Grasshopper Mind


JUNE 11, 2021

It’s odd, isn’t it? Just when we are certain we can handle any challenge that comes our way – without, heaven forbid, asking for help - life does a 360. We suddenly find ourselves in a serious predicament. It hits us like a bolt of lightning – life cannot always be a solo act. We might need fast action and physical help with a medical emergency, or simply wise advice with a worrisome dilemma.  Whatever the situation, we cannot handle it alone. 


Self-reliance is a laudable trait, and one to be applauded.  Yet, when trouble knocks, nothing replaces having family and friends to answer the door. If we do not have these special people, we discover how much we need them.


For many reasons, we humans seem to make it just as difficult for others to give us help, as it is for us to ask for help. Pride is usually the biggest reason.  But pride is like self-reliance – we need it.  So how do we mingle self-reliance and pride, with the willingness to give and receive?  According to those who do it well, it takes patience, planning and empathy.


Recently a man who is, possibly, the best friend one could have, reminded me that we should prepare the help stage in advance. Our friends need to know we will not think they are incapable or needy if they come to us for help. They need to know we will consider it an honor to be asked.  Another thing, this remarkable giver suggested is … get in the habit of doing something without being asked … make a meal, offer to baby sit. Every spontaneous and thoughtful gesture, he believes, helps pave the way for friends to ask for help when the asking is hardest.


Why is this topic suddenly top of my mind?  Because recently this self-reliant woman - OK it was me - found herself needing help. It turned out not to be the emergency envisioned. Still, a quick call and a friend was there; faster than 911, a reassuring rock.  Confirmation of the word friend.


Barbara Streisand got it right when she sang … ‘People who need people are the luckiest people in the world…’   Believe it. 

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By the way, I almost didn’t send this; telling myself … my friends already know this.  I sent it anyway figuring we all need a reminder. 


MAY 21, 2021

A Memorial Day Tribute.

Until I saw their story on a recent 60 Minutes episode, I had never heard of The Ritchie Boys. Now in their 90’s, these survivng remarkable men are still, well – remarkable.

Their story unfolds during WWII. Most of the Ritchie Boys were Jewish academics– many recent immigrants from war-torn Germany.  Each was commissioned to work with the U.S.Military.  Their language skills, along with their temperaments, bravery, and ability to adapt,  according to military records,  most likely saved unknown numbers of lives.


The primary job of this select group was interrogation and translation.  They interrogated prisoners of war, as well as local citizens.  Germans speaking with Germans in their own language, understanding the nuances of the language, feeling their way to a beating heart.  “You must understand,” says one of the men.  “Many of those we spoke with wanted an end to the war as much as we did.  They were willing to share what they knew to save humanity, even if it cost them their own lives.”


One of this elite group, now 99 and still working every day; observed that understanding what was being felt, folded into what was being said, made it easier to bring out the truth … they became two individuals talking about a deadly problem, instead of captor and captive confronting each other.  And, their ways of interrogating, history shows, persuaded entire squadrons to surrender without fighting, and without losing face.


Another survivor, now a 97 year old professor, said their strength was in knowing how to improvise according to the situation. Landing at Dunkirk on D-Day, their objective was staying alive and helping  fellow soldiers; when in an interrogation tent it was gleaning information.


Many of these men rose to the top in their professions. When congratulated on their success, their response was ‘we believe, if you were saved – you must show you were worthy of it.’

In retrospect, the Ritchie Boys still seem to share the philosophy that helped them during traumatic days and years:  It is always the right time to do the right thing.  Never lump any group under one label.  Meet people where they are.  Listen.  Be willing to ask for, accept, and offer help.  Adapt your thinking and your plans to meet each situation  - no one and nothing are the same all the time. 

You can find the ‘rest of the story’ at your local bookstore.  I’m sharing this cameo because the Ritchie Boys words, actions, beliefs and courage seem as valuable today as they were eight decades ago.   

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Book: The Ritchie Boys, by Bruce Henderson
60 Minutes



MAY 9, 2021

Have you ever listened, really closely, as people rattle on about why they did, or usually why they did not do something?  Or, for that matter, have you ever listened to yourself doing the same thing?  It is quite fascinating how adept we humans are at justifying our actions or inactions.  Maybe we need a reason/excuse monitor to check our impulses. 

My monitor, growing up in England, was my father – he was Irish, fun, a storyteller, and a stickler for ‘tell the truth and shame the devil.’   Back then I ran track, and I was always the winner in the Girls 200 meters; no one came close … until they did, and she passed me. (I still remember her name.)  My father was watching the race, and I came off the track fuming and grumbling -- ‘I need new plimsolls (sneakers) – these are worn down, and the track was wet today … and a tirade of reasons why I lost.  He looked at me and said “Joan! There’s only one REASON you lost – you didn’t run bloody fast enough, so enough with the excuses.’  

He could have temporarily consoled me with the prospect of new sneakers; or told me everybody has an off day; or maybe patted me on the back for past wins.  Not a chance.  You win, you lose, you learn.  Excuses just balloon up and out, and pretty soon they become a way of life.  At least that’s what my father said – and, turns out, he was a very smart fellow. 

By the way, our sons grew up with the ‘excuses not allowed, reasons accepted’ philosophy.  I kind of like the way they turned out. 

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Postscript:  If you missed the first post, explaining why Grasshopper Mind was chosen, look at 2021-The Curious Grasshopper.  If you left a comment on the first post – and if you can remember what you said, can you share again?  Comment door is now open. 


MAY 5, 2021

Have you ever watched a grasshopper? I don’t mean studied it, like a scientist – I mean lazily watched it hop from leaf to leaf; a nibble here - a nibble there – never devouring an entire single leaf; but always consuming enough to keep it lively and hopping.  Maybe the smorgasbord dining even helps him or her stay curious about what’s next on the menu? 

Since I’m past caring whether people will think I’m a slug who just sits around watching grasshoppers hop, instead of doing something productive – I’ll admit, I have watched them endlessly.  And, after observing their habits, I have come to believe that grasshoppers work the way my mind works.  They take in a lot of random tastes and tidbits from lots of leaves, but not a lot from any single leaf.  I seem to take a sampling from a lot of sources, but not a deep dive into a single source. 

Why am I sharing this strange monologue?   Because this is the first Grasshopper Mind post.  Like the Grasshopper it will be delivered randomly, no set days or dates.  And content will be random too, whatever is top of mind or seems interesting at the moment.

You’re invited to sign up and be surprised.  If you like what you see and hear, that’s good – if not, that’s OK … either way, let me know what you think.