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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Helping the victims of Sandy

November 08, 2012|By Joe Puglia

I think of the devastation in New York and throughout the Northeast caused by Hurricane Sandy, and I’m reminded of a book written by Laurens Vander Post, “The Heart of the Hunter.”  It’s a story about the bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in Africa.  What’s pivotal to the story is the social order adhered to by a rather primitive culture.  Famine, pestilence and other calamities are dealt with collectively.  In their social structure, one’s tribe’s difficulty is everyone’s difficulty.  Perhaps they’re not as primitive as Western mind purports them to be.  “Am I not my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis)

Citizenship is paramount in our interdependent world.  It would be difficult to enjoy the privileges of affluence and with a clear conscience break our contract with society by indifference toward the inflictions of our neighbors.  We honor our contract when we do our share to bolster one another in time of need.

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Last night I watched the news on TV and saw pictures of devastation in New York City.  I thought out loud, “I wonder how the Bronx is doing?”

The founders of our country believed that civic virtue was essential for the preservation of our democracy.  Plato believed virtue sustains the collective order of society but virtue, when practiced, elevates the individual.  Similarly, Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end when we become indifferent to the things that matter.”

I learned the importance of both individual and civic responsibility on Oct.12, 1960.  Earlier that day, Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, pounded the podium with his shoe while he professed to the General Assembly at the United Nations, “We will bury you”!  It was the height of the Cold War with tensions running high between East and West, subsequently few statements were taken metaphorically.

In the Bronx, our scout troop met that evening in the gym of Saint Frances of Rome.  Mr. Gerard, our scoutmaster, gathered the troop together in column formation.  He was a rough man who made his living at the docks.  But what defined him was that he was a member of the greatest generation.  I’m not sure where he found the words, but I remember what he said that night.

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