Grasshopper Mind



DECEMBER 24, 2021

Last week six old friends sacrificed their Poker night. Instead, they went caroling at the homes of several friends. It was spontaneous and fun, for the singers and their audiences.


Hearing of their escapade made me reminisce about youthful caroling in Lancashire. For my siblings and me, caroling had little to do with the spirit of the season. It was our annual fundraiser. We depended on it.


Our neighbors, who had little to spare, were kind and most chipped in a few coppers. Our most lucrative stop was the local Pub. We arrived when customers were feeling mellow and magnanimous. Seeing pound notes hit the hat was magic.


For kids, we were savvy. We always included tear-jerkers and pulls on heartstrings.  Our first carol was Here we come a Wassailing, raising our voices on the words ‘we are not daily beggars who go from door to door, but WE your neighbor’s children … more mumbling. Raised voices when we pretended to show we cared ‘bless the master of this house, bless the mistress too – and all the little children around the table ... God send a happy.


For those we knew were not ‘regulars’ at church we sang ‘Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat – will you please put a penny in the old man’s hat.  If you haven’t got a penny a halfpenny will do.  If you haven’t got a halfpenny, God bless you. If they hammered on the door, indicating we move along (usually they’d shout bugger off!)  we had a not so jolly parting song for them. It did not ask God to bless them.


Spur of the moment caroling with poker players.  Caroling with brothers and sisters, laughing all the way home, and dividing the loot.  Smelling the Christmas pudding steaming in its wrappings. Wearing the silly Christmas cracker hats.  Memories are made from these moments.


Some of our caroling was during WWII. The blackout made it more exciting.  One time we got to sing in a public air raid shelter.  During those years our final carol was ‘JOY TO THE WORLD.’   We needed reminding – Joy will return.  And it did.


So have yourself a merry little, spontaneous, serendipitous, silly, and memory building Christmas.


Joy to the world.

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DECEMBER 17, 2021

Apologies for filling your in-box.  So many of you are volunteers -- our life's blood. This time of year  I am drawn to reread the amazing Erma Bombeck's 'So Long Volunteers.'  She had a way of  reminding us what is important.  Thank you, Erma.


by Erma Bombeck


I had a dream the other night that every volunteer in this land had set sail for another country. I stood smiling on the pier, shouting, "Good-bye, phone committees.  "Good-bye disease-of-the month. No more getting out the vote. No more playground duty, bake sales, rummage sales, thrift shops, and three-hour meetings." 


As the boat got smaller, I reflected; "serves them right, that bunch of yes people. All they had to do was to put their tongues firmly against the roofs of their mouths and make an "O" sound--no. It would certainly have spared them a lot of grief. Oh, well, who needs them?"


The hospital was quiet as I passed it. The reception desk was vacant. Rooms were devoid of books, flowers, and voices. The children's wing held no clowns, no laughter. The home for the aged was like a tomb 'The blind listened for a voice that never came. The infirm were imprisoned in wheelchairs that never moved. Food grew cold on trays that would never reach the hungry. The social agencies had closed their doors--unable to implement their programs of scouting, recreation, drug control; unable to help the  handicapped, lonely and abandoned. Health agencies had signs in their windows: "Cures for cancer, birth defects, multiple sclerosis, heart diseases, etc., have been canceled because of lack of interest."


The schools were strangely quiet, with no field trips and no volunteer classroom aides. Symphony halls and the museums that had been built and stocked by volunteers were dark and would remain that way. The flowers in churches and synagogues withered and died. Children in day nurseries lifted their arms, but there was no one to hold them in love.


Alcoholics cried out in despair, but no one answered. the poor had no recourse for health care or legal aid. I fought in my sleep to regain a glimpse of the ship of volunteers just one more time. It was to be my last glimpse of a decent civilization.


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DECEMBER 14, 2021

The word purpose struck a chord.


A comment that sums up the feelings of most who responded is this:  If  you can look back at the end of the day and feel you have accomplished just one thing; large or small, you have served your purpose." 


Another observed that perhaps our purpose is waiting to be unleashed. She referred to the Wizard of Oz, when Glinda tells Dorothy she's always had the power. Scarecrow asks why she didn't tell her that before. Glinda replies 'Because she wouldn't have believed me.  She had to learn it for herself.'


Your thoughts give us more reasons to ponder the impact of purpose.  Thank you.


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DECEMBER 13, 2021

A smart and thoughtful young friend recently asked an interesting question.  ‘You talk a lot about purpose she said - what exactly does it mean?’


Merriam’s answer: The reason something or someone exists; an intended result.  John’s purpose in life is to end hunger. Katy noted the meeting’s purpose was to approve the budget.


Posing the question to several friends confirmed the word purpose means diferent things to different people – depending on where they are in life.  For a retired man in his 80’s, it was having a daily goal.  Today I will trim the hedges.  His purpose for getting up and out that day.


A successful entrepreneur's life long purpose is to first acknowlege and appreciate the talents you were given. Then use those talents to help others recognize and purposefully use their own talents.


Oprah’s book The Path Made Clear is a reflection on purpose.  She, and famous friends, devote their comments to following one’s true calling.  To living your ultimate life's purpose. Wiser heads may add – easy to say, hard for many to do. Winds and circumstances do not always allow smooth sailing to what or where we'd prefer to be.


The unanimous response to your thought provoking question, young friend, is:  There is no single answer:  Our purpose might change, day to day. If our purpose at any given moment includes helping someone reach their potential, improving our surroundings, sharing what we can - we’re on the right track. These human assets are transferable to any day, any circumstance, any calling. There is no expiraton date.


Author Robert Byrne tells us that the purpose of life is a life of purpose.  It’s up to us to decide what purpose means to each of us.


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DECEMBER 4, 2021

Has your car ever broken-down during rush hour, on a very busy road, in a spot where you could not move your vehicle completely out of the line of traffic?


You say to yourself – Oh my, these drivers must be furious. Then, one person after another stops, offering to help. They care more about you than getting to their destination a little faster.


One young man turned his truck around – stopped traffic, and for safety pushed my car to a side street. In moving the car, we partially blocked a driveway. The homeowner returned. They could access their home. Still, I apologized. ‘Oh, that’s OK,’ said the young man. If AAA takes too long, just press the gate buzzer and come inside to wait and have a cup of coffee.


The AAA man arrived. I’m so sorry you’re having this problem. Let’s take care of you. Make no mistake, their work is hard. He made it seem like the most fun he’d had all day.


Listening to bad news aplenty, reading about abuse, mayhem, and scandals is harrowing. We forget how many really good people are in our world. Strangers who see a need and want to help. Service professionals, worked to the bone, but eager to put others at ease. Sons who drop everything and come to your rescue.


I’ll miss my car for a few days. What I received in return was seeing and receiving the spirit of a giving people. It puts the grim news on page two. It renews hope during this  Season that should be joyful. So, thank you – to those who stopped to help, those who did not honk their horns, and those who said let’s take care of you.


As one nightly broadcaster says: Thank you for listening, take care of yourself – and each other.




NOVEMBER 24, 2021


The word tolerance has cropped up in several recent conversations. Interesting that in each conversation the word took on a different connotation.


One group was increasingly distressed by the ‘lack of tolerance’ with anything or anyone different. Unwilling to consider the merit of other options.


Some discussions turned into a round-robin of how individuals interpret the word.


As youngsters, we heard ‘I will not tolerate such behavior.’ Interpretation: Change your ways, or I will change them for you. We hear, ‘she has a high tolerance for pain.’  Our mind goes to a stoic friend. He showed tolerance dealing with the delays. This is a patient person. Susan could not tolerate the medication. She was sensitive to the medication. They tolerated abuse. Injustice. This machine tolerates limited volume. Capacity. The list continues.


Fascinating to note the words used in conjunction with tolerance: Consideration. Change. Stoic. Patience. Sensitive. Injustice. Capacity.


Would using these tolerance words more frequently make a difference? Perhaps: Thank you for your consideration. Maybe it is time for change. Be stoic in acknowledging what’s right. Your patience will be rewarded. I am sensitive to the challenges you face. Continue to fight against injustice. We have the capacity to do more.


As a word tolerance is changeable. As an act, it can be a game-changer.


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Thanksgiving: I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. G.K. Chesterton


NOVEMBER 18, 2021


Stop the World I want to get off was a catch phrase in the 1960’s. That generation used it to say ‘I have to be free. I need to escape. I want a rest from the pressures of life.’  Sound familiar? In retrospect the sixties seem like a rehearsal. Except today there’s more speed, information, people, challenges, opportunities.


Today we hear - Can’t keep up with the changes. Busy all the time. Getting little accomplished. Like Groundhog Day. Too much for our brains. How do we sort through it?


Some find a safe rut. Burrow in. Avoid changes. Keep trudging. Others use Yogi Berra’s playbook – when you come to a fork in the road – take it. Yogi meant whichever road you chose brought you to his house. We are not going to his house. There’s no clear destination. We’re lost. Need to recalibrate our focus. Better find our direction.


An accident jolted my friend, John, out of his rut. He fought it. The rut was comfortable. He knew everyone in the rut. They all liked the same things. No surprises. Outside his rut he had to depend on strangers. He had to make room for the different.


John’s horizons expanded. It’s easy to get into a rut, he says. Harder to get out. For a short time, the rut is cozy. We get to rest. Stay too long and rest turns to rust. We get mired in our own lethargy


His remedy: Start simple. Extend a hand to a stranger. Visit the farmer’s market. Invite your new neighbor for pizza. Do something.


It’s been said the only difference between a rut and a grave is six feet. Our goal is to narrow that six-foot gap. Stay out of the rut. If we fall in - get out fast.


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NOVEMBER 8, 2021


As a youngster, my father would admonish “You’d argue with Paddy’s pig.” He was right. No matter the adversary, or extreme measures needed to prove my case, I would argue. Win at all costs, and the devil take the hindmost.


With time, patience, and tamping down the ego, most of us learn discussion is more productive. Until it becomes an argument.


Merriam Webster defines Argument as an exchange of opposite views, typically an angry one. Discussion as talking about something to reach a decision or exchange ideas.


The argument-discussion conundrum was a recent topic for my friends and me. Most believed arguments are apt to erupt when we use the wrong words. One, a family counselor, suggested we should not openly disagree with what is said. Simply respond ‘I believe you see it that way, but I do not.” Leave it at that. A retired teacher said when she observed student errors she did not say ‘that is wrong’ she said, ‘does that look right to you?’


When a discussion is going awry, for me reversing it depends on the tone and topic. “You’re both sharing interesting thoughts – thank you. Now, what if we stop talking about what IS, and talk about what can BE. Jason, you first.” Not as subtle, but neutral.


Another in the group said her way to change course, is to smilingly say “Well I could agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.”


What are the odds that instead of turning discussions into arguments, we can learn to turn arguments into discussions? The odds-makers put their money on the age-old solution of time, patience, and a sense of humor.





OCTOBER 29, 2021



It would be impossible to count the number of times, growing up, when I was told to ‘be thankful for small mercies.’  Depending on the level of griping, this advice might be followed by the mournful story ‘I cried because I had no shoes, until …’


In our home, bringing a situation into perspective was fast, vocal, and visual. Self-pity could not take up permanent residence. A brief period of wallowing in perceived injustices was allowed.  After that it was snap out of it – look around – make yourself useful.  Action beats wallowing.  Wallowing takes you down a dark hole. The right action lifts you up, out, and ahead.


Months before he passed away a friend was told he had limited time left. Pangs of self-pity were deep, but brief.  He moved into action.  He called friends and shared fun stories.  He arranged his own uplifting service.  He found ways to make others feel better. He filled his days with living.


Not all challenges are created equal. Having the wrong sneakers does not compare with a months-to-live diagnosis. No matter how dire or how simple the problem, moving quickly from self-pity to self-purpose is good advice. One self destructs; the other builds monuments and memories.


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A kindness INSTITUTE. Really?

OCTOBER 21, 2021

Have you heard of the Kindness Institute? I do not jest. In 2019 UCLA received a $20Million grant to establish the Bedari Kindness Institute.  It is billed as the world’s first interdisciplinary research center dedicated to exploring the psychological, sociological, biological, political, and economic benefits of being good to one another and ourselves.


You or I could probably confirm the effects of kindness over a cup of coffee.  Or the founders could heed the Institute’s announcement quote: As we await the Institute’s discoveries, we’ll take to heart the advice from the Dalai Lama: Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.


So far, the Kindness Jury is out, but judging from world chaos and conversation; it would appear the results are mixed; with the ‘me first’ group in the lead.


Mentioning this Kindness Institute to friends, some thought it a splendid idea; others were in disbelief.  One suggested I was behind the times - that a friend was doing well as ‘a kindness consultant.’  I googled what I considered an extraordinary title, and sure enough – there it was, titled ‘killing it with kindness.’ 


Turns out, the consultant works for businesses; teaching them how kind leadership is more effective for productivity, loyalty, and ultimately the company’s bottom line.  No surprise there. It does not mention the employee’s bottom line.


Hopefully we all endorse kind leadership. My proviso would ask for parameters that prevent going from kindness to mollycoddling.  There is a difference.  The dictionary says kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Mollycoddling means to treat someone in an indulgent or overprotective way. We have all seen what that does. What it does not do is create good leaders, confidence, or a desire to serve.


The question is: Do we really need a Kindness INSTITUTE?  Or is kindness instilled by the baby see; baby do method? Can we learn to be kind later in life?  This may be another behind the times opinion – which is:  Only if we want to; not because it is part of a class course.





OCTOBER 9, 2021


Have you ever written down the things that annoy you?  Things that make your blood pressure rise.  Did it make you realize, in the grand scheme of things, just how petty they are?


My list included pedestrians walking the wrong way on no-sidewalk streets; sprinklers that wet the sidewalk and everyone on it; receptionists glued to a screen, ignoring presence of a real person; people talking during a speech or live performance; cars that straddle two parking spaces.  That’s the short list.  Do you see anything earth shattering? Thought not. Is there a possibility of changing these people or situations?  Slim.


A physician friend once observed … “it’s not the elephants that irritate us to the point of high blood pressure, it’s the gnats.” His advice -- throw away the magnifying glass.  Through a magnifier those tiny wrinkles are enlarged tenfold.  Examining gnats with a magnifying glass makes them appear much larger. Magnify the image of any person, place, or occasion, and you’ll find something to criticize


Not too long ago it was my bounden duty to tell walkers they were walking the wrong way, leave the sprinkler owner and the parking straddler notes, shush the talkers.  If talking is too egregious I still shush.  The rest I decided Que Sera, Sera.


Saving the magnifier for problems that need a closer look at the why, how, where – and what can we do, has been a time, and perhaps a life saver.  Remember the 60’s … when “Don’t sweat the little stuff,” was the buzz term?  It appears those young people had it right.


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OCTOBER 4, 2021



It’s a glorious day.  Birds are flocking around the feeders. Their observance of who feeds first is intriguing. When a bird jumps the line, it is quickly put in its place.  Pecking order must be maintained.


How did the term pecking order find its way into the world of humans?  It had to start with fowl. Something with a sharp beak. Inquiring minds need to know.


Sure enough, it originated with chickens.  The biggest, strongest, loudest chicken would first try to intimidate others with its size and sound.  If that didn’t work, next came pecking to inflict pain and fear. This continued down the flock, each trying to peck its way through the barnyard hierarchy.


The Happy Chicken Coop magazine (yes, it exists) offers this:

“Pecking order is how birds arrange their social standing in the flock.

The higher ranked birds get the best food, water, and roosts, while the lower-placed birds get the leftovers.

At the top of the hierarchy ladder is the head chicken.  Another can go up the ladder by successfully campaigning against the leader.

He becomes the new chicken-in-charge, and the defeated one goes down the ladder.

If a chicken goes out of turn it earns glares, pecks, and feather pulling from the higher ranked birds.

Usually, a look or a quick peck reminds the lower bird it has overstepped the boundary.

A pecking order can create a sense of harmony,

but it can also create havoc, with chickens fighting for their position within the order.”


Sound familiar?  Imagining the spacious corner office with private elevator, rarified air, a superior gatekeeper? Observe closely and you also feel the headaches and challenges that discourage coveting this roost. Envy just met reality. Reality reminds us that true leaders are a rare breed.


We need leaders, but fewer are willing to vy for the top.  A shift is occurring in life’s barnyard.  Fewer people are intimidated by the barnyard bully.  Even fewer care if they get to be number one.  More are discovering collaboration brings better results. Inclusive ambition is applauded.  Greedy and cheating birds get bumped off the feeder.  The flock, helped by technology, is making itself seen and heard


Do we need an established pecking order?  Can one be sustained?  We will always need leaders.  We need risk takers, visionaries, individuals willing to take on challenges and change.  We need a dedicated flock that will collaborate for the common good.  What’s your role? Leader, flock member, or both?


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SEPTEMBER 27, 2021

A friend visited my home recently. She lingered over favorite treasures and seemed to enjoy listening to their history.  The time we shared was a gift for both of us.   A few days later she sent me another gift – a memorable book.


The book is Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s anniversary edition of Gift from the Sea.  I read the book years ago, probably on a plane, or in some equally distracting space.  This time I chose a quiet Sunday afternoon at home to soak in her words.  It was fascinating to discover her messages are as relevant as when the book was published 66 years ago.


Here are excerpts:


Today a kind of planetal point of view has burst upon mankind. The world is rumbling and erupting in ever-widening circles.   The tensions, conflicts, and sufferings touch all of us.  Because we cannot solve our problems here at home, we talk about problems out there in the world.  We can’t feel deeply for an abstraction called the mass. We can’t make the future a substitute for the present.  What guarantees the future will be better if we neglect the present?  The now is passed over in the race for the future.  Here is neglected for there.  The individual is dwarfed by the enormity of the mass.


The author continues: We must understand the uniqueness of each member of the human family.  The spontaneity of now.  The vividness of here. 

Lindbergh wrote the book when she lived by the ocean.  Her closing thoughts reflect that: The waves echo Patience-Faith-Openness-Simplicity-Solitude-Intermittency … this is what the sea has to teach.


It all sounds too familiar.  We’ve made incredible strides in technology, medicine, and more.  Yet we dance around tolerance, caring, sharing, listening, love, respect, fairness.  What so many great thinkers call the basic substance of life.  


Lindbergh seems to suggest that instead of taking on the masses in one big swoop we focus on one person at a time.

Makes sense to me. 


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SEPTEMBER 22, 2021

A long-retired friend called last week.  Always a giver.  He’s raising funds for a special second chance center.  Not just a facility that offers a bunk bed or mattress, a meal, shower, and goodbye - come back if you need to.  He described the new residence as warm, with long-term living space, counselors, education, dignity, and opportunity. My friend is a philanthropist of the highest order.  He uses his most finite treasure, his time, to offer others a way to become philanthropists.


When you hear philanthropist, most likely Warren Buffet, Mackenzie Scott, and Michael Jordan come to mind.  Of course.  They’ve shared fortunes to save lives and change industries. Their names and deeds will become part of history.


And yet, these giants of giving say when one has the means, as they do, writing a check is the easy way to help.  In their minds the real philanthropists are the ones who give their time at homeless shelters, tutor at risk students, deliver meals on wheels, work for social justice.  The ones who pour sweat equity and whatever dollars they can afford, into helping people and places.  I agree with them.  When I hear philanthropist, I think of my friends and neighbors.


Do you empty your pockets for the Salvation Army kettle? Write notes for Hospice?  Make sandwiches for the homeless shelter?  Do you give whatever you can – time, talent, or treasure - to those in need?  You, my friend, are a philanthropist.  Without you, the world would be a much grimmer place.


November is Philanthropy month.  You’ll receive lots of opportunities.   Something to think about:   When considering whether to give your time or treasure, remember the great philosopher Charlie Brown.  In one of my favorite cartoons Lucy is shaking her finger and saying ‘Sooner or later Charlie Brown you are going to realize – you reap what you sow, you get out of life exactly what you put into it.  No more and no less. And Charlie Brown responds a little wistfully ... “Gee I’d kind of like to see a little more margin for error.”


Sorry Charlie Brown – this time, Lucy is right.


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SEPTEMBER 14, 2021



This is a bonus.  Not my usual musings.  It’s a gift from Joe Martin.  Many of you knew Joe.  Joe the friend, father, husband, brother, banker, community servant, author.  Joe who made us laugh. Made us think.  Joe who lived for 12 years with ALS.  Joe who started the  Joe who changed lives.


This week I received a package of notecards, created by the amazing people at Joe's Foundation.  Each cover has a personal message, taken from Joe's book ‘On Any Given Day.’  I asked if I could share the messages.  Permission granted, and here they are:


·         Love Life, and the people important to your life, without condition, without expectation.

·         Build Joy out of the materials you find within the day, with the help of those who are here to be on your team.

·         Let your determination be contagious, expanding geometrically as you add it to the determination of others.

·         Insist upon festivity, and never miss a good cause for celebration.

·         Make your will to live your will to love, creating a regenerating cycle of power.

·         Let laughter embarrass fear and stupidity, let it heal the hurt in others.

·         Keep your sense of purpose intact, in sight, and in focus.

·         Hope in each moment of every day because more things are possible than you can imagine.

·         Have faith that God will let you know about the next life when this one is done.

·         Until this life truly ends, understand that on any given day – on this day – the possibilities are endless.


It’s been 15 years.  Joe’s words still challenge and inspire.  Take one word from each message and you will see: Love, Joy, Determination, Celebrate, Live, Laughter, Purpose, Hope, Faith, Possibilities.


Thanks, Joe – we needed these reminders.


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SEPTEMBER 12, 2021

Around Labor Day my brother and I laughingly recall our first experience organizing a group of youngsters.  We urged them to stand up, or in this case sit down, for their rights. Fact is, it was about our rights too. And we needed their support.


In England during WWII, farm workers were serving their country. Youngsters between the ages of 10 and 13 were taken out of school during harvesting to pick the potatoes. Hard work. Long hours.  Our pay - the princely sum of ten shillings a week; around one dollar.


Farmer Waring, our stingy boss, decided one week he would pay us with potatoes, instead of cash.  This was not OK with my two brothers and me. Apart from lugging the spuds home on the bus, we needed cash.


The rest of the 30-kid crew rallied around. We called a strike.  We sat, grim and dirty faced, at the end of our potato rows.  Despite Farmer Waring roaring at us ‘Get off your arses!’ – (imagine that today) no one budged. 

Result: A win-win. The kids got cash. Farmer Waring got his potatoes.


Arriving home, we shared our exciting day.  We were asked ‘How did that make you feel?’  It made us feel good.  Made us feel proud. Made us want to do more.  And that, we were assured, is worth more than ten shillings.


The lessons: No matter your age, it takes courage to challenge an injustice. There is strength in numbers where there is a common goal.  The proof: Study longtime friends and partners. If the cause seems right, they add their strength. They look for win-win solutions. They care what is right, not who is right.



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When was the last time you had a real belly laugh, where your sides hurt, and tears rolled down your face?  You laughed until you got hiccups. It felt so good.  If you’re like most it’s been a while.


Where is the wise humor of Erma Bombeck, Bob Hope, Carol Burnett? Or Groucho Marx with his one-liners: Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?   Sorry I just laughed.


Life, and I do not say this in jest, is a serious matter right now.  We almost feel guilty if we’re caught laughing.  What will people think? Why is she laughing when things are so unsettling?  How could she be so thoughtless?


I come from a family that enjoys laughter. We laugh at ourselves, each other, old photographs, family memories.  I can't say we never laughed at another person, or said anything irreverent. We did - until we heard a reprimand from mother that usually ended with ‘God bless the mark!”  Which meant be careful what you say or God will – almost certainly – heap that same affliction on you.


Given the grim daily news, where do we  find something to smile about or a reason to laugh out loud? Pull out the family album. Call a sibling or friend and trip down memory lane with them.  Watch the antics of young children.  These are our connectors; they give us reasons, and permission if needed, to enjoy laughter.


A good laugh is relaxing, decreases stress, releases endorphins – the body’s own feel-good chemicals, even temporarily relieves pain and creates a sense of well-being.  Some doctors agree if they could bottle laughter, it would be a magnificent healer.


We’ve all had days when we simply could not laugh. Perhaps we lost a loved one. Maybe we received bad news.  So many things can knock the spirit out of us.  Our challenge is to not let those days become our every day.  To heed the poets, song writers, and physicians - and make a joyful noise as soon and as often as possible.


The sound of joyful laughter is still good medicine.   Let’s hope for and seek out reasons to increase our dosage of this much needed elixir.


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AUGUST 29, 2021


The last few days I have watched the Paralympics with awe, plus a decided degree of disbelief. How do they do this? Why do they do this? What makes these men and women so amazing?


The scenes are transformative. Teams from seemingly every nation competing and cooperating.  There are medals to be won, and the athletes are proud to receive them.  What every athlete who made the team tells us is they have already won what’s important – their independence.


When asked how they acquired such seemingly impossible skills; without exception they said: I focus on what I can do, not what I cannot do.  I focus on what I have, not what I do not have.  I focus on being a participant in life, not a victim.  And, because so many people have given so much to me, I focus on what I can give back.


Take Susannah Scaroni who just won Gold in the grueling 500-meter track and field, wheelchair.  Now 30 years old she had a spinal cord injury at age 5. Asked how it felt after all her years of practice, of advocating for the Paralympics to receive equal recognition as the Olympics - she said I just want to have every person feel equal to their abilities so they can grow.


All the athletes give credit to their families, friends, and coaches. They thanked the ones who did not immediately rush to pick them up when they fell. Or, if they were sightless, did not remove obstacles they bumped into. The ones who anguished whether to help an athlete tie his shoelaces with his toes.  The patient ones. The ones who allowed these athletes to grow, to improve their abilities, reach their potential.


These elite athletes teach lessons for all of us.  So, on our marks … focus on what we can do – we might just surprise ourselves. Perhaps not Gold, but we’ll be in the race, and that’s something.




AUGUST 23, 2021


Ken Burns is on my most appreciated and most admired lists. He brings us a glimpse of history without his personal opinions and judgement.  A rare gift.


Burns’ documentaries are about real people, places, and times.  His research is meticulous. The photography is graphic, painful, and honest.  Most of his cast, brought to us through the magic of preservation, lived in the places and times depicted. They include saints and sinners, rich and poor. We’re shown triumphs and tragedies, accomplishments we are proud of, and events that make us avert our eyes


What makes Burns’ documentaries spellbinding is his ability to observe, document, and share - without judging.  He delivers the real story behind the story.  The lives he shares are made personal.  We become part of the story – that could be my grandmother; that could be my son; that could happen again if we’re not careful.   He presents the facts, showing warts and all, in a way that immerses us in what we see and hear. How or if we judge is up to us.


Thinking of observing without judging made me think of how children learn to judge. They aren’t born judging.  They learn it from observing the adults in their lives.  Children are powerful observers and mimics.


Thanks to Ken Burns I have learned more about what we as a country have survived. And, what we still need to do.  I haven’t yet learned how to observe without judging.  Perhaps if we could master that skill, we could more easily accomplish what we still need to do.




AUGUST 15, 2021






It’s Sunday morning.  One year ago my Sunday morning would often include lively telephone conversations with my brother John, and sisters - Marie and Kathleen.  Sadly, we lost all three this past year. This morning, I am reliving fun and fond memories and recalling lots of their sage advice.


My brother and sisters each in their own way was a lifeforce.  Never a whine, rarely a criticism. Conversations were filled with laughter, remembering ‘when or who,’ and planning the revival of the gray panthers. Despite, or perhaps because of, a fairly austere childhood we would usually recall how lucky we were to have had great parents, each other, and good lives.


With an ocean separating us - what kept us close over the decades?  We decided it was, primarily, three things.  Being taught to share.  Experiencing the dignity and rewards of work.  Never taking anything or anyone for granted, including each other.


We were nine Hunt siblings. Sharing and looking after the younger ones was just what you did.  The dignity of work was ingrained and contributing earnings to the family coffers was an ego boost.  We took nothing and no one for granted because our early years were WWII years in England when things could change in the blink of an eye.


Our parents warned us, without apology: ‘The only thing we will leave you is a good name.  Look after it.”  We took that warning seriously.  We believed our greatest legacy would be our children and grandchildren – and would say to each other, with some pride – so far, so good.


Why am I sharing my Sunday morning musings? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I miss my Sunday morning chats. Maybe it’s in case we need reminding to stay in touch with family and friends, no matter the distance.  My brother Jim and I still enjoy our transatlantic conversations. 


We’re told life has no guarantees.  I disagree.  To have conversations you’ll recall with a smile, to give with warm hands, to create good memories.  You will never regret these actions.  Guaranteed.







AUGUST 9, 2021

Watching the Olympics with friends has led to some interesting discussions.  Along with breathless wonder at the athletes’ skills and endurance, the conversation inevitably turned to quitting.  Is it OK to quit, or is it letting down your team and country?


 For me, at the Olympics, Simone Biles exemplified compassionate courage. In everyday life, a hiking friend left the group, with it’s not all about me courage. The leader I admire courageously stepped aside. Each of them decided to quit. Should we criticize or admire?


Before you answer that question, consider it takes zero experience to be a critic.  It takes years of observation to recognize authentic reasoning.


To quit means to stop and let go of what you are doing.  Sometimes that’s the only choice. Sometimes it’s the best option.  The gymnast believed she would hold back her team.  The hiker said ... go ahead, I’ll slow you down.  An unselfish leader saw the need for change.  The words they use are telling: Don’t knowingly hold someone back. Go ahead. I’ll follow at my pace. To grow we must try something new.


From our earliest days we’re taught quitting is weak, quitting is not an option. We discover as we mature that there is a difference between quitting and giving up. Quitting means taking time to think.  Giving up means resigning yourself to failure.


One of my favorite Kenny Rogers songs, is The Gambler:    You gotta know when to hold; know when to fold; know when to walk away and know when to run. 

The key word in this song is ‘know.’   Know yourself.  Know why you are folding. Know what you believe the outcome will be. Know you can always start again.


I never thought I’d say this, but sometimes it’s the ones who quit (take time to think) who help us see what’s possible.


# # #





A PS to Interruptions and Reminders

AUGUST 1, 2021

I intended to include the final paragraph of Tom Brokaw's book.  It is worth a PS delivery.  Here it is:


"I think about mortality in ways I did not before the diagnosis.  It no longer seems a faint distant reality, in part because I've experienced the ruthless nature of cancer.  Simultaneously, at age seventy-five, I've moved into the neighborhood of life where there are few long-term leases.



It is not enough to "rage, rage against the dying of the light." It is also a time to quietly savor the advantages of a lucky life and use them to fill every waking moment with emotional and intellectual pursuits worthy of the time we have left.


Life, what's left,

Bring it on.


Tom Brokaw

two six four oh



AUGUST 1, 2021


Friends tell me I am one of those exasperating people who believe if I find someone or something interesting it’s inevitable, they should share this interest. Not so.  I’m discovering that, in general, we need a common denominator to grab our attention - shared pain, mutual mission, potential united joy. It must be personal.


This week I am REreading Tom Brokaw’s book, A Lucky Life Interrupted, subtitled ‘A Memoir of Hope.’   Brokaw shares stories from his lucky life.  He talks, in depth, about his diagnosis, treatment, and living with multiple myeloma.   When I read the book in 2015, I found it a good read but remembered nothing I had read.  It did not grab me emotionally, or as something that affected me.


Six years later I spend longer on each page.  Now, when I read of his treatments, I see faces of friends and family.  I pause, admire their courage, and wish I had understood better what they were going through.


Brokaw talks of the need for a Pathfinder when we are faced with confusion and challenges.  Not just, he says, during MM or other serious medical issues, but in everyday life.  He likens this to the Pathfinders of WWII Airborne troops who, on D-Day, jumped in early to show other troops the best path to shore.


In the book favorite memories are shared – fishing, family trips, the birth of children and grandchildren.  Despite a life of global fame, and days spent interviewing the world’s most powerful people - it is the everyday moments he remembers. 


Nelson Mandela is high on the list of those Brokaw admires. He says, especially now, he recalls Mandela’s words when he was released after 25 years in prison: The Mind cannot be shackled.  Absence of self-pity.  Let’s talk of the future, not the cruelties of the past.


Before MM came to call, Brokaw’s eldest daughter asked, “Dad, we’ve never really had anything go wrong in our family.  I wonder if we could handle it.”   They’ve answered that question with a positive yes.  They’ve proved that even the strongest fighters need someone in their corner. And, that some interruptions are reminders that what we do today become the memories we store for tomorrow.

Carpe Diem.










JULY 27, 2021

Recently, in The Charlotte Ledger, I read an obituary for an obviously much-loved music teacher.  I did not know the gentleman. It drew my attention because it was not the usual obituary.  It was mostly remembrances from his former students; many of them now with High School students of their own. 


The former students wrote about lessons that influenced who they are today.  None has become a famous musician; most have not pursued music.  Along with music, and understanding lyrics, this teacher taught that important bit extra.  One student summed it up: “He nurtured creativity, confidence, and compassion in thousands of young people. He guaranteed he would live forever in this world.” What a legacy.


These students make us ask – who impacted our lives?  What did we learn when we didn’t realize we were learning?  No man or woman is self-made.  The question is - who helped make us who and what we are?


 I began recalling the individuals who, I now know, influenced me – in big ways and small --reaching back as far as memory would go.  The list is long, very long.  It includes a mail carrier slogging through the snow.  It includes family, friends, teachers, bosses, artists, construction workers, air raid wardens, bus drivers, even a musician on a plane.  They shared, either by example or with words, lessons that would, unknowingly, become part of my life.


The musician on the plane:  Listen to your inner Geiger counter, it will rarely lead you in the wrong direction.  The mail carrier: I made a commitment.  The artist: Please do not color inside the lines.  The air raid warden: I will lead you to a safe shelter.  The bus driver: I trust you – you can pay tomorrow.  Bosses:  We appreciate you.  Family:  Help your brother and sister.  Friends: I’m listening.   Teachers:  Good, but you can do better. Construction worker:  The foundation is important; we build from that.


Sometimes it’s not a person’s voice, it’s a choice that became a defining moment.  Growing up my grandson played a lot of baseball. He was excellent. The pros were mentioned. He did not become a professional baseball player. Were his baseball days wasted?  Not at all.  What he learned, while he did not know he was learning, was patience, and a remarkable ability to get along with all manner of people.  Learning, no matter the situation, topic, or teacher, is never wasted.


We have here. We have now. We have memories.  It’s interesting to recall the voices and examples we learned from and heed the new voices insisting their way into our lives. Look what happened because of one special teacher. 


# # #






JULY 17, 2021


This morning, as I eagerly headed toward my favorite coffee shop, a young woman dashed ahead of me, through the door – and, without a backward glance – let the heavy door slam back in my face.  Ouch.


It wasn’t the slammed door that bothered me, I didn’t get hurt.  What bothered me was the lack of civility, the lack of courtesy.  A reminder that both seem to be fading in our conversations and culture.


And yet, on the way out – a young man held the door open wide for me to exit.   I thanked him for his courtesy.  He said, ‘my pleasure.’  Faith was renewed. 


Jayne Reardon, a brilliant attorney, writing for the ABA says: “The French and Latin etymologies of the word civility suggest, roughly, “relating to citizens.” In its earliest use, the term referred to exhibiting good behavior for the good of a community. The early Greeks thought civility was both a private virtue and a public necessity, which functioned to hold the state together. Some equate civility with respect. So, civility is a behavioral code of decency or respect that is the hallmark of living as citizens in the same state.”  Well said, Ms. Reardon.


Still stewing over my bad and good experiences at the coffee shop, I wondered: When did everyday courtesies and good behavior stop being commonplace? 


What happened to our instinct to attack the problem and not the person?  “Civility also requires relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable … surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith.” (President Barack Obama)


How do some conversations become a minefield of insults? “Sir Winston, you are disgustingly drunk! And you my dear are ugly. But tomorrow I will be sober, and you will still be ugly.” (Lady Astor & Winston Churchill)


Civility to most means behaving in a considerate, courteous, polite – and, when needed, helpful manner.  (Merriam Webster) If I could add a footnote, it would be one dating before the dictionary or the word civility existed.  It would be “Do unto others …”


In my youth I was warned Handsome is as Handsome does.  Today I remind myself – Civil is as Civil does.  Whoever you are, young man at the coffee shop – thank you. Civility may be struggling, but you proved it is still alive.


# # #






JULY 10, 2021



During a conversation with friends, recently, we talked about the recurring  tragedies and trials, at home and around the world. We asked - why does this keep happening?



There were diverse observations - but most of us agreed that often, except where Mother Nature is at work, it is lack of maintenance.  Maintenance is one of the most important words in any language.  Yet, when we hear maintenance department, maintenance person, or the word maintenance itself, it’s a rare individual who thinks of a VIP, or thinks beyond their immediate problem.


Relationships – between friends, families, clients, and countries, need maintenance.  So do our bodies, automobiles, homes, animalsthe infrastructure of life as we live it, the earth, sea, and sky.  We couldn't  think of a single person, group, corporation, place, or thing that does not need maintenance.


The catch phrase ‘prevention is often better than cure,’ goes back to the 1500’s and is credited to the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus. That’s 520 years, and still we are not convinced.


Why such slow learners?  Why eagerly accept the latest fads, and neglect life-extending maintenance of what we already have?  The answer often given, and hard to justify, is that we’re just human.


If you have a better answer, let me know.  This human’s automobile is in the shop right now, and the Erasmus theory is chafing at my conscience.

# # #



JUNE 24, 2021

This past month brought lots of graduations, and speeches with well- meaning advice. I read some of the speeches, hoping to capture new magic.


For the most part, the speakers offered boilerplate messages:  You are ready. You can make a difference.  Today is a new day. Some gave formulas for success.


The speech that caught my attention was by Ruby Bridges, herself a part of history. She spoke at Tulane University, and her unique message included these words:  Opportunity comes packaged in many boxes, and it shows up with no return address.  The sender is history, and she does not accept returns. Once the package is opened, you accept the gift, and embrace the demands attached to it.


Ms. Bridges message challenges us to examine what is in the box, ask ourselves how we can use, improve, or share the contents, makes us wonder why we were the ones to receive this box. And, it makes us ask If we can trust  history - the sender of the box.


After reading the speeches I asked myself -- if you were invited to be a graduation speaker - what would YOU say?  Searching my memory bank for people whose words had left an impact, Dr. Charles Bott, my decades-ago headmaster, came to mind.


Dr. Bott did not promise or predict anything. He talked about Trust. His closing words were: At the end of a conversation, a speech, or a promise … we will always ask ourselves ‘Do I trust this person? 


If offered the opportunity, I would say to our graduates … “Give people a reason to trust you.” 


What would you say?


# # #


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. 

# # #


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.   

# # #


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. 

# # #

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.