Monday, January 19, 2015

Let the Invisible Hand Work

Over the holidays, Howie was away, and Yvonne Ginsberg filled in for him for three weeks in a row. The first week, she said that we are actually more powerful when we let go of our defenses—when we are at our most vulnerable—because then we have access to more of our interior resources. I have a feeling that’s going to stay with me. (She once said, regarding impatience and wanting things to be as we prefer, “Let the invisible hand work.” I’ve never forgotten that.)

She also said that the awakening to which the Buddha refers is awakening from the trance of thought. I guess I’d never thought about what specifically the awakening was. Maybe I thought it was awakening to direct knowledge of our cosmic oneness or some such. However, I do believe that any moment when we’re not lost in thought is a moment of enlightenment, so I loved what Yvonne said. Fortunately, the idea of “becoming enlightened” didn’t persist long into my meditation career. I think that idea causes a good amount of misery for some.

On Christmas Eve there was a splendid luncheon party at the soup kitchen, which had been decorated for the holiday. There was a Christmas tree. Instead of standing in line, the guests were served a special lunch at their tables, complete with cake for dessert. Usually the soup kitchen doesn’t serve sweets (or coffee). The executive director had told me they’d have live music, which I interpreted to mean a folksinger with a guitar, but in fact it was a wonderful Latin-flavored band, complete with percussion and trumpet player.

There may be 20 volunteers there for a typical lunch, but on this day, there may have been 80 or more volunteers. It’s a major undertaking, both the preparations and the day itself. I was a busser, and with the surfeit of volunteers, I didn’t have all that much to do. There was one lone, brave woman—tall and skinny, in tight red trousers—dancing expressively all by herself. She saw me tapping my foot and came over to encourage me to dance. I’m not that intrepid, but then I spotted a fellow volunteer, a sweet person who often wears one enormous comical hat or another. On this day, he was wearing a lavender jacket and a huge bamboo hat that came to a point at the top. I asked if he’d like to dance and we turned out to be perfect dance partners. We danced for several songs in a row, and for one of them, the executive director came out and joined the tall woman, so it was the four of us. Very fun.

Then Tom and I drove to Sacramento in dense traffic, four hours to get there instead of two. We and Ann had a lovely dinner at Steve and Julie’s. Steve received Ann Patchett’s book of essays from Ann, which I immediately borrowed. I gave Ann Rod Kiracofe’s latest book about quilts, which is gorgeous. Tom and I slept over at Ann’s and in the morning we all went over to Paul and Eva’s for stockings, and got to see Chris and Kristin, and Sarah and Farid.

The Saturday after Christmas, I made Egyptian Bean and Vegetable Soup from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, which is delectable. On Sunday, Ann came from Sacramento and she and Tom and I had lunch at Thai Street Food, and then we saw Red Hot Patriot at Berkeley Rep, with Kathleen Turner in the starring role. I never regret going to see live theater, but this show will not be remembered as a favorite. I did get some sense of Molly Ivins’ career, but I don’t know if the idea of using Molly Ivins’ relationship with her father as the framework for the whole show was a good one. It didn’t seem quite organic, and Turner seemed stiff and uncomfortable, even unsure what to do with her hands. Watching her was not a relaxing experience.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Or, if You Insist, The Magnificent Onion and Fruit Organization

My father, who never comments on my blog because he (wisely) declines to have a Google account, but now and then responds to a post via email, wrote me this:

“Did you perhaps intend to write: ‘The Magnificent Onion and Fruit Organization’?”

So might one think, but when I used Duck Duck Go (which does not track its users or their searches) to discover what people would find if they did a search for “mofo,” the final word of the previous post, I came upon “The Magnificent and Onion Fruit Organization.” I had never heard of the Magnificent Onion and Fruit Organization to begin with; garbled, it was irresistible.

At December’s chaplaincy class, we had a wonderful, funny guest speaker. He demonstrated how someone he knows explains the concept of boundaries: Holding his hands a few inches from his chest with his palms toward himself, he explains, “Robert.” Turning his palms outward: “Not Robert.” After class, five of us had dinner at Bangkok Bay, in Redwood City.

In mid-December, there was still no sign of B. or D. at the soup kitchen. A week later, after an incredible amount of rain, I noticed that sun was streaming through a round window near the big stove, and the next time I stepped outside, there was D., giving weight to my theory that he’s the kind of person you only see when the sun is shining. It was a pleasure and relief to see him. He told me about a person he knows who, like him, lives in an RV, but with 12 dogs. His wife, reasonably, lives in a different RV.

That evening, I went to the Civic Center Plaza for the Annual Interfaith Memorial Service for Our Homeless Dead, co-sponsored by the San Francisco Night Ministry and the San Francisco Interfaith Council. Speakers included Rev. Lyle Beckman, Senator Jay Leno, and Jana Drakka, of the San Francisco Zen Center, who does street ministry.

She runs a meditation group at Glide Memorial Church, which serves the homeless. Carlos used to go to the group now and then, and I went with him a handful of times. Jana is Scottish, funny and very down to earth. She came to Carlos’s memorial and gave me a small green Quan Yin figure, which she said reminded her of Carlos’s nurturing qualities. She led us in a loving-kindness meditation at the memorial at the Civic Center.

All the folks who live at Thomas House were there, and they said it was twice as large as in past years. We held candles and listened to the speakers and sang. I was evidently the only person who had to consult the lyrics for “Amazing Grace.” These were people who knew five verses by heart (or all five verses, as the case may be). I didn’t see any apparent homeless people. This was mainly a crowd of those who serve or care about the homeless, maybe 125 such people.

The names of the dead were read at intervals. On the printed list, it said, for instance, “John Doe #6, John Doe #7,” but when the names were read aloud, the speaker said, “John Doe. John Doe.” That was a nice touch. Bad enough to die with your name unknown and no one at your side. Worse to be recalled as “John Doe #6.”

That Saturday I went to Laguna Honda for the second time. I’ve wanted to work at a hospital for a long time, and getting to walk around one with a clipboard in my hand and a badge hanging around my neck might be as close as I’m going to come. I’m thrilled to be there.

Bob has assigned me to the rehab unit (physical rehab, not drug) and particularly wants me to visit residents who have just arrived at the hospital. “Resident” is the term preferred to “patient,” and is appropriate for the 80 percent of the population who will live there always; it might not make as much sense for people in rehab, most of whom will be discharged. I met E., who has necrotizing fasciitis, which he said had eaten through his butt nearly to the point that a bone is visible. He has blazing blue eyes and is a drug addict and fast-talking charmer. We had a lengthy, entertaining chat.

I saw a guy in a wheelchair in the hallway who I’ve seen every time I’ve been there and said, “Hi, David.”

He answered, “Why do you keep calling me ‘David’?”

“Isn’t that your name?”


“Are you sure?! Wait a minute—are you one of those guys who changes his name every two weeks?”

He convinced me his name is F. and always has been. When I saw him again five minutes later, I said, “Nice to see you,” and he agreed, “Always!”

I visited A. again, shot in the back by an unseen assailant and paralyzed from the waist down. He had been issued a wheelchair and was in the dining room, visiting with other residents. His hair and beard had been neatly trimmed—he looked great—and he said he is taking a computer class! Another resident called for a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) to help him open a small carton of milk, and A. wheeled over, opened the carton, and said, smiling, “I can still do stuff with my hands.”

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Magnificent and Onion Fruit Organization

Early in December I made a bonus visit to the soup kitchen because one of my fellow chaplaincy students wanted to see what it’s like there. I thought she might get the best feel for the place if she suited up and did some bussing, and after being warmly welcomed by about ten people, just as I was welcomed on my first day, she put on an apron and plunged right in. After shadowing me for a bit, she went off on her own and bussed like a pro.

I didn’t see B. or D., who I had not seen in weeks. It was kind of rainy, as on many of the days I’ve been there recently, so it may be that D. was snuggled up in his RV. He seems like the kind of person you’d only see when it’s sunny. Maybe something similar happens for B.: if he has a dry spot, he very well may not want to get all his stuff wet. Then again, maybe he is dead, or in the hospital, or has gone to another city. I might never know, and I might never see him or D., again. I know my heart is going to get broken a million times at the soup kitchen. There is an inspiring quote from Viktor Frankl in the front of every issue of The Sun: “What is to give light must endure burning.”

A member of the intentional community that runs the soup kitchen has a friend, G., who comes from New York City a couple or few times a year to visit. G. is 90 and plays the piano in the soup kitchen dining room. He’s a lovely fellow. I got to chat with him at one of the volunteer potlucks. On this day, I thanked him for the beautiful music, and not 20 minutes later, I saw some commotion in his area: something had happened. I was worried that he had had a heart attack and expired on the spot, but it turned out that, as he sat on the piano bench, he had suddenly started to fall over backward. Fortunately, the guest sitting just behind him caught him before he fell entirely to the floor, likely preventing a head injury. The paramedics were summoned and took him away. He was lucid and able to walk, slowly, to the ambulance, but he looked forlorn and dazed.

I got a chance to visit with my new friend, H., a guest who is a poet and playwright. Re Ferguson, MO, and Cleveland, and NYC (and NYC, and NYC) he said he thinks that police officers should not work more than three days a week, given the extreme stress of the job. That’s a good idea. We agreed that if white police officers had African-American or brown-skinned friends, that might help. When we don’t know a single person who is gay, it’s easy to be homophobic, but when we have gay acquaintances, friends, or co-workers, gay people start to seem not so bad. I wonder how friendships could be facilitated between police officers and people of color. I heard lately some mention by a police officer of knocking on every single door in his area and meeting the people who live there. I’ll bet if every police officer did the same thing annually, that would make a profound difference.

The first Saturday in December was my long-awaited first visit to Laguna Honda as a chaplain. I called Bob several days prior and left him a message reminding him I’d be coming, but was fortunate to find him in his office, as he had not gotten the message. Normally he has people shadow him on a few resident visits before they solo, but he had a group of volunteers he had to be with, so he was forced to deploy me on my own.

List of residents lately arrived at the hospital in hand, I went to the rehab unit and met the resident I will likely never forget, simply because he’s the first person I spoke with at length there, just as I will never forget B. at the soup kitchen, the first guest I had a long chat with, on my very first day.

I might also never forget A. because, like the soup kitchen’s guests, he is homeless, and kept out of trouble by “recycling” (picking up cans and bottles with a resale value) in the “TL” (Tenderloin). Two months ago, he was shot in the back by an unseen assailant—the bullet is still in his back—and now he is permanently paralyzed from the waist down. He was at San Francisco General Hospital for acute treatment for two months and had just arrived at Laguna Honda a couple of days earlier. He was remarkably equanimous, saying he must now learn how to live this new life, though he teared up a time or two.

He said that he had made a point of trying to help others get food and clothing, etc., while on the streets, and in particular he helped a certain woman, who, in those two months, had not showed up to visit him. Painful. However, he has a brother in another state he hopes to be back in touch with soon.

After A., I visited with six other residents, including a slight fellow who said money had been stolen from him, ditto his credit card. His medication is wrongfully being withheld from him and he can’t sleep. There’s something wrong with his wheelchair and he wants it fixed. His roommate, C., said it’s been a long month, and here I would deploy a smiley face if this blog went in for that kind of thing. C. insightfully observed that his roommate’s problem is that he thinks he can change everything. As C. and I spoke, I could hear his roommate moaning, “This is a nightmare.”

C. told me he was assaulted and has had to have one of his eyes operated on. Next the other eye must be operated on, and then his brain. The first eye surgery went well and he thinks the second will be fine, too, but he’s worried about the brain surgery, whose outcome is not as certain. He asked for my card when I left. I don’t have one, but I wrote down my name and “Spiritual Care Department.”

At the end of two hours, I went to make a report to Bob, who seemed pleased that I’d visited so many residents. He said next time I can shadow him on a few visits.

Back at the elevator, who should be sitting there but the fellow who told me I’m lucky I can walk, precisely where I saw him before. Near him was another guy in a wheelchair, kind of a country-looking guy, who said to the first, “You haven’t told anyone to go to hell lately. Did they tell you to stop doing that?”

Complete silence on the part of the other party seemed to indicate an affirmative answer.

I got into the elevator with the country-looking resident, who observed, “You’re an interesting-looking person.”

“Because of the big mop of hair?”, I suggested.

“That’s part of it,” he agreed.

More flattering was the resident who, upon passing me in a doorway, shrieked, “Wow!” (I politely said
“Wow!” back.)
And then there was the woman I passed in a dining area who called to me, “You’re a sweetheart! You don’t know how much I love you!” I hope that’s the kind of old lady I will be, or the kind of dementia I end up with.

Back at home, I made a nice document with a table of contents to keep track of my visits with residents at Laguna Honda. I may or may not be a good chaplain, but I’m going to chart like a mofo.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Frizz Ball

After returning from Thanksgiving, I went to the soup kitchen to serve at a Sunday brunch shift. I noticed an older guest with a very cheerful face making all kinds of expressions and gestures. He caught my eye, and, without speaking a word or in any way seeming to flirt, he smiled, raised and lowered his eyebrows, looked meaningfully at me, made the zip-my-lips motion. I reciprocated as best I could.

One of our guests has fabulous rock star hair and he commented to me, “Your hair is like mine,” and he told me his hair care regime, which includes something I never thought of doing. I joked, “If my hair looks better the next time you see me, it will be thanks to you,” whereupon he said kindly, “Well, it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is to be a good person.” Here I realized that he was extremely tactfully trying to tell me something that any number of stylists have told me very firmly and without any tact at all: stop combing your hair into a big ball of frizz!

I chatted with an extremely gracious guest a couple of times, a woman with a pleasant face and manner. She commented on how good the pasta was. Usually I walk home from there, but the bus was coming just as I passed the stop, so I got on it and this same woman got on, following another passenger, whom she was cursing at, enraged. She accused the woman of having tried to kiss her neck, and said, “Don’t nod your white face at me, bitch!” The other woman was much younger, perhaps 20, and she remained silent. The soup kitchen guest continued to curse and rage until the next corner, where she got off.

The bus driver, a man, evidently said something about her needing to take her medication, because she got right back on the bus and said, “You don’t tell me to take my medication, bitch! Making a remark to me like that—that’s illegal! I’m going to call and file an incident report, bitch.” Then she got off the bus again and sloshed a whole cup of milk or something all over the windshield and vanished from sight.

It seemed perfectly clear to me that all this anger is her defense against the perils of being a homeless or very low income woman, and it didn’t seem frightening to me—I mean, I sound more or less like that myself when I have to talk to AT&T—but I imagined that the young woman probably felt frightened. The bus driver stood up and asked if we thought he should take some official action or just let it go. “Let it go” was my vote, and he drove on. I remarked to another passenger that I had just seen the angry woman somewhere else and she was as nice as you could want someone to be.

I guess one thing I take from that experience is an appreciation for how our guests—and volunteers—are on their very best behavior when they come to the soup kitchen, which is a giant compliment. I like going to the soup kitchen, in part, because it’s easy to be my very best self there: calm, cheerful, absolutely present, which is nourishing to me, if to no one else.

Monday, December 22, 2014

“Hash Pipe” by Weezer

SuperShuttle picked me up at about 4:30 a.m. for my Thanksgiving trip to Michigan. It was raining, and as we headed to the airport, I was astounded to see three separate people out on bicycles. The shuttle driver had three electronic mapping devices mounted in front of him, which he consulted often, whereas his engagement with the actual road seemed more tentative. However, we got to the airport safely and he politely addressed me as “sir” two or three times, so all was well.

The day after I arrived, my parents and I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics to look for a dress pattern. My mother is a master seamster, so I had asked her to make me a housedress to wear while cooking on the hot days that have become more common in San Francisco. The three of us sat down with pattern books and thumbed through them looking for dresses. I picked out a pattern for a wrap dress and then some fabric in a bright pink print.

My mother and I spent a good deal of time on this project. I did the sewing and she translated the instructions and provided mentorship and congenial company. Her sewing machine broke when we were about three-quarters done, and the old machine she’d kept just in case also proved to be on the fritz, so I will try to finish on my own.

I had my semi-annual cable news binge, watching what happened in Ferguson, MO, after the grand jury failed to indict the police office who killed Michael Brown. Also terrible was the video of the darling 12-year-old boy in Cleveland aimlessly puttering around on the sidewalk, making a snowball and dropping it, going to stand under a nearby gazebo. Then a police car roars up to him and he is shot dead, evidently before the police officer even gets out of the cruiser, and certainly without any evident exchange of words. This little boy had been playing with a toy pellet gun and someone called 911. The police claimed they asked him to drop the gun—there is absolutely no way—and after they took him from his family forever, they radioed something like “Black male down, age 20.”

It is sickening that the NRA wants everyone to have a real gun, capable of killing people with, when we have police officers murdering children holding toy guns. It is amazing that, with environmental collapse clearly in sight, we still haven’t made up our minds if black people are human beings or not. The world as we know it may literally end while blatant racism is still being practiced. If white adults can own real machine guns, black children should be able to play with pellet guns without being murdered.

One day, I joined my parents on their regular walk. My mother has lately discovered the joy of breaking into a jog and I was able to take a little video of her running down a hill. It is a joyful sight.

After grumbling here about my new camera, I got a characteristically kind and generous offer from my father, who said that I should bring my new camera to Michigan, and we could take some pictures, and if my camera seemed satisfactory to him, he would take it in exchange for his camera, which is identical to the one I loved and lost. I can still get the camera I liked, but not in silver, only in red or black, so my father also said that if I wanted to buy one in black or red, he’d take it in exchange for his silver one.

(This reminds me of when I was about eight years old and a friend’s father gave me an old film camera. My father offered to give me a brand new camera in exchange for the vintage item. I took a lot of pictures with the camera my father gave me—an Instamatic? I can still remember how it looked and the way the film smelled. Later my father bought me a Nikon FG that I used for years and still have in the closet. He got me a case to go along with it, and a yellow lens filter for snowy days, and cleaning accessories. What a great gift that was.)

I did take my camera to Michigan and my father and I sat down and took pictures of the exact same scene and I liked the look of his photos better, and, try as I might, could not duplicate the color balance using my camera, though in trying to do this, I learned a lot about my camera’s controls. Because the pictures taken by the new camera look terrible to me, I’ve had to explore all its options, and while I wouldn’t say I love it, I’ve become somewhat enamored of all the things it can do, so I’ve decided to keep it. Maybe I will still buy another of the original camera, in black, as well.

Or not. Having two cameras seems kind of wasteful for the amateur photographer. Spending time at the soup kitchen has made me more aware of this kind of thing, and has also made me think about food. The core volunteers probably eat many meals at the soup kitchen, and I am positive they don’t insist edibles must be organic and vegan or free roaming. (I lately heard someone refer to free-range chicken as “free roaming” chicken. Cute!)

Accordingly, I decided to be a non-vegetarian for Thanksgiving. I gather that it is less work for my father to produce a non-vegetarian holiday meal than to make the elaborate vegetarian meal he has often made. The last time he did it, it required starting at 3:30 a.m. So as a gift to my father and in solidarity with the soup kitchen’s guests, I ate and enjoyed roast chicken on Thanksgiving, along with Waldorf salad, and low-carb biscuits and cheese biscotti made by my mother. The biscuits and cheese biscotti were fantastic. That was our entire meal, along with wine for some and San Pellegrino for others. My father tries to make precisely as much food as people will eat during the actual meal, which even more encourages enjoying what is offered: leftovers are unlikely.

Afterward, my sister and parents and I lounged in front of the TV and watched some football and a couple of episodes of Orange Is the New Black. The others had my mother’s sugar-free raspberry cheesecake for dessert. I had to draw the line there. I quit eating sweets other than fresh fruit January 1, 2012, and it was totally easy and remains easy. It was a one-time gift from the universe, so I’m heeding what they say in AA: “Don’t pick up the first one.”

On Monday I had a salmon burger at Café Zola with Amy and ditto with Ginny on Wednesday. Both visits were delightful. After returning from lunch one of those days, I got a glass of soy milk from the refrigerator and Mom called from the TV room that it sounded like snacking was underway. I said, “You don’t want to become weak from hunger, especially right after lunch.”

“It’s a dangerous time,” Mom agreed.

I said I’d heard a great song on the car radio. It sounded like the guy was saying “I got my hash pipe,” and sure enough, the song was “Hash Pipe,” by Weezer, as determined by visiting WRIF’s website.

“The knowledge just builds and builds,” Mom said admiringly.

I was sad the night before I left, as is often the case. I noticed my thoughts: “I hate living so far from my parents and sister. I shouldn’t have left in the first place. Should I move back here?” Then I noticed this thought: “I should be over this.” Aha! Why should I be over this? I might never be over it.

I remembered what a guest speaker in my chaplaincy class said about maintaining a “posture of tranquility” and the thought came to me that I should leave in good cheer, and I did leave in fairly good cheer, with a new batch of nice memories.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Day of Death

My chaplaincy class has a few optional field trips, including “Death in the City,” which was this past Saturday. (A classmate emailed me, “I’m really looking forward to the Day of Death.”) 

We started at the Columbarium, which is an above-ground cemetery, a round, domed building full of “niches,” each of which contains someone’s cremains (except for a couple that are just honorary, like one for Harvey Milk).

The building opened a hundred years ago, and the niches on the lower floors are simple and dignified. All you see for most of them is a metal front plate and the family’s name, or there is a glass front and you can see the urn or other container.

As you ascend to upper floors of the building, it’s more like Dia de los Muertos altars, with photographs and mementoes. One niche even featured a tiny electronic sign flashing the name of the deceased over and over.

Then it was on to the San Francisco National Cemetery, at the Presidio, where we were invited to contemplate our feelings both about death and about the military. Much of training to be a chaplain is about knowing one’s own biases and sensitivities, so that they don’t unconsciously get acted out on those the chaplain hopes to serve.

The vast majority of the gravestones here are identical—simple white marble, with larger and more elaborate monuments here and there.

It was a beautiful day, not raining for the first time in days. 

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Monday, December 08, 2014

I’ll Be the Judge of That

At work on Monday, a mild conflict arose between myself and the representative of a group I’m working on a project with. This group has been particular about how this project is carried out, more so than the other 13 groups I’ve worked with this year. They asked us to do something we really didn’t want to do and there was a lengthy detour while we had several meetings about it. In the end, we had to agree to do what they wanted. Immediately after the meeting where this became clear, I sent a note saying we would be delighted to take care of it, and then I forwarded this note to one of my own co-workers, saying I thought I’d better send that gracious message while the afterglow of reaching an agreement was still upon me. She complimented my good thinking.

A couple of days before the project was scheduled to conclude, lo and behold, the representative decided that there was yet another thing they needed changed in a system that is used by many people beyond this group. I basically said we were absolutely not going to do it, and he basically said he’d see what his manager had to say about that, which is how the former issue began to escalate, too.

To digress semi-briefly, my chaplaincy class has a reading list consisting of 19 books, plus tons of online readings. I ordered every book right away, but there was one I couldn’t get at first: Professional Spiritual & Pastoral Care: A Practical Clergy and Chaplain's Handbook, edited by Rabbi Stephen B. Roberts, MBA, MHL, BCJC. Huh! Didn’t notice the MBA until just now. BCJC is Board Certified Jewish Chaplain. I have no idea what MHL is. To the non-religious eyes, looks boring, right? Not least because of all those credentials. Amazon listed this book—for $50—but said it was back-ordered. Weeks passed, and I finally canceled the order and ordered it from—for $35—but it was also back-ordered there.

I felt a little self-conscious about my neighbors maybe seeing a box from ChristianBook waiting for me in the lobby, like I should run around and tell them all, “I’m not a Christian!”

It finally arrived the day of my class in November, and it is actually an excellent book, not extremely well-written, but chock full of interesting advice for the aspiring chaplain. I read an assigned chapter on listening and realized that I was dealing with my co-worker in just the wrong way, in a way guaranteed to increase conflict.

I wrote up some reminders for myself for effective communication at work (and, I suppose, anywhere):

—How can I foster relaxation in this situation or conversation?

—How can I support connectedness?

—How can I nurture a sense of security?

—How can I give the other person as many options as possible, to promote a sense of choice and power?

I thought of several areas where this person could make some choices, and in our next meeting, which was just him and me, I greeted him warmly and asked what he’d like to talk about first, rather than telling him what we’d talk about first. I’d absolutely thought we would end up having to do this other thing he was pushing for, and therefore would have to delay the grand finale of the project, but in the context of our pleasant meeting, with me offering him options every time I possibly could, and after I showed him what his request would entail, he said it would be perfectly fine not to make the change! (I confess I also casually mentioned that another influential group in the company was perfectly fine without this change.) Anyway, that was a satisfying ending to that particular problem.

And then I thought again about my classmate who made the racist remark, realizing it would not be helpful to spend the time until the next class rehearsing offended speeches. My task is to find a way to act in a constructive manner, as at work, and as explicitly elucidated in Rabbi Roberts’ very good book.