Another Battle to Advance the Cause

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Whatever happened to helping old folks cross the street? "Wind gusts today accelerate the brush fire risk." This was the Good Friday and first day of Passover morning radio weather warning. For several years I've wished high wind gust warnings stressed the danger to walkers whose balance is not stable, especially in a city with a great many elders. Not that we can gentle the wind, nor should the vulnerable remain homebound, but we can (if enough of us try) make the able-bodied aware of this danger and routinely-yes, even gladly-offer a helping hand. Whatever happened to Boy Scouts helping old folks cross the street? And how to revive Hubert Humphrey's core belief that "the impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor"? But we must demand that government make streets safer to cross! Shouldn't faith groups be on the vanguard of advancing this down-to-earth, "love one another" type of helpfulness? There's a lesson from Deacon Susan, who gave me a helping hand to and from the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church Easter service. The intergenerational talk we shared was mutually helpful. Here's praying that this kind of helpfulness in one's own congregation becomes even more of a norm-and in civic groups, too. Incidentally, this column couldn't be a stronger advocate for the worth and growth of faith and civic endeavors, but they're never above needing some candid critiques. And this whole society needs some consciousness-raising about those wind gust warnings, which last Friday were personally poignant because a valued neighbor had just died from complications resulting from a wind-related fall. And yes, Larry was "up in years" and suffered other health problems, but had it not been for the fall, he likely had, to quote poet Robert Frost, "miles to go before he [slept]." Ah, and those many miles already traveled were surely enabled by Larry and Georgette's sickness-and-health, 55-year marriage. Of course, his family will miss him most profoundly, but his neighbors will miss him keenly for his continued concern for the apartment house that in 1972 was converted from rent control to coop status. Larry was one of the key tenant organizers who managed to get the asking prices significantly lowered. Non-evict clauses did not exist, and Mary, a Holocaust survivor, and widowed Helen, age 80, were among those who most reluctantly moved because they either could not afford to buy or feared future unaffordable maintenance hikes. An original board officer, Larry was the kind of person that co-op and condo dwellers always hope to elect, one with extensive and common-sense business smarts and a genuine concern for the common good, like keeping down costs without jeopardizing the building's integrity. This, he believed, kept the proprietary lease's promise that "the primary purpose of the corporation is to provide homes." Although long off the board, his continued interest included letters to tenants recommending board candidates. Whatever the outcome, old lion Larry would at meetings roar (civilly, of course) for or against board actions. He also offered ideas and praise. Larry and his family were good neighbors-truly neighborly. And don't we need that. We won't forget you, Larry, nor will the building staff for which you had the greatest respect and affection. And now-whew!-to keep advancing all of the above not-impossible dreams, which can be done if enough of us share them. I hope you will.

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