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ROGER ROSENBLATT: Most of one’s life is bracketed between the news in the morning and the news in the evening, and usually the news is bad: A war continues here, another begins there. The world’s menacing faces vow to kill you. In this place a flood, in this place an earthquake. And, in local news, a tenement fire destroys a family of five or nine. And a desperate man opens fire on his fellow office workers.
One starts the day with news of this terrorist attack or that retaliation. One ends the day with similar reports. It’s odd– life book-ended by so much misery, and in between, during the day, one meets a friend for lunch or buys a pair of shoes or pays the electric bill or makes love.
Here’s a question for Thanksgiving Day: Where do the miseries of the outer world and the quieter concerns of the personal life connect? Where do you fit in?
In the middle of the day, you’re safe, busy, prosperous, middle- of-the American day, do you hear the gun-fire in Iraq, or in East Timor, Burundi, or Afghanistan? Take your walk along your avenue. What if, instead of the beat of the ordinary street noise around you, you heard the rockets go off and the shouts for help?
What, in other words, if you did not keep the news of misery of your consciousness in the hours between the morning news and the evening news, but you had to live with it without an intermission? If that were so, one would be made terribly aware of how most of the world feels most of the time, how the ordinary Sudanese deals with day to day chaos and destruction. Life in war zones abroad consists of a series of alarms: Look here, look there, don’t go there. The same applies for the war zones at home. Between the beginning of an inner-city block and the far corner, one may be raped, beaten, shot. No intermission in the war zones. If the awareness of the bad news places were continual, it would certainly shake up one’s day.
Not to worry. You don’t live in Baghdad, or in South Central L.A. This is just a hypothesis. And yet Americans, as lucky as we usually are, do carry a dim consciousness of the suffering world in the time between the morning news and evening news: An echo of a war, a reverberation of suffering, sorrow in the back theatres of the mind.
It is this, added to the tensions wrought by Sept. 11, 2001, that bring down the spirit. What use, then, should one make of one’s time? I say, think small. Concentrate on the things easily done, the life within one’s reach. The miseries of the morning and the evening are overwhelming.
So reduce them to control. Work in a homeless shelter. Help in a soup kitchen. Volunteer for a humanitarian organization. Read to the blind. Help out in a school. While the wars thud in the morning and the evening, in the in-between time, give a hand. And the Thanksgiving connection?
Simple: Be grateful that one is able to offer some help in a world that cries out to you, to me, in the distance, every morning, every evening.
I’m Roger Rosenblatt.