Do’s and Don’ts Dept.

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Strangers on a Train

Hey, how about those three American fellows who subdued the would-be train terrorist in France. Kind  of a good news/bad news thing here. Bad obviously that the event ever took place, but good that this mighty trio – Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler -showed such courage and did the right thing, standing up against an AK-47.

When we lived in France a few years ago, a perky elderly Frenchman lived in an apartment below ours. When he heard we were Americans, his eyes watered as he told us about a memorable tale – repeated to us on several occasions – from decades earlier. As a young child, he remembered being picked up by an American GI just after the war and given a piece of chocolate. His story moved us, too, and continues to whenever I think about it. No heroics here, but an unforgettable show of  generosity, too often missing in today’s world.


“Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy,” –The Beatles 

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Then, on the other side of the Atlantic, we have, well, generosity, but with a big hitch. Joan Weill (photo), a well-known philanthropist, wants to give $20 million to Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks. However, there’s an egotistical string attached. In accepting the weighty sum, the college’s board must agree to change the name to Joan Weill-Paul Smith’s College. Talk about a mouthful. We hope Ms. Weill will note this comment on the college’s Facebook page and change her thinking: ”I appreciate her donation, but a true benefactor or philanthropist does not expect anything in return but good will.”

The kind that our American train travelers have just fostered, asking nothing in return for their good deed.

Data Yadda Yadda

Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic 1951 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol"

Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic 1951 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

“And the workhouses are they still in operation?…Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.” — Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol

Have no fear Ebenezer. You need only look to Amazon for a Dickensian workplace. Tales have surfaced of folks crying at their desks, emails arriving at midnight then followed up by a tongue-lashing encore at 12:01 demanding to know why you haven’t responded. “When you’re not able to give your absolute all, 80 hours a week, they see it as a major weakness,” said one employee who took an unpaid leave to care for her dying father and never returned. When she cut back working on nights and weekends to care for her father, the employee was blocked from transferring to a less-demanding job and told by her boss that she was “a problem.” “Data is incredibly liberating,” notes one apparently-contented Amazon employee. And exhausting, too!

Oh, and Amazon employees, did you happen to see the latest study that says people who work 55 hours or more per week have a 33 percent greater risk of stroke and a 13 percent greater risk of coronary heart disease than those working standard hours? Those especially vulnerable, according to the study:  employees with “job strain,” ones with jobs of high demands and little control.

What ever happened to the compassionate, caring employer? Sure, the hours at Fairchild Publications were I worked for many years were long and deadlines could be stress-provoking, but a heart lurked beneath the craziness at 7 E. 12th St. in New York. Exhibit A:  When hearing of my impending divorce, my boss said, “Pamela, do you want to work out of Los Angeles? Would that help?” I turned down the generous offer, but it was the kind of treatment I often received during difficult personal times. When my mother was dying of lung cancer I took off half-days midweek with no questions asked, as my workload fell to others to complete.

Maybe I find the Amazon story so irksome cause I’ve just returned from a retreat, the antithesis of a stress-filled environment. Stay tuned for what I learned about feeding my body and soul in Crested Butte, CO.