The Best of the American Spirit

“In the midst of winter, I found that there was, within me, an invincible summer.”  Albert Camus

I remember my mother talking about building food coops during the Second World War, the importance of the work in keeping the community fed, and the sense of community it had built.  I have 60 years of reading about the courageous and communal way that London faced the daily bombings that laid waste to their neighborhoods.  And, like everyone else, I have learned about the extraordinary camaraderie of soldiers in the field.  There has been no way to erase the tragedy of these times, but no way not to admire how people persevered and how the perseverance, itself, lifted their spirits.

Yesterday, I received links to three wonderful musical presentations that have lifted my spirits.  Here they are:

I have watch, up close, how an organization near to my heart — the Institute for Nonprofit Practice – has transformed itself, over a period of days, into a virtual operation.  The INP thousands of nonprofit leaders who, in turn, serve hundreds of thousands of residents in low-resourced communities, in Boston, NYC, Providence, Lowell, and elsewhere.  All it has taken is dedicated, loving people working innumerable hours.  I am so proud of them.

Every day I hear about “ordinary” people doing astounding things.  Like the single family that began sewing hospital masks in their kitchen, then enlisting hundreds of other families to do the same.  Not bemoaning the absence of federal planning leadership but doing something about it.  Like the retired nurses and doctors coming out of retirement to help heal the sick and the dying, even though they, themselves are among the most vulnerable.  Like all the healthcare workers risking their lives every day to save others.  Like the mailmen and the grocers and the pharmacists who keep on going despite the danger to themselves and their families.  Like mayors and governors around the country, talking and planning and coordinating their efforts—and sharing their meager resources.

You have seen what I have seen and I’m writing this note simply to celebrate with you how our people—New Yorkers and Washingtonians, Americans, Chinese, and Italians, people of all genders and races—how our people are pulling together to do the best we can.  It is my devout hope that we will come through the Covid-19 crisis far more united than divided, far more energized than depleted, and far more loving, far more enlightened.

Let me end with a favorite poem.  It’s by Pablo Neruda.

If each day falls

inside each night,

there exists a well

where clarity is imprisoned

We need to sit on the rim

of the well of darkness

and fish for the fallen light

with patience.





10 thoughts on “The Best of the American Spirit”

  1. Barry, In my world of Jewish education, the teachers at all levels PreK-12, are the new heroes. Imagine spending 6-8 hours a day on zoom calls, then grading electronic papers on line, etc. It blurs my mind to consider what that must feel like at the end of the day. Yet, they persevere.

    And, from one of my favorite poems by T.S. Eliot:

    “Do I dare disturb the universe?”

    It’s time Mr. Prufrock to awake and finally do some disturbing.



  2. Wonderful uplifting article. I just talked to Nicole about gathering a group of friends to read to children via zoom. We all need to do what we can.


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