The word “news” has been around since at least the 1500’s. The word “newsworthy” was only coined in 1890. The inference being  people decided a new word was necessary as much of what was being shared as “news” was not particularly worthy.

I have for the last two years largely taken a hiatus from the daily news. Previously my days began and ended with a dose of it. 


Mistakes

In her new work, The Thanksgiving Play, Larissa FastHorse puts four well-intentioned and ill-equipped white people into a classroom. They are tasked with writing a more culturally sensitive play about Thanksgiving that they will stage for their elementary school students. The premise is genius as is almost everything about this production.  

We watch these four characters make mistake after mistake after mistake as they try to find the right approach, plot or words to form their play. 


Beginners

Twice within twenty four hours, I heard stories referencing the idea of a young child’s experience walking down the street.

The first was during a conversation between the record producer Rick Rubin and podcast host Krista Tippett. They remarked about how wonderful – in the literal sense of the word – a child’s walk down the street is compared to ours. They have no concept of time and hence aren’t in any rush.


Break?

Years ago I read about an Oakland school that was having increasing issues with student behavior. Fights and disruptions would break out with regularity and teachers were struggling to create an atmosphere conducive to learning.

The proposed solution was simple. Give the kids a break.

Many of the children were carrying to school not just their backpacks but the stress and trauma from difficult circumstances in their homes and neighborhoods.…


Pause

A few weeks ago I went out to dinner with a friend. We were talking about the speed with which AI was developing. I had recently heard a podcast that speculated about what would happen if someone used AI to startle the financial markets. Perhaps by having a voicebot imitate Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, saying that the bank was nearing insolvency. All agreed it would trigger panic on Wall Street, markets would tumble sharply and so quickly before anyone realized what had happened.


Silence

There are many forms and reasons for silence.  Here are three for your consideration:

The first is silence that we allow ourselves.  In the chaos of daily life and content at our fingertips to fill a million lifetimes, increasingly we seem to leave less time to just sit in silence. When we quiet our own minds we give ourselves the gift of self-awareness and openness. The word inspiration comes from a latin term meaning “breath into.” …


Supported

Imagine if every time you fell or failed there would be someone to catch you. If every chance you were about to take felt a little less risky. If every opportunity felt a little more attainable. If the impact of every blow born from tragedy or crisis was blunted simply by another’s presence.

How wonderful it is to know and feel like you are unconditionally supported.…


Supporting…

Twice I sat in my bedroom chair and wept.

Spaced over the course of a week both instances involved a question of support.  In the first instance, I was overwhelmed by offers of assistance when my wife was unexpectedly hospitalized for almost a week. Friends reaching out to see if we were ok, needed anything, just to say they were here for us. One brought over dinner, another bought us a week of groceries.…


Living

I had been wanting to see the movie, Living, for some time. But with busy schedules and sold out shows, I had struck out on several previous attempts to see this small film that was in limited release.

Finally, last week I noticed that it was playing in a town thirty minutes away. So I went by myself to sit in a dark theater on a sunny Sunday afternoon to watch a movie about a man who was coming to the end of his life, and wondering if he had ever really lived at all.…


Background

A boy tags along with his stepbrother to a casting session.

To his surprise, he is selected to do background work as an extra on a children’s show.

An assistant director sees something in the boy and begins giving him acting books as he’s never acted before. Later he offers tips on how to stand out from the crowd.

Eventually the boy becomes a regular on other children’s shows, gets a few small movies, is cast in a small but memorable part of a Quentin Tarantino movie, does some theater in Los Angeles before begin chosen to act opposite Denzel Washington in a Broadway production of The Iceman Cometh.…


Courage

I recently visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Its design is as remarkable as it is powerful. It is built within the Lorraine Motel. Your journey begins and ends with the site of Dr. King’s assassination, first looking up from the outside at the balcony on which he was tragically killed by the assassin’s bullet and ending by looking inside the rooms where he spent his last moments joking around playfully with his friends.…


Strangers

You’ve probably never heard of Hody Childress. He was a stranger to me as well until I recently read of his passing and his incredible legacy of anonymous kindness.

Thirteen years ago, Hody asked his pharmacist a simple question, “Do you ever have anyone come in who can’t afford their medication?”  The pharmacist replied, “All the time.”  Hody responded by pulling out a folded hundred dollar bill  and telling the pharmacist that the next time that happens, “Use this.”…


Relationships

Try this simple exercise. On a piece of paper write down the five most important people in your life. It should be a list of people who you truly care about and enjoy spending time with. The only rule is to not include anyone you currently live with.

Now try to estimate how much time you’ve spent with each person over the last year. It should primarily be time spent in person, but if you care to include meaningful phone conversations that’s up to you.…


Generations

Leopoldstadt is the new and presumably last play written by Tom Stoppard. It tells the story of two families and spans four generations. While it explores themes of class, culture and religion, its primary question centers around the obligation family has to its members. Not just present but future and perhaps most importantly past.

Early in the play, the matriarch is showing the family photo album to her grandchildren.…


Awe

As I write this, I am looking out at the Palisades – the magnificent vertical walls on the other side of the Hudson. If I look to my left I can see the New York City skyline off in the distance.

Upon seeing both for the first time, I was filled with immense awe. While their familiarity can lessen this sensation, it only takes a few moments of reflection to revive it.…


Cheer

It was a week for celebration in my home.

Our oldest daughter turned 15.
Our youngest received two call backs for the 5th grade play.
Our middle daughter won her first wrestling match.
My wife won her first competitive tennis doubles match.
And my podcast won two golds – one for best interview show and another for most inspirational podcast.

When my daughter won her wrestling match, her coach picked her up in the air as teammates cheered her on.…


Care

There is a running joke in the hilarious and poignant one-man show, Old Man and the Pool by Mike Birbiglia.

His family uses the salutation “Take care” as a parting proxy for “I love you” – which apparently they never say to one another. It is suggested, understandably, that these two words are an insufficient substitute for the three words that are the gold standard in expressing how we feel for another person.…


Be

We had decided that given the relatively short holiday break, we would all stay home. No trips to visit the family. No travel at all.

We would just be together.

“Be” unfortunately was conflated with “do” – as is often the case. Each of us had long lists of things we wanted to accomplish; projects to complete, ways to be productive, ideas about how to do fun things.…


Sharing

This is the fifty-second newsletter I’ve shared this year. The other fifty-one can be found here

In addition, I’ve shared eight PBS podcast episodes, two NPR special programs, including Seeing Erin Hagerty – which may be the best thing I’ve made in a while

I’ve shared four published articles, including this one for Parents about how to talk to your kids about class

I’ve shared with my publisher drafts of my next two children’s books.…