It was a Christmas Pageant! It was not a holiday show. It wasn’t a December musical. It was a flat out, Jesus loving, 1950’s, Christmas pageant. I was fuming. We, my then wife and I, were in the auditorium of a Westside PUBLIC school to see her young daughters, my step-daughters, perform in the annual program. She was beaming. Me? I was filling scraps of paper with notes. I wondered, silently, how not one student or parent in the entire North Ridgeville school district was Jewish, or Muslim, or an atheist, or even an agnostic. None. Hard to believe. My displeasure did not go unnoticed and she neither understood, nor appreciated, my position.

I wrote last week that we “can spend our time counting and categorizing our differences, or we can learn to appreciate people for who they are, We could easily miss such attributes as honesty and shared values if all of our attention is drawn to our dissimilarities.”

Last week’s post, in general, and those sentences, in particular, elicited at least one person to remind me that I may extol the virtues of being non-judgmental, but I have a history of being quite the opposite.

And I remembered that long ago night of December 1989.

Guilty. I would like to hope that I am both a better writer and a better person than I was twenty years ago. Some posts and some days I am. Some days I fail miserably.

I have been writing for a very long time. I have notebooks and files dating back to high school. I periodically review poems and newspaper columns that I have published. And, as someone who has tripped down the aisle a few times, I have more than enough personal successes and failures to replay in my mind. It is easy, in retrospect, to attribute certain victories to good fortune. It is even easier to point to my own personal shortcomings as the cause of my disappointments.

All of that would, in part, be true.

I would like to hope that I have not repeated the same mistakes again and again. I would like to hope that I am making new mistakes. But, that may be a goal beyond my reach.

I have certain weaknesses. I hate to be taken for granted or to realize that anyone is taking advantage of me. My second biggest hot button is to see some one I love used and abused.

I am opinionated, judgmental, and, at times, a pain in the ass. I once said that I was an acquired taste. My point last week was that we should keep our eyes and minds open. I was noting that we shouldn’t prejudge people who are different than us. I asked my readers to observe and listen. We need to be open to others, but we don’t need to relinquish our core beliefs or values. The acceptance of others doesn’t equal the diminishing of ourselves.

So, I agree with the reader who noted my guilty past. Was she being judgmental? Perhaps, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.


The young parents had their arms full.  Standing in line at the Beachwood Winterfest, our chamber of  commerce’s annual community pancake breakfast, they were trying to keep three small children close while holding five Styrofoam plates.  The parents were talking with Mark Nolan of WKYC.  Local politicians, several of whom had their nominating petitions conveniently available, were kvelling over the little boys.  The kids just wanted to eat pancakes with blueberries.  They didn’t care about the festivities or the celebrities, but no one was asking for their opinion.  It took awhile, but eventually we all knew what the children wanted.

My friend Marc lives in Israel.  His mom lives in Menorah Park.  I visit every other Sunday.  This week I brought chocolate.

Menorah Park is the most beautiful, best staffed, nicest nursing home I have ever seen.  If I wasn’t Jewish, I would schedule a meeting with a rabbi just to make sure I could move in there when I get older.  But, it is still a nursing home.  Fantastic facilities and wonderful, dedicated caregivers can’t hide that fact.

The elderly men and women in the area I visit never forget that they are in a nursing home.  They are constantly reminded of their physical limitations.  They are painfully aware of how dependent they are on the staff for their most basic needs, things we take for granted.  One example is going to the restroom.

Many of the residents are incapable of transporting themselves from their rooms to the dining area, from the dining area back to their rooms, from the comfort of their chairs to the restroom.  They all can’t be moved at once.  Invariably, many wait while someone is being assisted.  Every moment of waiting reinforces their helplessness.  Every unanswered call reminds them that they no longer have any independence.  And every moment spent alone waiting for the aides makes them feel even less significant and more invisible.

I think, sometimes, that our job is to search for the invisible and let them know that we can see them and that they are not alone.