Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

John Chancellor

Street Seens: Healing’s Secret Ingredient


This Sunday let’s explore proof that there’s a silver lining in the cloud of the ongoing purge of papers from a Manhattan apartment higher on views of the sunset than on space.  What last week’s archaeological dig revealed was a recipe for healing.

The three-ingredient recipe includes:1) Cousins, 2) Nieces, and 3) Great Nephews, all laced with one Secret Ingredient.

The Cousins ingredient is the one-time publisher of Saturday Review’s astounding book The Anatomy of an Illness, chronicling the progression of Cousin’s diagnosis with a terminal illness; his medical team’s conclusion that medicine had reached the limits of its capability to help him; and the patient’s observation that he felt so much better each time he laughed.

After release from the hospital, Cousin checked himself into a hotel, armed with an 8mm projector and copies of all those movies that had made him laugh.  Watching them, he began to feel better and better and eventually enrolled in a medical facility where he made a study that revealed that the brain emitted a substance triggered by laughter, and that it had a remarkable power to heal.  And so, the recipe began.

When you prepare the recipe for healing, be sure to list the near and dear ones who are healers. And make sure that the category is as wide and as varied as the gifts of an established Nurse Educator working to expand her hospital’s program to bringing mental health services to a wider community, and the Pediatric Nursing Administrator bringing together concerned families and the medical professionals who treat them.

As the beat goes on, it doesn’t take much discernment to recognize the relative newcomers identified as the Great Nephews ingredient.  Prepare to add the newly minted Doctor who walked away from the recent commencement at St. Louis University’s Medical School with not only a degree and credentials to practice the science and art of physical therapy, but with highest honors. Clinical work with military veterans was, I suspect, far more rewarding for him than any academic laurels and adds a potent aroma to the finished recipe.

Next blend in the founder of a cross training business who recognizes the healing power of exercise as human empowerment and works long and hard to open that door to a mixture of clients ranging from the buff and predictable, to those who are at quite the other end of that spectrum.

Happily, the laborious and often frustrating work of sorting through, all the “paper” in my life recently revealed a reminder written to those last mentioned “healers.”

The early morning reflection sent to these two treasured great nephews had the subject line: “Morning Music, Muscles and Laughter, God’s and Mine.”  It designated them as “two healers and reasons for joy.” Here is the note I found amid the past week’s “purging”:

I woke up thinking of the two of you precious men (healers of two different but related kinds) this morning and it set me on the path to joy.  After 10 days of combat with a fraudulent medical supply company and the death and resurrection of my Smartphone. At the end, those ten days reminded me of the late, great John Chancellor’s advice, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” and the old joke “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln did you enjoy the play?” So, when I fell over the finish line of a long, sometimes tense day yesterday, I had a plan to sleep in this morning but cautioned my doorman not to let on that that was my plan, in case God would hear.

 And then at 5:30ish or so this morning my eccentric radio alarm decided to start my day with a CD of John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers’ collection of joyous music including St Patrick’s Breast Plate and many other things I think of as Songs of Joy.  That reminded me to hope that Edward Jr. Is continuing to pursue his music amid the demands of studies and now service on the hospital floors. That led me to the happy memory of Liam writing this week near the November 2 and 4 anniversaries of his Paternal Great Grandfather and namesake’s, birthday yesterday and Sunday, All Soul’s Day when more than a half century ago, he began his new and ultimate life of unconditional love. I was so happy to note that though he is super busy he is doing what he loves.  I can just see him rescuing the clients of his cross- training business from fear and lack of confidence.  It reminded me of the way Jesus surprised folks like the man with the withered arm, or the person who stood straight after years of being bent over and seeing mostly the ground.  I resolved to write down the thoughts with which I was gifted by my unplanned “wake up call” and give it the working title is “Morning Music, Muscles and Laughter, God’s and Mine.”  I have always been touched by the way Jesus helped people be involved in their own healing.  You can just imagine that the man with the withered arm might have been taken aback when “the Teacher” asked him what he wanted him to do to help. The man might have been forgiven for thinking, “Well isn’t it obvious?” But no, he wanted that man to put it into words, to make the healing a joint effort; to take some share of ownership in his own healing.

 Well, in short, I did start the day earlier than I predicted and found out, directly and in spades, why I had been awakened.  At the 8 o’clock Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer, the celebrant blew me out of the water with his reflection on St. Paul’s letter to his friends in Philippi.  It’s lovely, but what Father Darren Pierre said about it made it even lovelier.  He said that in this letter, St. Paul posed the biggest challenge to us Christians; bigger than any other of the predictable biggies like laying down your life or giving away all your possessions.  He said that it is a truly heroic act to put away “grumpiness” and commit yourself to joy.  Another of the daily examples of how our Savior, Who so “gets us,” makes sure we hear what we need to hear when we need to hear it. Take a read and may it be some of what you healers need to hear today.

But, even if I am poured out as a libation
upon the sacrificial service of your faith,
I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.

With that reminder, confidently be assured that lavish amounts of the secret ingredient will make all the difference and result in the surest recipe for healing.

Opening photo by Pixabay

Here’s Hoping!


Even as I write those words, I conclude that a gerund just isn’t up to the challenge.  It’s the lovely conjunction of Easter and Passover, so I want to write about Hope.  That requires an active verb.  Something with muscle, with courage.  Because Hope is hard work.  But so worth it.

The kind of Hope I celebrate today is many things. Here are some signs that will help you tell the real thing from the counterfeits.  Running through them is the image of light.  The lunar calendar reminds us that the great celebrations of hope are dated from the appearance of the Full Moon and the number of days that follow it and the coming of Spring.  Hope then is a lightsome thing.  A brilliance that comes to banish darkness.

For starters, it is as different from daydreaming as thinking about the need to exercise is from going to the gym and doing it; as getting on the bike and pedaling; as getting into the pool and swimming those laps. At its best, hope moves us to do something and not just think of how good it would/will/might be to do it.

Hope is forward-looking, but the goal should be neither myopic nor measured in light years. And the validity test is that it usually involves taking some kind of action.  It is the hunger to sit in the shade on a hot day that comes with today’s planting of a shade tree; or pricing and ordering the retractable canopy to install above the patio table.  Wishing that you had done what your neighbors did three years ago definitely doesn’t qualify.

Hope is courageous.  It is the decision of bereaved parents to donate their child’s organs so that other people’s children might live.  It is the military veteran’s acceptance of a prosthetic limb and the determination to walk again.

There are heroes of hope, but be aware they are more about overcoming real reluctance than Hollywood hype.  They include the Moses who had a moment of Hollywood ending when the basket in which he was floated to escape a purge of Jewish children came to rest near a royal enclosure and he became a Prince of Egypt.  But that didn’t last and soon this reluctant hero was recruited by a God he only heard, but never saw, to go back to where there was a price on his head and galvanize thousands of people to follow him and thereby escape slavery.  At a time when he probably didn’t even know whether he was a failed Prince or one of them, he had to figure out how to be eloquent in spite of his speech impediment and convince these masses as reluctant as he, to follow him to a better life.  And when, some four decades later he didn’t even get to go with them into the promised haven, he didn’t whine or sulk.

Or consider the reluctant hero who gave up his carpentry practice to walk the byways of a divided land wracked with political divisions and convince the people he met that this essentially homeless man was telling the truth about a better life. That it was within their reach and didn’t involve overthrowing one despotic regime for another.  He was betrayed by his best friends, picked a successor who turned out to be an abysmal failure but to whom he never said, “You’re fired.”  Since hope often calls for bravery, in the course of meeting a deeply degrading end, He was even brave enough to express some passing hopes that He could be spared its tragic ending. But setting a high bar for the greatest of heroes, He kept to the script, met its demands, and never lost His gift for loving even the unlovable.

But lest we be discouraged, or lose sight of the road immediately before us where most of the demands for hope are met, let us recall that all of the demands for hope that are met are to be celebrated and applauded.  Tales of tragic heroes and heroines should not make us forget that Hope often involves humor. One of the infallible signs of its presence is the ability to laugh at ourselves.  It happens when having over-promised and under-delivered we can see the situation for what it is and understand the wise advice from John Chancellor which I invoked in our very first joint exploration of “Street Seens.”  Remembering it as I remove the current egg on my face I hear again the words, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  So, I join in the Divine Good Humor and am reminded that, a good laugh is one of the languages of hope.

With renewed respect for the gerund I devalued, here’s hoping that in the words of a favorite Irish toast come true for you as I wish, “May the best days of your past be the worst days of your future.”