More than two years into the worst pandemic in more than a century, it will become a blip on the radar of history. But harrowing stories about its punishing path of death and destruction will linger for years.
More than six million people worldwide have reportedly died from COVID-19, which is roughly the number of European Jews killed during the Holocaust and slightly more than the prisoners of war, Romany, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and other victims that Nazi Germany targeted. That’s an astonishing statistic and the official death toll, but the World Health Organization is now suggesting that the true number could be closer to nearly 15 million.
While suicides dipped slightly in the U.S. and are much harder to measure worldwide, global life expectancy actually declined by about two years. Once again, that’s a shocking stat to fathom. A spike in drug overdoses also has been reported.
Then there’s compelling anecdotal evidence to consider. Isolation and loneliness from lockdowns, masking, social distancing and other lifestyle changes that were thrust upon everyone also fueled mental health and substance abuse problems, as well as violence and crime. We all have a story to tell, know someone who does or have read about strangers struggling.
Just this week, the sudden death of country singer and actress Naomi Judd became a cautionary tale about the need for psychological treatment and support. When initially reported, the cause of death her daughters Wynonna and Ashley gave was mental illness, then the following day it was revealed that she committed suicide. What’s particularly painful about her passing is that she was brutally honest about her struggle with mental illness in her autobiography and interviews. Ultimately, she lost a sense of hope that she held onto so tightly since seeking treatment.
The fact is that millions of people have gone untreated when it comes to their mental health largely for two reasons. One is the stigma that’s still associated with seeking help for anxiety, depression, PTSD and other diagnoses, while the other is a lack of financial wherewithal. These trendlines have been around for years, though it took a pandemic to spotlight the need to make mental health treatment a top priority.
We’ve all seen friends, family members, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers suffer, especially during the past two-plus years. Being forced to work or attend school from home took its toll, and now we’re left with mounting mental health and substance abuse crises. Most 12-step meetings have move online from in-person settings where they’re sorely needed. And many people weren’t able to say goodbye to loved ones who were dying in hospitals where concerns about infection ran highest, or visit assisted-living facilities housing vulnerable populations. Those who are immunocompromised felt the isolation worse than anyone.
It has been a bleak two-plus years, but there are silver linings from this pandemic that we can all take with us for years to come. The aforementioned wakeup call about a worsening mental health and substance abuse crises and need for more empathy is one of them. Thankfully, the forced ascension of telemedicine has made treatment of both physical and mental ailments not only more convenient, but also cheaper. This method also strengthens the protection of patient privacy.
Other positive developments include the corporate wakeup call about the need for more flexible work schedules. We’ve seen a number of trends from the nomadic work movement and growing gig economy to remote and hybrid arrangements, as well as compressed workweeks and a stronger push for paid time off.
There’s also the curbside-pickup option at grocery stores, restaurants, sporting goods, hardware and other businesses that likely will be around as a permanent fixture. And between video conference calling, smartphones and social media, it has never been easier to stay in touch with friends, family or colleagues from afar. So we can only hope that these bright spots continue to help lighten our respective loads, bring us closer together and help us prepare for whatever is lurking around the corner.
Early on in the pandemic, I was horrified like everyone else to learn of COVID-19’s unusual symptoms – from shortness of breath and the need for a ventilator to loss of taste and smell, as well as high-grade fevers, crippling body aches and weird dreams.
Even worse, people all over the world were dying from this airborne virus on a daily basis. The numbers quickly added up to more than 930,000 deaths in the U.S. and 5.8 million worldwide, which continues to shock me.
We’ve all also heard about the effects of “long” COVID and COVID “fog.” It’s now easy to understand the malaise and mental health crisis that took hold. Calls for empathy in such frightening, surreal and divisive times aren’t always heeded in a nation and world where this invisible force significantly altered the way we work and live.
Nearly two years later – fully vaccinated and boosted, along with my family members – I was starting to think that the virus might never enter our home. But the Omicron variant was spreading like wildfire when it first struck my 11-year-old daughter, whose mild cough gave way to a low-grade fever that climbed to 102 the next day. One by one we all got PCR tests, then home tests to confirm those results. My 12-year-old son was next, sent home from school with a positive result but no symptoms that ever surfaced, followed by my 22-year-old step-daughter who was visiting us for three weeks and just had the sniffles and some fatigue.
Although I began feeling a sinus headache and intense pressure on the back of my head, along with excruciating low back pain for a week from the time my youngest first displayed symptoms, I continued to test negative. But I just didn’t feel right. Then came flu-like body aches and fatigue, which led to a positive test result a few days later and gave way to a head cold. This all went on inside my body for 17 days – a veritable greatest hits of symptoms – and then just like that, COVID came and went.
I was grateful to know my symptoms, although an annoyance for longer than I would have liked, were manageable – especially for my kiddos. The only logical conclusion is that the vaccine, while not 100% effective, made our illnesses mild.
There continues to be a lot of disagreement about COVID-19, but one thing we can all agree on is an eagerness to leave behind this awful chapter and return to a sense of normalcy. With each mutation of the virus, we’re gradually transitioning from a pandemic to an endemic with herd immunity and will have cause for celebration once this is officially acknowledged.
Thankfully, the pandemic has produced some silver linings – from renewed appreciation for facetime with family and friends to the realization that many of us can work more flexible schedules. The efficiency of virtual gatherings – from business meetings to telemedicine calls – also has been hugely beneficial. We can all only hope that post-pandemic life will be sweeter and more thoughtful than ever before, but ultimately it’s up to all of us to turn that dream into a reality.
As a self-employed small business owner, I marvel at how easy and inexpensive it is to sign up for coverage on Healthcare.gov. This is one of the few bright spots of pandemic living. But as someone who has written about health insurance for 34 years, I wonder about the longer term prospect of finding affordable health insurance.
My monthly premium has plummeted and is shockingly next to nothing since the floodgates opened on federal government subsidies in 2021. Household income in all 50 states must be between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level to qualify for a premium tax credit that can lower the cost of insurance. I just didn’t realize how low that magic number would go for me, which will come in mighty handy when it comes to paying other bills.
Plenty of my fellow Americans are likely experiencing the same pleasant surprise. More than 14 million Americans signed up for health insurance during the 2022 enrollment period. That’s a record number under the Affordable Care Act. What’s astonishing is that the number of U.S. residents without health insurance plummeted to about 28 million in 2020 from nearly 48 million in 2010 when the ACA became a landmark, albeit controversial, law.
The beauty of affordable health insurance is that it helps combat a reluctance to ration, defer or avoid medical care because of financial concerns. And as I suggested, it also helps free up money for other household expenses.
On top of that, expanding access to health care will result in better outcomes, which is hugely important considering how unhealthy Americans are – with about two-thirds of the country being overweight.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Those who are obese are at a higher risk for developing diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. They’re also more prone to having a heart attack or stroke. Another layer worth mentioning is our growing dependence on prescription drugs and addiction to opioids. Given this perfect storm of poor or questionable health, it’s not surprising that we spend nearly 20% of our gross domestic product on health care.
This is why I’m so concerned about what happens in years to come. While generous subsidies are a welcome change for so many of us, the strategy may prove to be nothing more than a collective Band-Aid over serious wounds. Put another way, the current situation could create a false sense of security.
What happens, for example, if Republicans sweep mid-term elections (as expected) and reclaim their power in Congress and possibly take back the White House in 2024? Surely, they’ll end those subsidies as part of a larger effort to curtail federal spending and stench the bleeding on our unmanageable national debt.
But in the absence of a meaningful plan to keep health insurance affordable for Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, the vicious cycle of health care rationing or avoidance will repeat, and torpedo any progress that was made. If history is our guide, that would be the expectation. The GOP failed to deliver on its promise of repeal and replace after Trump took office.
And, without health care market reforms beyond toothless executive orders that actually create stiffer competition and lower price points, as well as hold health insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other players more accountable for price transparency and patient advocacy, our for-profit system could collapse under its own weight. That would revive calls for a single-payer system, or Medicare for all as the Democrats have attempted to reframe it – sparking concern about ballooning costs, inefficiencies, exacerbated doctor shortages and patient wait times.
Whatever ends up happening is anyone’s guess, but at least for now I will enjoy a year of monthly premium “holidays,” for all intents and purposes, and pocket that windfall for other purposes.
We were all warned 18 months ago that COVID-19 would mutate into strains that can spread more quickly and severely unless necessary precautions are taken, and that painful restrictions on daily work and life would continue unabated.
Some of them seem ridiculous in hindsight. Remember washing down groceries with Clorox wet wipes? Wearing a mask outside in uncrowded settings? Avoiding playgrounds and public parks that were cordoned off with yellow tape?
But others are perfectly reasonable, especially when lives are at stake. They include masking up indoors, staying at least six feet apart from others, better ventilation, getting vaccinated and staying at home when felled by COVID-19 symptoms. Public health officials consider these steps critically important in achieving herd immunity.
What puzzles – and deeply disappoints – me is how enough Americans have pushed back against these recommendations lest federal, state and local governments would erode civil liberties. I find it ironic that conservatives, who tend to be cautious as well as big on personal responsibility, teamwork and patriotism, are resisting vaccination more than others. My pre-pandemic guess would have been that free-spirited liberals were the ones downplaying any hysteria and skeptical about getting a shot in the arm.
But the world is upside down, while misinformation and conspiracy theories seem to trump logic, reason and common sense. Trump is the operative word: the former president seeded much of the madness we’re now witnessing, mocking mask-wearing and regional lockdowns. Then after boasting about the historic accomplishment of Operation Warp Speed under his leadership, he has been uncharacteristically silent about this topic on Joe Biden’s watch. It’s yet another opportunity lost for our country and reminder that character matters in a U.S. president.
But it doesn’t take a politician to realize the most important message of all during these perilous times. As Eagles drummer and singer Don Henley recently told concert-goers at Madison Square Garden: “you understand that with freedom comes responsibility.”
If history is our guide, then we can learn some valuable lessons. George Washington quietly ordered U.S. army immunizations to combat a smallpox outbreak that was responsible for American defeat at the Battle of Quebec against British troops. That decision helped us win the Revolutionary War, and as one recently published account suggested, we owe our very existence to an immunization mandate.
But that didn’t stop some Americans from staunchly opposing government meddling in this area years later. By the mid-20th century, there were still pockets of dissension that greeted a mass vaccination campaign against polio. Fast forward to modern times when enough anti-vaxxers spread just enough doubt about the virtues of immunization that several diseases such as measles have made a startling comeback.
We can only hope that clear heads prevail. When I wrote several months ago about the prospect of employers mandating that their workforces be vaccinated or face termination, only about 2% of organizations were expected to pursue this heavy-handed approach. Most top executives were waiting to see what would transpire.
Now the floodgates have opened, and each day we read about more blue-chip brands finally forcing the issue. Employees are also fed up with co-workers who won’t get vaccinated. As many as 41% of workers surveyed by HR consultant Eagle Hill believe that non-vaccinated employees should pay higher health insurance rates.
We need for this groundswell of public opinion in support of vaccination to continue until the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths plummet. What’s so maddening is that enough people who are eligible to be vaccinated at a time when the FDA has finally approved these treatments beyond emergency status are skipping out on the quest for public safety to a point where more than 2,000 of their fellow citizens on average are needlessly dying each week. That brings the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. to more than 700,000 – an unthinkable number at the start of this pandemic. To offer some historical perspective, that’s almost twice as many American WWII casualties.
Wake up, America! Your future depends on it.
Nearly 50 million Americans, including self-employed individuals like myself, filed for unemployment benefits as the pandemic shuttered supply chains, triggering massive layoffs and furloughs.
What a difference a year makes. U.S. workers are now quitting jobs at the highest rate seen since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting such data in 2000. And while 8.5 million jobs were lost from February 2020 to February 2021, the labor market is heating up and returning to pre-pandemic levels. Help-wanted signs are everywhere. But supply and demand just aren’t syncing up, causing real concern about Corporate America’s ability to recruit and retain talent. It also makes filling shifts and managing teams much more challenging.
Could work and life possibly get any more surreal?!
Organizational psychologist Anthony Klotz calls it “the Great Resignation,” a trend that he and other experts attribute to burning out from longer hours logged at home offices with significant work-life challenges. I’ve seen plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting a disconnect between employer and employee perceptions of how workplaces were managed during lockdowns. I’d imagine that a combination of growing resentment and low morale, along with recalibrated expectations and personal priorities, also could be factored into the mix as possible explanations.
Whatever the case, I see a silver lining. Far too many of us have settled for jobs and careers for which we could not care less. Showing up for work may be pure drudgery or difficult bosses ruin a perfectly good gig. Those folks dread spending endless hours in toxic environments. Some have pursued paths that were expected of them to please loved ones, while others gave up on their dreams along the way.
In my case, COVID-19 may have been one of the best, albeit harrowing, things that has ever happened to me. Although I was suddenly furloughed from two of three steady gigs by the end of March 2020, and as a result had to defer plans to buy a home, I mustered the courage to restart a decade-long pursuit of the job I’d been pining for.
It was my pandemic pivot – a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot in conversations over the past 15 months. While it’s too early to assess whether the investment will pay long-term dividends, it made me thirsty for more of the success I tasted in the early months of sheltering in place.
If you truly love what you do for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life – so the saying goes. I’ve been lucky enough to say it has applied to me through a long and fruitful career in B2B journalism. Covering the workplace takes me back to my roots in the newspaper business because virtually every assignment is a human-interest story. There’s real humanity in the human resources field, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.
But now it’s my Plan B, which isn’t such a bad fallback position. I’d rather focus on ghostwriting memoirs that enable accomplished individuals to document their legacy for posterity and business or self-help books that are the ultimate calling card for serious entrepreneurs who believe deeply in the power of publishing their thought leadership.
Ten years ago, I had no idea what ghostwriting books entailed, though I had done my share of a more modest version with trade magazine articles published under the bylines of subject matter experts. I also edited manuscripts that were handed to me. But I absolutely love the long-form format, which allows for more meaningful exploration, which is ironic considering that I was never in love with literature as a child.
My journey began as a happy accident when I ghostwrote and project managed the self-published memoir of an elderly man in South Florida who was big into philanthropic causes involving the Jewish community. I was hooked, but became overwhelmed by the new opportunity that arose – unable to determine the best way to market my new service.
I had a few nibbles from prospective clients, some of whom I found through simple word of mouth. Inertia took over, and I figured this dream would be deferred as I kept busy with journalistic endeavors, along with writing whitepapers and paid content, hosting webinars, covering conferences. etc.
Then I was approached in the fall of 2019 by a savvy digital marketing strategist in Australia named Bjarne Viken whose pitch was intriguing. He could help me find book ghostwriting clients with the help of customer relationship management software that integrates with LinkedIn’s SalesNavigator. The only problem was that I was so busy with my steady clients and a revolving door of folks who’d come and go that I didn’t have the bandwidth for it – until COVID-19 blew a gaping hole in my career.
It was time to pivot. I circled back with Bjarne in April 2020 while twiddling my thumbs and nervously anticipating what would happen next. I hit paydirt immediately, landing three clients in as many months. I even had a verbal and written commitment from a serial entrepreneur who had four or five books in mind to come on board when my schedule loosened. I was on top of the world, but some of the best-laid plans simply don’t materialize or match our desired timetable.
In short, my dream gig is a work in progress – or lack thereof. Pursuing anything worthwhile in life involves taking risks and paying dues. It’s similar to when I decided to become self-employed in 2000. My former employer was the sole client, followed by nearly 110 others over the course of two decades.
Building a new business is a combination of sweat equity, tenacity, perseverance, optimism and undying faith in your talent and what you’re hoping to accomplish. It isn’t easy and can take years, but when you reap even a modicum of success following your passion, the journey is as sweet as the destination.
The moral of my story – and so many others like it – is to turn adversity into opportunity, never settle for anything less than what you really want to do and always embrace change. You never know where it might lead.
Several years removed from my Bar Mitzvah and formal Hebrew school education, I began to question the Jewish narrative on Israel. I later empathized with the plight of Palestinians when married to an Egyptian. My idealistic thinking at that time was if an Arab and Jew could marry, then why can’t there be peace in the Mideast? Our divorce just five years later not only would send me down a different path, it portended more turbulent times ahead in the holy land.
Over time I recognized an epic failure by Palestinian leaders and sympathizers to understand the history of Israeli independence in 1948, as well as the entire history of Jews. What followed was multiple missed opportunities for a two-state peaceful solution. All of them were borne out of a Palestinian refusal to share land and proclamation to drive the Jewish State into the Red Sea.
I also gradually became outraged whenever Zionism was equated with racism, as well as suggestions that there’s a moral equivalency between terrorist organizations such as Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Israel’s democratically elected government.
To be clear, I believe Palestinians deserve a better life. Basic human rights are critically important around the world, and Jews have a history of standing lockstep with anyone who is downtrodden. We were nearly annihilated ourselves. But it’s impossible to achieve this goal when their leadership has been corrupted by graft and committed to the violent destruction of Israel for 73 years. Even more disturbing is the vicious cycle of hatred taught in schools and homes, passed on from one generation to the next.
But the fragile cease fire in Israel is just the tip of a much larger iceberg. There’s a disturbing trend toward removing Jewish people from the list of persecuted minorities with an inference that all Jews are privileged and white. And in keeping with that warped view, there’s a deafening silence over the troubling rise of antisemitic hate crimes worldwide. Democratic strategist and political commentator Donna Brazile used the word pandemic to describe the latest outbreak of antisemitism, which cannot be overstated.
We’ve had a reckoning concerning race in America since George Floyd’s death, which was a tipping point over frustration with police brutality, as well as attacks on Asian-American tied to the pandemic’s Wuhan China origin. We’ve even acknowledged victims of sexual harassment and assault in the form of a #MeToo movement. We’ve also seen the emergence of acronyms LGBTQ and BIPOC (which stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Black, Indigenous and People of Color, respectively), whose causes people are embracing.
But where’s the outrage over, as Peter Savodnik recently reported, pro-Palestinian protesters tossing an explosive device into a crowd of Jews in New York’s Diamond District or diners at a sushi restaurant in West Hollywood beaten by a group of men draped in keffiyehs? It’s even worse overseas where a caravan full of haters drove through Jewish neighborhoods in North London hollering “F-the Jews! Rape their daughters!” or a demonstrator in Vienna, Austria shouting, “Shove your Holocaust up your ass!” amid a cheering crowd of young people who were mostly women. It’s a woke blindspot, plain and simple.
What we have is a never-ending demonization of Israel and Jews alongside the perpetuation of a false narrative about Palestinian victimization in a land called Palestine. But there’s no historical context given to this description, which dates back to the Romans, who renamed Eretz Yisroel “Palaestina” in an attempt to remove the Jewish identification with the land. It was later called Palestine to reference all land past Syria under the Ottoman Empire.
It doesn’t help matters that prominent self-hating Jews make stunningly ignorant and abhorrent comments. One such example is Seth Rogen, who in 2020 admitted to being fed “a huge amount of lies about Israel” in terms of occupying land that belonged to Palestinians. He also questioned the very existence of Israel, a country that he actually said “doesn’t make sense.”
Ignoring history, including a Jewish presence that dates back millennia, as well as the purpose of providing Jews refuge from further persecution and Jewish statehood sanctioned in response to the Holocaust, the comic actor believes only in the diaspora (dispersion of Jews from their original homeland). Reading the account of an interview he gave, I was reminded of chess champion Bobby Fischer, whose infamous hatred of his Jewish identity and fellow Jews was beyond horrific.
Hollywood would do much better listening to the sound logic of Bill Maher, a rabid atheist whose Catholic upbringing eclipsed his mother’s Jewish faith (so he doesn’t have a dog in this fight). He recently told his Real Time audience that Israel had a right to defend itself after Gaza fired 4,000 rockets into Jewish territory and that terms like “occupiers” and “apartheid” simply don’t apply when Jews have lived in the region “way before the first Muslim or Arab walked the earth.”
Indeed, Jews were said to first return to Israel about 3,300 years ago, while the Hebrew calendar dates back to the year 5781. Maher went on to contrast the situation in Israel with actual apartheid in South Africa, which was controlled by governments in Britain and Holland that “had no claim to the land.”
Criticizing Israeli government policy doesn’t automatically make someone antisemitic, especially considering that many Jews themselves fall into this category and are deeply divided about the answer to achieving a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
But far too many critics are on the wrong side of history, and their view of this long-simmering conflict has been wildly distorted. How quickly they forget (or conveniently ignore) that Israel is an island of tolerance in one of the world’s most intolerant regions.
For me, it’s a matter of knowledge vs. ignorance. A proper history of the Jewish people should accompany every course on the Holocaust taught in public schools to educate people about actual events and help eradicate the scourge of antisemitism. This is the only logical way forward.
Fourteen months… and counting. Surreal living has taken a toll. So has working from makeshift home offices for those lucky enough not to be laid off, furloughed or tethered to a workplace where they had to mask up six feet apart.
Some of us juggled work and life more carefully than ever before, enduring Zoom fatigue in fuzzy slippers and frequent interruptions from barking dogs or children craving carbs between their own string of virtual calls with teachers and classmates. Without clear boundaries, work spilled into evenings and weekends for a significant number of working Americans. Clutter and chaos were unavoidable. Others toiled away in extreme isolation and encountered unbearable loneliness along the way.
Collateral damage from COVID-19 was enormous. Suicide, relapse and divorce were all up amid a mounting mental health crisis, while more Americans barely scraped by paycheck to paycheck, necessitating multiple rounds of federal stimulus payments. Nearly 50 million Americans, including self-employed individuals like myself, filed for unemployment benefits at one point. Many of those who kept their job have expressed a desire to quit once the dust settles.
Business conditions also deteriorated. The supply chain slowed to a crawl worldwide and commercial real estate resembled ghost towns. While the stock market briefly plummeted to frightening lows, it has since been coated in Teflon as the world’s wealthiest people had a record-setting year.
Whatever fate befell us during the pandemic, four valuable lessons involving several important topics were learned across workplaces, which may never be the same:
In deference to the recently departed Larry King, who used to pen a syndicated newspaper column that would address a range of current events with ellipsis between thoughts, here’s my best attempt to recapture his curmudgeon commentary:
What Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Tom Brady has accomplished, winning 7 of 10 Super Bowls in 21 years, is jaw dropping – even for those who love to hate him. Tom Terrific is a hero to all Americans over the age of 40, showing how it’s possible to get better with age or at least still be able to compete at an incredibly high level as the body and mind often lose their edge…
Folks who refuse to mask up or thumb their noses at edicts to limit the gathering of crowds during the pandemic are like toddlers who can’t play nice in a sandbox. We’re battling a common enemy: COVID-19. Not one another. And we need to wage this war together! The fact that this issue ever became politicized shows how deeply callous people can be about putting others in harm’s way, as well as distressing that the dividing line in a country that’s supposed to be united is so sharp. It’s not about infringing on individual liberty; it’s about saving lives…
Speaking of childish behavior: I’ll never understand flakey parents of tweens who don’t respond to text messages about arranging playdates and rarely, if ever, take the initiative to set them up or reciprocate as a host. Is it a millennial thing? West coast or Pacific Northwest passive-aggressiveness? Laziness? Mental illness? This is especially troublesome during a pandemic when kiddos are bored to tears, which is why necessity became the mother of invention with so-called bubble families to lean on without the need for extensive contact tracing to offer stressed parents a respite from round-the-clock child care. All I can really do is venture a guess about this phenomenon and search out to more responsive moms and dads…
It’s ridiculous for Britney Spears to still have a conservatorship hanging over her head at age 39. She’s clearly old enough to squander her fortune, if that’s what she decides, and according to various news reports, apparently stable enough to make better choices. Some helicopter parents cannot help but micromanage their children, even if they’re rich and famous. The Spears are one heck of a crazy gene pool for the ages…
Antifa is a misnomer. Why not simply call the group anarchists, the antithesis of fascism? Portland, Oregon, where I live, is unfortunately a hotbed for such activity. When people demonstrating under this moniker recently denounced President Joe Biden while committing acts of vandalism, their nefarious intentions became clear as can be. They simply cannot function in society no matter who is in power…
My city is also a magnet for Proud Boys who have nothing to be proud of and are indeed just boys, not men. The militia movement overall is deeply troubling. It clearly went off the rails in 2020 when a Neanderthal group of Michigan “patriots” plotted to kidnap, put on trial, convict and kill the governor over stringent lockdown orders. Extremism on both the left and right is frightening and unacceptable. And in a related rant, conspiracy theories can be fun and entertaining, but if enough people believe in enough nonsense, then it’ll be are undoing…
Cancel Culture needs to be cancelled, right alongside political correctness. People make mistakes. Apologies matter, especially if they’re sincere. In a free society, we have the power to end careers by voting people out of public office or turning off the TV, not banish them forever because of poor judgment decades earlier or an off-color remark on social media. And while words matter, we need to lose our hyper-sensitivity – not our sense of humor or common sense – and stop camouflaging our language for fear of offending the faint-hearted. This is 2021, not 1984. Let’s dispense with the Thought Police and Orwellian reactions and let clear heads prevail…
Benjamin Franklin is said to have included in the 1738 edition of “Poor Richard’s Almanac” a passage that nails my mission as a ghostwriter of memoirs: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth the writing.”
In 2010 I had the pleasure of being introduced to an octogenarian named Leonard Cordes whose philanthropic activities perfectly captured the latter part of this powerful quote. Two years later I helped him document poignant stories that were well worth sharing with family, friends and strangers – all of whom might be inspired by the memoir I ghostwrote for him (https://www.amazon.com/Discovered-Tikkun-Olam-Through-Philanthropy/dp/1481052233).
Leonard dreamed of one day writing a book about his life, but he wasn’t entirely comfortable with his writing skills. After all, he was a number-cruncher who retired from chartered accounting in Montreal, Canada, where he grew up the son of a hard-working, Borden Milk Co. supervisor. That ambition surfaced during a casual conversation with my sister Caron who kindly referred him my way. His rags-to-riches tale centered around a lifelong practice of giving to various charities, particularly in the area of Jewish-minded philanthropy.
Once I was able to fully absorb Leonard’s legacy, I suggested he actually incorporate it into the title of his memoir. I came up with “How I Discovered Tikkun Olam Through Philanthropy,” drawing on a Hebrew phrase whose meaning is to repair or mend the world. Leonard felt that by funding his favorite causes, he was doing his part to help make the world a better place.
A true believer in the importance of providing scholarships, coupled with strengthening the Jewish people, he was drawn to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a non-sectarian institution whose student body hailed from more than 50 countries at the time of our deeply satisfying collaboration. The school became the centerpiece of his philanthropic life since 1960.
His story is what ghostwriters and publisher call a legacy book, the main purpose of which is to document an individual’s life achievements – not land on a list of best-selling authors, though it would be a welcomed outcome.
Leonard was especially eager to detail his amazing journey for the great grandchildren he and his wife of many years, Mary, adored, as well as young people in general. I worked on landing him speaking engagements at Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. His hope was to inspire them to aspire to become successful in business and philanthropists like him, doing their part to also help repair or mend the world. It was a noble vision for preserving not only Jewish life, but also improving the human condition.
Recently I was reminded of just how important the notion of legacy is to those who have made an indelible mark on society. The topic arose during an interview with Joe Milam, founder of The Legacy Funds and AngelSpan, Inc., as well as an expert in the psychology of wealth, estate planning, securities and portfolio management.
His work in the family office space is twofold: ensuring that the financial legacy of high net worth families is secure and helping them look beyond traditional philanthropy for vehicles to help burnish their qualitative legacies. One such avenue is impact investing, which he described in one of his thoughtful commentaries as having “a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return.”
I like to think of my book ghostwriting service as a conduit for helping accomplished people spread their legacy and document proud moments or family history for posterity. The beauty of an independently published memoir, with the help of on-demand printing, is that these details can be shared publicly or privately with as many people as the author is comfortable involving in the process. Whatever their decision, Ben Franklin would certainly approve that at least they wrote something worth reading, which more often than not, involves having done something worth writing about.