Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Perspective ...

After tragedy struck in Southeast Asia last December, a group of friends began using a single word to check ourselves when we found ourselves bitching about something insignificant: "Tsunami." That one word centered us, made us realize that no matter what we thought we had to complain about, we were just being whiny little brats.

During the past two days, I've been reading in the New York Times about Mukhtaran Bibi, a Pakistani woman who was subjected to a sanctioned gang-rape (because her younger brother slept with someone in a higher caste -- how's that for logic?) but who has fought back, using money she received as compensation for her ordeal to open schools, one for boys, one for girls, taking forgiveness and benevolence to a new level by inviting the children of the men who raped her to enroll. She is an extraordinary woman. "Bibi" has been added to "Tsunami" in my reality-check vocabulary.

A year or two ago, I was on the phone with Mark Kogan, a friend from my Tribune days with whom I'd lost touch. Mark is a very smart man, always looking for ways to better understand his life and his roles. That day on the phone, he said something very sage. (I'm sure I'll butcher the eloquence now.) Essentially, he told me to ask myself, in any given situation, "Am I OK right this minute?" That yes, there may be bigger issues at play, looming worries, fears. But we get caught up in the enormity of things and lose sight of the moment.

His voice came to me the other day in the car. I was driving downtown, on my way to voice class, fretting about things, when I heard Mark say, "Are you OK right this minute?" And I was. In that moment, I wasn't going to solve everything that concerned me. And I drove on.

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