Archives for category: Goodness

I received a notice a few days ago from a scholarly organization, informing me that Mike Rose had died. Mike was a beloved teacher, scholar, and author. He had keen empathy for working people. He taught at UCLA. I met him a decade ago, and we became friends. You may have met him through such books as Lives on the Boundary, or Why School?, or Possible Lives.

Other people knew Mike far better than I, and I invite you to read what they wrote about him.

His literary agent, Anna Sproul-Latimer, who worked with Mike on his latest book, wrote a deeply personal article about him.

She wrote, as part of a longer piece:

Five days ago, just hours before what was probably going to be the last of our four editor meetings, my beloved client Mike Rose dropped dead. He woke up at dawn, sent me a quick email, walked into his kitchen, and—bam, there went the cartoon anvil of fate. Spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage. He was 77.

Mike didn’t die right away. Or maybe he did? Depends on how you define it. When the cops broke down Mike’s door Friday morning, twenty-four-plus hours after he went down, he was still breathing, but most of him had already left. In the bloodbath of his brain, only the brainstem remained functional. It kept chugging away, obliging, with the breathing and the circulating, until Sunday night…

Dramatic irony: I knew something was wrong the instant Mike missed our Thursday afternoon editorial call. He was the most neurotic man I have ever met. He would never ever ever.

For some reason, though, I didn’t take the thought seriously. I told myself he probably just got confused by technical difficulties. That he was out of pocket. That he’d call later.

“Or maybe he’s DEAD!” The idea floated around like a diaphanous scarf, something designed for a witchy Instagram aesthetic and little else. I ran its weightless silk through my fingers. I emailed it to him, as a tease. “I’m beginning to worry you’re dead!”

When I woke up Friday morning, the scarf was strangling me…

I loved Mike Rose so, so much, even though he also might have been the single most aggravating client I’ve ever had. There was no way in hell any commission I’d ever receive on his book would financially justify the time demands of our relationship, let alone the exhaustion.

I stayed in the relationship anyway. Happily. It brought me so much joy.

Never in the depths of orgiastic moroseness could Charles Schulz have imagined a neurotic ruminator more determined to wrest disappointment from his every success than Mike Rose. Neither for all the wonder in Schulz’s childlike soul could he have dreamed up a character more warm, tender, careful, open-minded, sincere, brilliant, tenacious, and faithful.

You should read Mike Rose.

Read the last two entries on his blog. The last is called “The Desk,” and it’s the story of a magical desk he owned as a child that allowed him to imagine other worlds. Sproul-Latimer described it this: “It is a tender, quiet, devastating personal essay about growing up in squalor in South Central Los Angeles. He describes a childhood at once desperately lonely and overcrowded to the point of suffocation.”

Fred Klonsky blogged about the deaths of both Mike Rose and Bob Moses in recent weeks. Mike Rose’s next to last blog post was about Bob Moses, written last May, before Moses’ death.

Klonsky wrote:

When I was 34 and decided I wanted to teach I was introduced to a world of brilliant thinkers who were entirely new to me. Few were more brilliant than Mike Rose. Mike Rose touched me in a way few others did. His class roots. His understanding of students whose courageous struggle to learn got them labeled in the worst way. His respect for work and labor as an intellectual enterprise. His book, Lives on the Boundary, still has an honored spot in my collection.

Mike Rose had a unique voice. He was not in the thick of policy battles. He worked on a different level, seeking to understand people and their lives.

Congressman Jamie Raskin was one of the lead authors of the impeachment resolution. His beloved son Tommy died by suicide on New Years’ Eve. This is the tribute Jamie and his wife Sarah Bloom Raskin wrote about Tommy, died on December 31, a week before the Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

It begins:

TAKOMA PARK, M.D. — Congressman Jamie Raskin and Sarah Bloom Raskin today released the following statement about their son Thomas (Tommy) Bloom Raskin:

“On January 30, 1995, Thomas Bloom Raskin was born to ecstatic parents who saw him enter the world like a blue-eyed cherub, a little angel. Tommy grew up as a strikingly beautiful curly-haired madcap boy beaming with laughter and charm, making mischief, kicking the soccer ball in the goal, acting out scenes from To Kill A Mockingbird with his little sister in his father’s constitutional law class, teaching other children the names of all the Justices on the Supreme Court, hugging strangers on the street, teaching our dogs foreign languages, running up and down the aisle on airplanes giving people high fives, playing jazz piano like a blues great from Bourbon Street, and at 12 writing a detailed brief to his mother explaining why he should not have to do a Bar Mitzvah and citing Due Process liberty interests (appeal rejected).

“Over the years he was enveloped in the love not only of his bedazzled and starstruck parents but of his remarkable and adoring sisters, Hannah the older and Tabitha the younger, a huge pack of cousins, including Jedd, Emily, Maggie, Zacky, Mariah, Phoebe and Lily, Boman and Daisy, and Emmet and spoiled rotten with hugs and kisses and philosophical nourishment from his grandparents Herb and Arlene Bloom, Marcus Raskin, Barbara Raskin, and later Lynn Raskin, the best aunts and uncles a mischievous ragamuffin could ask for, including Erika and Keith, Kenneth and Abby, Mina, Noah and Heather, Eden and Brandon, and Tammy and Gary, and a cast of secondary parents who wrapped him in adoration and wildly precocious conversation like Michael and Donene, Ann and Jimmy, Kate and Hal, Kathleen and Tom, Katharine and David, Judy, Reed and Julia, Dar and Michael, David and Melinda, Angela and Howard, Helen, Sheila, Mitchell, Will and Camille, Phyllis, Shammy, Khalid and Zina.

“With all this love infusing Tommy’s world and soul, girls quickly came to fancy this magical boy who always made time for the loneliest kids in class and frequently made up his own words to describe feelings and parts of toasters — and, to be clear, he took a strong liking to girls too, these omnipresent magical lovely girls he found who always had a profound beauty radiating from within. Tommy was raised on a fine Montgomery County Education, which took him through Takoma Park Elementary School, Pine Crest Elementary School, Eastern Middle School, and Montgomery Blair High School (with a frolicking detour to Ecole Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel in Paris for one family sabbatical year where he learned French, tried to teach himself Japanese, and insisted on travel adventures through North Africa and the rest of Europe), but his irrepressible love of freedom and strong libertarian impulses made him a skeptic of all institutional bureaucracy and a daring outspoken defender of all outcasts and kids in trouble. Once when third-grade Tommy and his father saw a boy returning to school after a weeklong suspension and his Dad casually remarked, ‘it looks like they let finally let him out of jail,’ Tommy replied, ‘no, you mean they finally let him back into jail.’

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“At Blair, Tommy’s adult persona began to take shape: he co-founded Bliss, a life-changing peer-to-peer tutoring program and spent hours tutoring fellow students in Math and English; made wonderful friends he lavished attention on; became Captain of the Forensics Club and a savagely logical and persuasive orator in the Debate and Extemporaneous Speech Club where he had to be constantly reminded by his teammates that the purpose of high school debate tournaments is to score points and not convince people of the truth or change the world. He was active in the Young Dems and recruited dozens to get involved in the 2012 Obama reelection effort. On Prom Night, he threw a dinner party for 24 fellow students, including classmates who had no date that evening, and they all went to prom together as a group. He hated cliques and social snobbery, never had a negative word for anyone but tyrants and despots, and opposed all malicious gossip, stopping all such gossipers with a trademark Tommy line — ‘forgive me, but it’s hard to be a human.’

“Above all, he began to follow his own piercing moral and intellectual insights looking for answers to problems of injustice, poverty and war. A Bar Mitzvah from Temple Sinai, he taught a Sunday School with Heather Levy for two years at Temple Emmanuel, often substituting his social-struggle analysis of the Exodus story for teachings on the Hebrew alphabet. He ordered and devoured books on the Civil War and Maryland’s history in it, World War II and resistance to Nazism, Jewish history, libertarianism, moral philosophy, the history of the Middle East conflict, peace movements, anything by Gar Alperovitz on the decision to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and anything by Peter Singer on animal rights. He began to pen these extraordinary essays and articles that now add up to well over 100 as well as write plays and extremely long polemical poems, which he eagerly performed for audiences astounded by his precocious moral vision, utter authenticity of emotion, and beauty of expression.

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“At Amherst College, he majored in history, helped lead the Amherst Political Union, intellectually discredited the egregious Dinesh D’Souza who turned to pathetic insults when Tommy destroyed his argument from the audience with a simple question (even before D’Souza was soon to be convicted of federal campaign finance crimes), won the Kellogg Prize, created and performed one-act plays with his social dorm mates, and wrote a compelling senior thesis on the intellectual history of the animal rights movement. Spending his summers voraciously reading and soaking up all the wisdom to be had at his eclectic self-procured internships at the CATO Institute with Doug Bandow, J Street, the Institute for Policy Studies, ARC of Montgomery, Compassion Over Killing, and for Professor Frank Couvares, Tommy became an anti-war activist, a badass autodidact moral philosopher and progressive humanist libertarian, and a passionate vegan who composed imperishable, knock-your-socks-off poetry linking systematic animal cruelty and exploitation to militarism and war culture. He recruited gently and lovingly — but supremely effectively — dozens and dozens of people, including his parents, to the practice of not eating animals, and it will be hard to find anyone his age who has turned more carnivores into vegans than him. (He also cheerfully opposed sectarian holier-than-thou sanctimoniousness among a handful of vegans he met and would say, ‘I’m working for a vegan world, not a vegan club.’) A prolific and exquisitely gifted writer, he came to publish essays and op-eds in the Nation, the Goodmen Project, Anti-War.Com and other outlets. After his Amherst graduation, Tommy went to the Friends Committee on National Legislation to work on stopping the war in Yemen and on Middle East policy, and spent a year publishing more remarkable essays and articles (soon to be available to you) and launching a book of political philosophy offering a sweeping animal rights critique of Locke, Mill and classical liberal social contract theory.

“In 2019 Tommy went to Harvard Law School. He lived up in the attic of the home of Michael Anderson and Donene Williams, his Dad’s beloved law school roommates, and made more remarkable friends. He studied constitutional law with Noah Feldman, criminal law with Carole Steiker, and property with Bruce Mann (Elizabeth Warren’s husband); he loved the systematic thought and debate dynamics of law school but reported it to be like half an education because the moral philosophy component was somehow left out. Rather than read endless lists of long cases, why not have students read clear comprehensive statements of what the law is and then talk about what the law should be? So while zealously promoting his newfound favorite game — Boggle — to rescue his classmates and himself from the stress and anxiety of law school, he also pushed them to engage with social problems and found a strong affinity group in the Effective Altruists. He spent last summer working quite brilliantly as a summer associate at Mercy for Animals and found a knack for actual lawyering.

“This fall Tommy not only took a full complement of his second-year law classes, including Disability Law with Michael Stein which he loved, but, at the suggestion of his beloved Professor Steicker, became a Teaching Assistant with Professor Michael Sandel in his ‘Justice’ Course at Harvard. As a teacher, Tommy devoted great time to teaching his section of the class — working on his astonishing lectures and jokes, and meeting endlessly with his dozen students on Zoom, finding what was precious in their work and teasing it out. He loved his students and they loved him back. Not content with giving half of his teaching salary away to save people with malaria by purchasing mosquito nets with global charities, when the semester was over and after his grades were in and the student evaluations were complete, he made individual donations in each of his students’ names to Oxfam, GiveDirectly and other groups targeting global hunger. When I asked him why he did this, he quoted something that he loved which Father Daniel Berrigan said about Dorothy Day: ‘she lived as though the truth were true.’ Tommy said: ‘I wanted them to see that the truth is true.’

“We have barely been able to scratch the surface here, but you have a sense of our son. Tommy Raskin had a perfect heart, a perfect soul, a riotously outrageous and relentless sense of humor, and a dazzling radiant mind. He began to be tortured later in his 20s by a blindingly painful and merciless ‘disease called depression,’ as Tabitha put it on Facebook over the weekend, a kind of relentless torture in the brain for him, and despite very fine doctors and a loving family and friendship network of hundreds who adored him beyond words and whom he adored too, the pain became overwhelming and unyielding and unbearable at last for our dear boy, this young man of surpassing promise to our broken world.

“On the last hellish brutal day of that godawful miserable year of 2020, when hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of people all over the world died alone in bed in the darkness from an invisible killer disease ravaging their bodies and minds, we also lost our dear, dear, beloved son, Hannah and Tabitha’s beloved irreplaceable brother, a radiant light in this broken world.

“He left us this farewell note on New Year’s Eve day: ‘Please forgive me. My illness won today. Please look after each other, the animals, and the global poor for me. All my love, Tommy.’”

UNICEF released a ranking of nations in terms of child wellness. The United States is one of the lowest ranking among the advanced nations of the world. The rankings do not include test scores. It’s important to understand that the test scores are the result of child wellness, not a cause. If we expect to improve children’s academic performance, we should focus on their well-being, which is a summary of causal factors. I have often said that when we are comparing students from different nations, we should look at child poverty, access to healthcare, food security, access to high-quality pre-K, and other indicators of child wellness, not test scores. This important report does that.

See the report here.

Tom Scarice, superintendent of schools in Madison, Connecticut, has advice for his community.

He writes:

In February of 2016 something magical took place in the scorched arid region of California known as Death Valley. Following years of drought and unrelenting heat, one of the hottest and driest places on the planet experienced a breathtaking phenomenon. Millions of seeds lying dormant buried under the dusty desert soil collectively burst to life, carpeting the floor of this barren stretch with over 20 species of magnificent wildflowers for miles and miles in what is now called a “super bloom”. These flowers have laid dormant for years, silently waiting for the conditions to call them back to life.

As our connections and sense of purpose begin to escape us during this global crisis, nerves fray and a sobering reality settles in. It is becoming increasingly likely that school, the place of connections and purpose for our children, and the soul of any community, will be closed for the remainder of the year. For now, it will be replaced by a virtual facsimile that could never replicate the warmth of a teacher’s words, the sense of belonging our children crave. Sadly, it is also likely that we will all eventually know someone who contracts this virus, and perhaps, we will all know someone who we may lose to this virus. It is precisely in times like this where we can see the very worst and the very best in each other.

The generation we serve in our schools today was born under the shadow of 9/11, raised in terror of Sandy Hook, seduced by the perverted temptations of social media and dopamine hits, and now finds itself facing a generational crisis, all the while aching for the adults in their lives to show them their very best, in the most challenging of times. Their childhood innocence, a natural endowment, has been violently stripped. They are looking for the very best in us right now. They are counting on us.

We tend to find exactly what we are looking for in life. If you want to see the best in each other, now is the time to look for it. It is there. Perhaps it is dormant, like the millions of wildflowers below the surface of Death Valley. Right now, the conditions are right. The conditions all around us summon the very best in us, even if it lays dormant, back to life.

There are acts of kindness happening all around us, big and small. There are people subordinating their comforts for the welfare of others. If we fasten our attention to these people, and to their examples, perhaps our measure of humane kindness can outpace the spread of this contagion. The very best in us is there if we look for it. If you look around, you’ll see countless young eyes watching us, counting on us.

I want to assure you that those who care for your children every day in our schools accept the responsibility to help our community through this crisis. It is time to see our very best. If we can find a way to meet the needs of your child, perhaps it will then cascade some semblance of normalcy and solace to your family, and then perhaps throughout our entire community.

The very best in us may be out in the open, or, like the millions of wildflowers beneath the floor of the desert, it may lie dormant. Now is the time for our best to come out. Perhaps they have never counted on us any more than right now.

Last week, John Merrow posted his congratulations to readers for matching up with an algorithm that selected them to make a substantial contribution to a worthy organization.

In this post, he cancels his congratulations and explains why he was in error–or just kidding around.

 

The family of a 2-year-old with limited mobility needed a wheelchair but could not afford the cost of a wheelchair, $20,000. The Farmington, Minnesota, public high school “Rogue Robotics Team” did it. 

Great and talented kids. No one mentioned theirvtest scores.

 

The boys’ volleyball team at Kepler Neighborhood School, mostly 7th and 8th graders, went for a run over a bridge near the school. They spotted a woman attempting suicide, dangling from the bridge. They raced to ask their coach what to do. He said, “Tell her that her life matters,” as he dialed 911.  The boys ran to the woman and told her again and again that her life matters, that people care about her, that she must not give up.

She pulled herself up. She did not commit suicide. The boys persuaded her to go on living.

According to the NAEP data, Fresno schools and students are among the lowest performing in the nation. Their scores are very low.

What do you think of those kids in Fresno now? Put another way, what do you think about using the scores to judge the worth of these boys?

Thanks to Nicholas Kristof for writing these stories and for recognizing that the economic and social supports needed for the hero of the story should not depend on philanthropy and charity.

Nicholas Kristof wrote about an 8-year-old boy who won the New York State chess championship for his age group. He learned chess only a year earlier at his public school, PS 116, in Manhattan. He and his family, Nigerian refugees, were living in a homeless shelter. As a result of Kristof’s reporting, the family has been showered with gifts, including a rent-free apartment for a year and a GoFundMe collection of $200,000, plus scholarships for the boy, Tani, at elite private schools. The family accepted the home, is giving the money to help others, and turned down the scholarships because Tani likes PS 116.

From the first column:

“In a homeless shelter in Manhattan, an 8-year-old boy is walking to his room, carrying an awkward load in his arms, unfazed by screams from a troubled resident. The boy is a Nigerian refugee with an uncertain future, but he is beaming.

“He can’t stop grinning because the awkward load is a huge trophy, almost as big as he is. This homeless third grader has just won his category at the New York State chess championship…

“So we should all grin along with Tanitoluwa Adewumi, the newly crowned chess champion for kindergarten through third grade. He went undefeated at the state tournament last weekend, outwitting children from elite private schools with private chess tutors.

“I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” he told me.

“Tani’s family fled northern Nigeria in 2017, fearing attacks by Boko Haram terrorists on Christians such as themselves. “I don’t want to lose any loved ones,” his father, Kayode Adewumi, told me.

“So Tani, his parents and his older brother arrived in New York City a bit more than a year ago, and a pastor helped steer them to a homeless shelter. Tani began attending the local elementary school, P.S. 116, which has a part-time chess teacher who taught Tani’s class how to play.”

Knowing that his family had no money, the school waived the usual fees so that Tani could participate in the program.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/16/opinion/sunday/chess-champion-8-year-old-homeless-refugee-.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

From Kristof’s second column:

“Tanitoluwa Adewumi, age 8, skidded around the empty apartment, laughing excitedly, then leapt onto his dad’s back. “I have a home!” he said in wonderment. “I have a home!”

“A week ago, the boy was homeless, studying chess moves while lying on the floor of a shelter in Manhattan. Now Tani, as he is known, has a home, a six-figure bank account, scholarship offers from three elite private schools and an invitation to meet President Bill Clinton.

“I think I am still dreaming,” said Tani’s dad, Kayode Adewumi. “I hope I don’t wake up….”

“After my column about this hard-working family, a GoFundMe drive raised more than $200,000 for Tani, his parents and his brother. A half-dozen readers offered housing — in a couple of cases, palatial quarters. Immigration lawyers offered pro bono assistance to the Adewumis, who are in the country legally and seeking asylum. Three film companies are vying to make movies about Tani.

“Heartfelt thanks to all my readers for this generosity: I truly have the best readers…

“The Adewumis have decided that they will not spend a cent of the $200,000 GoFundMe money on themselves. They will take out a 10 percent tithe and donate it to their church, which helped them while they were homeless, and the rest will be channeled through a new Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation to help African immigrants who are struggling in the United States the way they were a week ago….

“I asked them how they could turn down every penny of such a huge sum….

“I’m a hardworking guy,” Mr. Adewumi explained. He has two jobs: He drives for Uber with a rented car and sells real estatethrough Brick & Mortar. Someone has now offered him a free car so that he can keep more of the money he makes driving, and Tani’s mom was just offered a job as a health care aide at a hospital…

“The family was tempted by the offers of full scholarships at top private schools. But Tani and his parents decided that while he might accept such a scholarship for middle school, he would be loyal and stick with the public elementary school, P.S. 116, that taught him chess and waived his fees for the chess club.

“This school showed confidence in Tanitoluwa,” his mom, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, told the P.S. 116 principal, Jane Hsu. “So we return the confidence.” And then, overcome with emotion, the mom and the principal hugged.

“There’s a risk that a triumph like this leaves the impression that charity is the solution rather than a way to fill gaps: Fundamentally we need comprehensive systems in place to support needy kids. We would never build a bridge or subway with volunteers and donations, so why entrust an even more urgent cause — homeless children — to charity?

“Tani thrived because everything fell into place: a good school, a dedicated chess teacher and devoted parents committed to taking their son to every chess practice. The challenge is to replicate that supportive environment for all the other Tanis out there with public services and private philanthropy alike….”

Phyllis Bush, dear friend, founding member of the board of the Network for Public Education, leader of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, and great soul, has been writing a blog about her battle with cancer, wiphich she prefers to call “cancer schmanzer.” This is her latest update. I hope that as Phyllis thinks of her many wonderful memories, she enjoys remembering the sustained innovation she received at the last NPE Conference, when Carol Burris announced the establishment of the First Annual Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Activism. The entire room, activists from across the nation, jumped to their feet to honor this remarkable, cheerful, resolute, brilliant, and kind warrior.

Open the post to see Phyllis’ wonderful photos and an inspirational quote.

Some of you who follow this blog may wonder what has been happening in my life.
The reason that I have not written is because since I wrote my previous blog cancer schmantzer has delivered a bunch of not so pleasant gut punches that I am still trying to figure out. More pointedly, the month of November seemed like one long, kick in the pants. On November 1st, I ended up in the hospital with a bowel blockage, and then later in the month I spent another week in the hospital with another one. Apparently, a tumor has been causing the blockages.

My care team decided to resolve the issue conservatively because that seemed the
safest option. While being hooked up to PICC lines and IVs is not my idea of a good time,
if my docs thought that was my best option, then I was all in. Since I like to be pro-active,
I asked if they could move my next chemo appointment sooner to shrink the tumor
(if possible) rather than to wait for my next trip to the ER. Whether this will work or not is largely dependent on whether I can gain some of the weight that I lost while being hospitalized, and part is dependent on whether we can keep the tumor at bay.

Trying to sort out what all of this means has been mind-boggling at best. My docs are looking
at all of my options to find the best treatment. My palliative care team is talking me through options so that if those treatments don’t work, my end of life care will consist of my choices about what is acceptable and what isn’t. The week before Thanksgiving, Donna and I spoke with our rector, and he gave us a road map of what my next steps are. Thus, I have been spending a lot of time making end of life decisions, and I have enlisted my family and friends to help me do some of the research so that I can make the best decisions. While this has been emotionally draining and exhausting, the good news is that if I make a miraculous recovery, that would be great. If not, all of this will be done, and I won’t have left Donna and David with the burden of making these decisions.

PHOTO: With Donna at the NPE Conference in Indy in October

Photo: With David on Mothers’ Day

I have always been more than a little introspective, but this has caused me to be even more so. During a discussion with a friend, I remember telling her about the last time that I saw my mother before she died. As my mom and I sat and talked, I asked her if she had any regrets. Even though I knew that she had had her share of heartaches, she simply said this: “No, I have had a good life.”

Remembering her words, for a moment I lost my usual stoicism because I realized that, like her, I have had a good life. That does not mean that I have had a life without heartache and pain, but those things pale in comparison to all of the great stuff that has happened in my life. I have had the privilege of having an amazing family and amazing friends. I have had the privilege of standing up for what I believe. I have lived, loved, laughed, and followed my bliss. What more could I ask?

On my mom’s birthday several months after her death, I decided that David and I needed to commemorate this milestone day. I bought a pink and silver mylar balloon, and we wrote something pithy on it, and along with my friend Judith, we decided to launch the balloon with a few words and a prayer.

When we went out into the front yard, there were too many trees, so we decided that we would go over to the baseball field by the neighborhood middle school, say a few words, and then launch the balloon. So we did. Much to my dismay, as we launched the balloon, it rocketed into the air at warp speed, and then the balloon disappeared. Of course, I was disappointed at this EPIC FAIL!

As we were getting ready to leave the field, we looked up into the clouds overhead, and we saw the reflection of the sun on the balloon, which was blinking brightly like a beacon….and I knew that was my mom, in her own way, telling me everything would be okay….and I knew that it would be.

As I think about those whom I love, I want them to know that everything will be okay. I may not be present physically, but I will be nudging you to do better, to be better, to be kind, to be joyful, and to laugh at yourself and the world around you.

Despite all of the crap sandwiches we get served in this life, this is a wonderful world, and we need to be mindful of our part in making it so.

For those of you who are neither Cubs’ nor baseball fans, I am including this picture of rookie David Bote’s walk off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th during the playoffs. While a grand slam may not be in my playbook, I am hoping for the best but preparing for whatever lies ahead.

Whether it is taking a kid to the zoo or to Zesto for ice cream, whether it is writing a letter to your legislators, whether it is running for office, whether it is supporting your favorite charity, DO IT!

Monday morning quarterbacks are of little use to anyone.

Whatever you do, live your life to the fullest. Once again, do what matters to you.

We live in a time of maximum selfishness and greed. It is important to remember that true heroes acted selflessly, doing the right and principled thing with no expectation of honor or reward. We must hold on to those memories so we can reclaim decency, when the opportunity presents itself.

The New York Times recently published a little-known story about a Japanese diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of desperate Jews during the Holocaust. In these dark times, this story might restore your faith in the possibility of human goodness and courage in the worst of circumstances. It was written by Rabbi David Wolfe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. If you are able to open the link, you will see a picture of the hero of this wonderful story.

NAGOYA, Japan — “Even a hunter cannot kill a bird that flies to him for refuge.” This Samurai maxim inspired one gifted and courageous man to save thousands of people in defiance of his government and at the cost of his career. On Friday I came to Nagoya at the invitation of the Japanese government to speak in honor of his memory.

The astonishing Chiune Sugihara raises again the questions: What shapes a moral hero? And how does someone choose to save people that others turn away?

Research on those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust shows that many exhibited a streak of independence from an early age. Sugihara was unconventional in a society known for prizing conformity. His father insisted that his son, a top student, become a doctor. But Sugihara wanted to study languages and travel and immerse himself in literature. Forced to sit for the medical exam, he left the entire answer sheet blank. The same willfulness was on display when he entered the diplomatic corps and, as vice minister of the Foreign Affairs Department for Japan in Manchuria in 1934, resigned in protest of the Japanese treatment of the Chinese.

A second characteristic of such heroes and heroines, as the psychologist Philip Zimbardo writes, is “that the very same situations that inflame the hostile imagination in some people, making them villains, can also instill the heroic imagination in other people, prompting them to perform heroic deeds.” While the world around him disregarded the plight of the Jews, Sugihara was unable to ignore their desperation.

In 1939 Sugihara was sent to Lithuania, where he ran the consulate. There he was soon confronted with Jews fleeing from German-occupied Poland.

Three times Sugihara cabled his embassy asking for permission to issue visas to the refugees. The cable from K. Tanaka at the foreign ministry read: “Concerning transit visas requested previously stop advise absolutely not to be issued any traveler not holding firm end visa with guaranteed departure ex japan stop no exceptions stop no further inquires expected stop.”

Sugihara talked about the refusal with his wife, Yukiko, and his children and decided that despite the inevitable damage to his career, he would defy his government.

Mr. Zimbardo calls the capacity to act differently the “heroic imagination,” a focus on one’s duty to help and protect others. This ability is exceptional, but the people who have it are often understated. Years after the war, Sugihara spoke about his actions as natural: “We had thousands of people hanging around the windows of our residence,” he said in a 1977 interview. “There was no other way.”

On Friday I spoke at Sugihara’s old high school in Nagoya, during a ceremony unveiling a bronze statue of him handing visas to a refugee family. After the ceremony, in front of some 1,200 students, I spoke with his one remaining child, his son Nobuki, who arrived from Belgium to honor his father’s memory. He told me his father was “a very simple man. He was kind, loved reading, gardening and most of all children. He never thought what he did was notable or unusual.”

Most of the world saw throngs of desperate foreigners. Sugihara saw human beings and he knew he could save them through prosaic but essential action: “A lot of it was handwriting work,” he said.

Day and night he wrote visas. He issued as many visas in a day as would normally be issued in a month. His wife, Yukiko, massaged his hands at night, aching from the constant effort. When Japan finally closed down the embassy in September 1940, he took the stationery with him and continued to write visas that had no legal standing but worked because of the seal of the government and his name. At least 6,000 visas were issued for people to travel through Japan to other destinations, and in many cases entire families traveled on a single visa. It has been estimated that over 40,000 people are alive today because of this one man.

With the consulate closed, Sugihara had to leave. He gave the consulate stamp to a refugee to forge more visas, and he literally threw visas out of the train window to refugees on the platform.

After the war, Sugihara was dismissed from the foreign office. He and his wife lost a 7-year-old child and he worked at menial jobs. It was not until 1968 when a survivor, Yehoshua Nishri, found him that his contribution was recognized. Nishri had been a teenager in Poland saved by a Sugihara visa and was now at the Israeli embassy in Tokyo.

In the intervening years Sugihara never spoke about his wartime activities. Even many close to him had no idea that he was a hero.

Sugihara died in 1986. Nine years earlier he gave an interview and was asked why he did it: “I told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs it was a matter of humanity. I did not care if I lost my job. Anyone else would have done the same thing if they were in my place.”

Of course many were in his place — and very few acted like Sugihara. Moral courage is rare and moral greatness even rarer. It requires a mysterious and potent combination of empathy, will and deep conviction that social norms cannot shake.

How would Sugihara have responded to the refugee crisis we face today, and the response of so many leaders to bolt the gates of entry? There is no simple response adequate to the enormity of the situation. But we have to keep before us the image of a single man, overtaxed, isolated and inundated, who refused to close his eyes to the chaos outside his window. He understood the obligations common to us all and heard in the pleadings of an alien tongue the universal message of pain.

On Friday, I told the students that one day in each of their lives there would be a moment when they would have to decide whether to close the door or open their hearts. When that moment arrives, I implored them, remember that they came from the same school as a great man who when the birds flew to him for refuge, did not turn them away.