There’s an App for That


I know this sounds corny, or Pollyannaish, but I’m going to say it anyway:

I play the Compassion Games because I believe that playing makes me act with intentional compassion toward others. I believe that engaging in play helps us learn. I believe that my participating in this game makes a difference, bringing a small portion of peace to my tiny piece of the world.

At first, when I played last year, I was less enthusiastic about one aspect of the game: submitting reports to the Compassion Map. I felt uncomfortable boasting about Random Acts of Kindness that I performed. I felt strange writing about how my playing the game made an impact on me.  I wondered if reporting about my good deeds somehow devalued them.

This year, the timing of the games is right in the middle of the month of Elul, which begins a season of repentance in the Jewish calendar. This is a time for reviewing our actions of the previous year, and making amends with others prior to the High Holidays, RoshHaShanah and Yom Kippur. Rosh HaShanah , the Jewish New Year, is also called Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgement, when God reviews our actions of the previous year and inscribes us in the Book of Life. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, often considered the holiest day of the year, we stand before God and pray to be cleansed of our past sins and allowed to begin anew. Mapping my actions during these first two days of the Compassion Games has already helped me with my spiritual preparation for the coming holy days. Writing about acts of compassion makes them less random and more tangible.

I recommend the Compassion Games as a tool for personal growth and as a means for making positive change in the world and promoting peace. I invite you to play with me—if you want to play on my team, please submit your reports using the hashtag CompassionateAtlanta—or to join your city’s team, or to play as an individual.

compassion appLet’s play to seek peace, to pursue it, to help God bring peace to all the world’s inhabitants. The goal sounds lofty, but less daunting and possible to achieve through playing a game.

By the way, it’s easy to submit your reports: there’s an app for that, of course.






I am supposed to be writing. I have numerous deadlines.

I’m unable to organize my thoughts.  I’m unable to find words in the silence.

I consider that sitting at the computer a moment longer will cause me to drown in frustration. I decide to spend the day in the studio. A day turns into a week of productivity, just of a different sort.

Three things I accomplished this week:

1. Meeting in person and speaking by telephone with several people with whom I hadn’t connected in some time. If, God forbid, I die tomorrow, no one will miss the words I failed to write this week. I would, however, regret if I neglected the people I love. I was deeply affected and inspired by this reflection in the New York Times Magazine.

2. Making a mess in the basement studio; I was throwing on the wheel with red clay. I’d love to post pictures, but I’m afraid that my spouse would see them and feel compelled to comment. (Guess which one of us works in a Nanotech Clean Room and which one of us prefers to play in the dirt…)

3. Participating in an art class with my friend and co-teacher Flora Rosefsky. I’d led the text-study session last week and planned to attend her studio-art session this week. I could have stayed home and used the time to write. Instead, I chose to connect with our students through creating art-midrash.

Here are photographs of my Found Art Sculpture titled “One Breath.” If you want to read the only words I’ve written this week—an artist’s statement explaining the piece—click here.  Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

found object 1 web

One Breath (front)

found object2 web

“One Breath” (back)







We had reached an impasse. I stubbornly insisted that he renew his passport and he refused, saying, “I’m not planning to go anywhere.”

As if that was in any way relevant.

The conversation always ended with my exasperated appeal, “It doesn’t matter! You should always have a valid passport!”

passportSure, my need for him to possess a passport was predicated upon my immigrant grandparents’ neurotic fears of deportation. We are, to a great degree, programmed to react or overreact to our ancestral anxiety.  But his grandmother’s family was almost entirely wiped during the Holocaust. I simply could not fathom his having allowed his passport to expire.

Not only anxiety but fantasy motivated my nagging, as well. I’ve always loved to travel and one of my only regrets is that we haven’t had much time or the financial means to do so lately.

When we were newly married and without children, we used to threaten to call one another at work to say, “Meet me at the airport with a suitcase.” But neither of us ever found an opportunity to make good on the threat.

Now we both travel for business—attending conferences, delivering lectures, teaching workshops. One leaves for the airport early on Sunday morning, while the other settles into a fitful sleep after the garage door closes.  We return from our respective trips exhausted, and the re-entry to work and family life is often jarring.

Two months ago, he came home and announced that he had mailed his passport application. I tried not to gloat.

But when the envelope arrived from the State Dept. a few weeks later, while he was attending a conference in Indianapolis, I simply couldn’t resist. I mean, he was already traveling and I could just meet him at the airport with his new, valid passport. Between us we have ample miles on Delta to finance a spontaneous vacation.

screen shot

This lighthearted “conversation” ended with my mild oath at our current stalemate. Still, I’m confident that it will happen someday. One of us will make that phone call.

Wanderlust will win.