I’m getting ready to turn in after what has been a very full day.
Here’s the post-work agenda.
I talked with Leon Bass, a personal hero and, most recently, memoirist who grew up in Philadelphia, served in the segregated army during World War II, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, witnessed the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, returned home to become a teacher, became a disciple of non-violence, participated in the March on Washington, and worked for close to 15 years as principal at one of the toughest high schools in the United States.
The publication of Leon’s book was particularly gratifying to me because we had talked about it starting in 1998, one of the first times I met him while working for Facing History. In it he recounts the events I listed above as well as many more, asking throughout the work, “Is the price too high?”
The price of course is about retaining one’s integrity and acting with courage, even when the inducements to not do so are great indeed.
After Leon, I spoke with Ava Kadishshon Schieber, another 85-year-young sprite, Holocaust survivor and wise spirit. Ava survived during World War II in her native Serbia by pretending for four years that she was deaf and mute.
Also a writer, poet and artist, she asked with heartfelt concern about my mother-in-law Helen’s condition.
From there, my brother Jon and I spoke via Skype from Haiti, where he is finishing up an assignment with Doctors Without Borders. In what is just the latest in a series of possible honors, Jon is a finalist for yet another prestigious fellowship. He’s leaving in about a week for Scotland to deliver his TED talk, and thus needs to wrap up this application by July 7.
To his credit, he’s been working hard on his proposal. For this fellowship, he has to generate a different and more extensive set of answers than in the initial round. We are working together to shape and integrate his opening section, the stories he proposes and the reason why this work is necessary now.
It’s slow going at times, and, through Skype, I felt like he was right next door.
I also talked with my honey bunny, Dunreith, who is valiantly (wo)manning the front lines of her mother’s radiation treatments while keeping up with the many demands of her work at Facing History and Ourselves.
Being there for a parent who has an inoperable brain tumor is not easy stuff, and Dunreith’s got lots of strength and an even bigger heart.
Former fourth grade teacher, mentor, friend and blogger Paul Tamburello and I caught up about the various events in our lives since our last conversation. At times it’s hard for me to believe that it’s been more than 35 years since I was a student in his class at Pierce School.
Arnessa Garrett, our Dart Society vice president and a Louisiana native who now lives in Dallas, called to share an idea she had and that she plans to usher through.
And, finally, I spoke with Margarita Akhvedliani, a fierce, brave and highly accomplished journalist from Georgia and another board member. We spoke via Skype so that she could avoid ruinous cell phone charges. As with Jon, even though she was half way around the world, we spoke as if we were sitting next to each other.
This was all after work, so said nothing about working at Hoy with colleagues that hail from Mexico, Spain and Puerto Rico, and a chance encounter with an acquaintance from Iran.
The ability of technology to bring together from different and overlapping countries and backgrounds and stages of life, all in a single day, is absolutely stunning to me.
I feel enormously fortunate both to live in a time when such connection is no only possible, but easy, and to have the rich web of relationships that support, nurture, witness, challenge and love me.