From one community organizer to another
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By Robert Morrison
My seventh-grade civics teacher, Joe Zeichner, taught us we had a duty to be good citizens, to be informed, to vote and to take part in the life of our community. That could even include running for public office.
It was natural, therefore, that 15 years later I would share with Joe my intention to run for the state legislature. Joe offered to be my campaign manager. He would take no pay. He only wanted to help. When we were driving to our state capital, Albany, from Long Island, Joe told us stories about his previous visits to the legislature. Embarrassed, I admitted this was my first time to visit the city.
"Oh, then you must say a Hebrew prayer, a Shehecheyanu," Joe offered. "What the heck is that," I asked, knowing that Joe was not religious. "Shehecheyanu, he repeated firmly, and proceeded to recite it in convincing Hebrew. Joe had learned this prayer from his father, who was a Talmudic scholar then living in Israel.
It is a prayer for the first time you do anything, he said. In English, it goes: "Blessed are you, L-rd, our G-d, Sovereign of the universe, who has preserved us in life, and enabled us to reach this season (Amen)."
Joe Zeichner was a great, hardworking, selfless campaign manager for me. He was, however, disappointed when I came out firmly against abortion in my race. Joe had always supported liberal abortion, but he would have been the first to open his home to a distressed young pregnant woman who wanted to keep her baby. Despite our strong disagreement on this, Joe loyally soldiered on in my campaign. When he expressed his incredulity that I could take such an illiberal stance on such an important matter, I told Joe: "Well, you're the one who taught me the Shehecheyanu."
The God who preserves us, who graciously enables us to reach this season, created them, too. With the miracles of ultrasound, we have never before been as able as we are today to establish a bond of love with unborn children.
I recently got a call from our daughter. She reported her latest ultrasound. Both of her twins are progressing well. At 26 weeks, they weigh 1 pound 11 ounces and 1 pound 12 ounces. That's important because it's a problem if one twin is gaining too much weight while the other is languishing. Both twins are "breathing," that is, exercising their lungs, taking in and expiring amniotic fluid. This is critical because underdeveloped lungs are a leading cause of death for premature infants.
Our daughter relayed her doctor's words. At 26 weeks, should the twins have to be delivered early, they would have a greater than even chance of survival. During her visit not long ago, I had a chance to feel both the twins kicking. Shehecheyanu!
There is in our daily lives endless talk of debt and deficits. Everything, they tell us, is scarce and likely to get more scarce. In the future, with millions of baby boomers retiring in this country, we are warned that we will be even more hard-pressed and impoverished than today.
The Greatest Deficit is Love ...
This is doubtless why President Obama says "everything is on the table" in his budget negotiations with congressional leaders, everything except funding for Planned Barrenhood's engines of death.
Mother Teresa had a better answer, I think. She was a community organizer in Calcutta. She devoted her life to service to the poor. And she said: "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."
This "Saint of the Gutters" understood that the greatest deficit we face is the deficit of love. Without love, we can have no future. With love, all things are possible.
Robert Morrison is senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.