Tuesday, October 30, 2018

One way to deal with hate: feel the love

Nineteen years ago, on the day before I got married, the wooden bar in my closet broke and my clothes tumbled to the floor. Someone recommended a handyman who showed up at my apartment wearing a cowboy hat, not a common sight in Hoboken, NJ. He fixed the bar. As he was leaving he said, "The funny thing about Jewish people is they pay people to fix things even if they don't like to spend money!" I laughed nervously, unsure how to respond, and paid him. Afterward, I felt sickened by his remark. I'd never before had an anti-Semitic comment directed at me. In the months that followed I spotted him a couple of times in town, with that cowboy hat on, but never confronted him.

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York and went to school in Boston, both areas with a good number of Jewish people. Other than the above incident, I've been lucky to have never faced prejudice, at least not that I know of. I can't say the same for Max. After I had him, I found out just how intolerant people can be of those with disabilities. It was a shock. It left me distraught and angry, as intolerance tends to do. I learned to confront it, speak out against it and try to change it as much as I could.

I feel far more hopeless about the hate that drove a man to gun down eleven people at the Tree of Life * Or L'Simcha congregation in Pittsburgh on Saturday. My friend Wendy and I were talking about it yesterday, and what could be done to prevent future violence. Do we need more gun control, including tighter sales regulation? Yes, we most certainly do, but what's going to contain the massive amount of guns already out there? Do we need more security at places of worship on an ongoing basis, not just after a violent incident? Yes, we do—but that might not prevent someone (or a group) intent on doing harm. Do parents need to teach children tolerance? Oh yes, they do, but if you've got racism in you, you are going to pass it down to your kids. And so our conversation went, as hopeless as they come.

I took Ben to the park in the afternoon. Sometimes I sit on a bench and catch up on emails as he plays but yesterday I put my phone in my bag and watched him scamper around the jungle gym. He started climbing up a slide and I ran over to the other side and waited for him and then his little head popped up through an opening and he said "Hi, Mommy!" with the biggest grin and I felt this tremendous rush of love. "I love you," I said. Then he did it again and this time, when his little face reappeared he said "Love you!" and I said "Love you!" and he skittered away and we did it again and again.

As I stood there on a chilly day, warmed by my little boy, I thought about how the opposite of hate is love. The loss of lives and the hatred and the weapons and the senselessness make me despair, as always happens when yet another gun massacre occurs. But when I savor the love—of my family, of a concerned friend, of the parent community on social media—and give love and do my best to raise children who are loving and accepting and tolerant, it helps temper the despair.

Love is not the answer. If only. But it is one potent antidote to hate, and the grief and hopelessness it brings. Martin Luther King, Jr., said it best: "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it."

Max, Sabrina and Dave walked in last night after running errands. Sabrina ran upstairs. I was in the living room on my computer, and Max walked over to me.

"How are you?" he asked. He is one of the few people I know who really means it when he asks.

"I'm good!" I said.

"Are you tired?" he wanted to know.

"No, I got good sleep last night I feel great!" I said.

"Yay!" he said, and I laughed and I felt the love.

I hope that the victims' loved ones are taking some comfort in knowing that people are beaming so much love at them.


  1. That's the best advise I got lately. Thank you for inspiring me.

  2. I was so moved by yesterday's entry but as usual, neglected to add a comment. However, I couldn't help but send some virtual delight at how similar the picture of Ben is to the banner picture of Max that has always struck me as totally adorable! I take it to heart when you remind us to savor how "yummy" the kids are at this stage. Thanks!


Thanks for sharing!

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