It is 2:20 AM. I awoke Tuesday morning sick with a cold or the flu or somatic manifestations of despair–certainly not confined to the tax bill, but a sense of hopelessness that after Elizabeth MacDonough, Parliamentarian of the Senate, raised what is referred to colloquially as “the Byrd bath” before Christmas President Trump will sign a soak the poor bill with devastating economic consequences.
All day, sweaty and exhausted, I have been reluctant or unable to get out of bed–in and out of restless sleeping, hoping for a respite where I might set aside an hour to put my mind in order following the considerable distractions of the week. Seeking for focus now that I am hopeful that at this unlikely time this may be the appropriate hour, I ritualistically clean my glasses.
Ideally, this would be an excellent time to say my prayers or meditate making use of a mantra helpful for launching the wiping clean of temporal thoughts. The best prayer is already on my lips. In Hebrew. Designed to be said first thing in the morning but one I say periodically over the course of the day.
מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ.
“I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”
The appropriate mantra is the first of three rhetorical questions.
אם אין אני לי, מי לי
“[Rabbi Hillel] is popularly known as the author of two sayings: (1) If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?’ and (2) the expression of the ethic of reciprocity, or ‘Golden Rule’: ‘That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.'”
Prayer and meditation are denied me. Instead, a jumble of distractions cause restlessness. If I begin describing one of the distractions, I may linger too long and fail to provide an understanding of the sense of being overwhelmed. Here are six concerns (not all, but an arbitrary listing of serious issues that readily come to mind competing and too often interfering with the focus required for resolution).
- Here at Addison Court, the apartment complex where I live, the danger of fire and I am convinced more serious than fire itself the danger of panic when fire alarms go off in this partially defend in place building where a substantial number of residents are mobility disabled. Addison Court, in the heart of Downtown State College–across the street from Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe–is a low income residence for the elderly and for those with physical and emotional disabilities. At Addison Court, the designated fire escape route is not wheel chair accessible. Instead, those of us with mobility disabilities (especially those living on floors two through eight) must wait for a fire woman or man to rescue us in the event of fire.
According to Steve Bair, Centre County’s excellent fire chief, there may be as many as 30 residences in the Borough of State College where a portion of the residents should be mindful that defend in place is their best safety measure.
Addison Court is in the advantageous position of being constructed of brick and of having an excellent sprinkler system. Five years ago, with the enthusiastic assistance of Mayor Elizabeth Goreham and with Steve Bair working closely with then Police Chief Thomas King the dangers of panic–responded quickly and effectively. The panic was averted. The panic had manifested itself in such dangerous behavior as residents throwing wheel chairs down the stairs–were averted with education and other measures including residents establishing a volunteer group (patrols on each floor).
In January, with the assistance of Addison Court’s efficient property manager Jim Hook, fire safety education will resume in the social hall/bingo parlor (where Lady Gaga has yet to accept an invitation to perform). Two weeks ago, having set up a meeting with Steve Bair, I asked Tom King (now retired as a police chief but working full time as a Borough Council staff member) for assistance. Consequently, Police Captain Mathew E. Wilson and Police Officer with a community relations portfolio joined us at Alpha Fire Company–an encouraging meeting. It is also worth noting that the current State College Police Chief John Gardner, whose career has been based here in the community, is a strong supporter of cooperation with Alpha Fire and Steve Bair.
Last week, Fire Chief Steve Bair told me about the disturbing deaths on December 5th of two residents at a multi-story apartment building in Wilkes Borough–a building disturbingly similar to Addison Court.
“Smoke was seen pouring out of the balcony of a fifth-floor apartment as fire crews evacuated the building, a public housing complex run by the Wilkes-Barre Housing Authority, reported Bob Kalinowski for the Scranton-based “The Times-Tribune.”
“The firefighters really had their hands full. Hundreds of people live in this building. They not only had to go in and extinguish the fire, but they had to rescue the occupants,” Delaney said. “The firefighters did an impeccable job. Yes, there were two people who didn’t make it out, but 150 or 160 people did without injury.”
Initially, fire crews called for ladder trucks from surrounding towns to come rescue people who fled to their outdoor balconies, but they decided against that option after getting a good initial attack on the fire, Delaney said.
2. At Mount Nittany Medical Center and HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital, patient outcome would be improved as well as employee moral if professionals in the field were to incorporate art and music into our hospitals.
3. A major effort is required to reduce the infant mortality rate in central PA and promote efforts to prevent women from having avoidable deaths–as are taking place in Texas–during childbirth.
4. The Commonwealth must pass legislation to ensure the intentions of the Americans with Disability Act are made a reality. Currently, a restaurant in State College was able to receive an operating license because it complied with the letter of the law and not its spirit. The restaurant spent more than the $4 thousand dollars to meet its disability requirement. It fulfilled its requirement by installing a wheel-chair accessible toilet. However, it did not first make sure the entrance is accessible–which it is not.
5. Last week Ed LeClair, who is in charge of planning for the Borough of State College, told me his department has no information on the current and future impact on the economy of the Borough of Foxdale and other upscale retirement communities which are growing in size.
6. On Valentine’s Day 2018, I am seeking funds to visit Stuttgart, Arkansas to research a forthcoming book on how to feed the 20 million people in the world currently starving to death. Arkansas is the largest rice-producing state in the U.S. Stuttgart is home to Riceland Funds, an important grain and soybean trading company. The technical savvy of Arkansas’s rice farmers could be critical to helping Zimbabwe improve its rice production. Zimbabwe used to be the breadbasket of the region of southern Africa. Restoring its ability to help Africa be self-sufficient in food production is critical in any effort to prevent unnecessary deaths from starvation.