President Trump’s motorcade passes neighborhoods devastated by wildfires as he surveys the damage on Nov. 17 in Paradise, Calif. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
Yup, this title is meant to spark attention, which “empathy dysfunction” spelled out might not.
And what does empathy or its absence have to do with Thanksgiving? Well, this year, it means not forgetting California’s unprecedented hardship and heartbreak — and the help we need to give and keep giving as long as it takes.
Our surprise winter storm diluted immediate concern for the wildfires, and the unprecedented gridlock was incredibly stressful. But homes and communities were intact when finally reached. Yes, numerous trees were downed, lamentably, but the damage was incomparable to large areas of California, where everything is blazed out. Imagine. And imagine we must.
Oh, it should be remembered that due to our storm, public events were cancelled, like the 79th Street Neighborhood Association monthly meeting, where California’s heartbreak and hardship would have been an active concern. So many New Yorkers have close family and friends who live in California and won’t need reminding. But others will, and how we need high profile people to do just that.
The president finally toured some burned out areas, which thankfully seems to have raised his not-so-active empathy level. But so far, more needed are our former Presidents Carter, Clinton, both Bushes and Obama to be there pledging all-out support. Even more so, perhaps, the first ladies must be there, one of whom was secretary of state and almost our president. And yes, first offspring and first grandparents should be there as well.
And what must we at home be doing? For now, here’s some of what this column urged after the Carolinas were ravaged by Hurricane Florence. New York City
youngsters were asked to reach out to Carolina youngsters, letting them know they cared by using social media. And they’d set an example for other age groups, especially for elders to reach out to their peers in the Carolinas, who were often alone and disabled. And long overdue, these youngsters enabled elders’ social media use.
New Yorkers with animal pals were told about animal rescue groups in the Carolinas. And I took the liberty of reminding faith and civic groups how they must be at the forefront of these critical and ongoing endeavors.
Now read the Nov. 15 New York Times piece, “California Fires Only Add to Acute Housing Crisis.” On the news, a Paradise, Calif. man pleads for a garage he might rent to temporarily house his family. But what about home sharing? Once people opened their homes to family, friends, neighbors and others in need. And yes, that’s difficult for members of a society now so accustomed to living alone. But it would be infinitely easier if communication skills were learned to aid getting along. I can think of some books that do just that — like those by Haim Ginott, “Straight Talk” by Sherod Miller, and by Daniel Walkman, Elaine Nunnally and Carol Saline.
Remember, there were some city faith groups that held forums and classes as well. Among them were Central Presbyterian Church, Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church and the Roman Catholic Church of the Epiphany. They need a mighty revival to help overcome the many unprecedented social and political divides.
There would be so much more to be thankful for — and it can be done if enough of us try — with California never very far from our minds. Do know I am so very thankful for you.