I feel raw inside, sadness alternating with resolve, a sense of loss one moment, determination the next.

One of the triggers is the advertisement shown above: Auschwitz-Birkenau: Tickets here.

Bernie and I are back in Krakow, heading to the 22nd retreat at the concentration camps. Back in 1994, the first time we were there, how many people came to that iconic death camp? Several hundred thousand per year. Some year later I recall reading that the attendance topped 1 million for the first time; now, in 2017, it has topped 2 million per year.

That’s good, I tell myself. It’s good that people want to come and see, maybe even to vow Never Again. Only Auschwitz-Birkenau, or its equivalent, has happened again and again. When we walk through the Sauna in Birkenau and see what people were stripped of from room to room—their belongings, their photos of their past, their clothes, their hair—I think of the refugees everywhere in the world now—in Sudan, Pakistan, Burma, Syria, northern Africa—shedding off their meager belongings and often their family members as they take the path of refugees. Gas chambers are followed by killing fields followed by burnt out villages, Rwandan rivers full of floating corpses (Go back to Ethiopia, where you Tutsis came from!).

How do I relate to these things? If we don’t bear deep witness, is the only remaining alternative to buy tickets, watch the show from the safety of the mezzanine?

The idea started back in 1994, before we were even a couple, but I feel that we worked and nursed this retreat–that became the mother of other bearing witness retreats,–as though it was a child together, and now we see it all grown up, out in the world for 22 years now, doing its work, its legacy carried on by others with so much patience, intelligence, and humor.

People nod in recognition, they come to say hi, remind us their names: We were here in 2014, or maybe it was 2013. One man brought his 16 year-old grandson; others bring their partners, wives or husbands. You don’t remember me, but I was here 19 years ago, 14 years ago, now again. It’s not just me this place has called year after year, it’s called so many others.

For the most part, we don’t come to commemorate the Holocaust (though a few do). Underneath it all, we go to look at what happens when we don’t get along, when we don’t recognize our own brothers and sisters just because they speak a different language and wear different clothes this lifetime around. When discipline is high but hearts are closed. When the past is evoked, when revenge is sought, when fear not Satan rules.

This year especially I am deeply attuned to my own feelings of loss. There are many things Bernie can’t do; there are many things we can’t do together here in Krakow. He (seen below) can still get animated about things, but usually, some 22 months after his stroke, he’s calm, serene, even humorous, while I feel like a bundle of nerves these days before we embark on the retreat tomorrow morning.

The place has changed so much. Saturday night the main square was empty, but when I walked to Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter that lost its Jews to Hitler’s Nazis, I was surrounded by young Poles entering bars, restaurants and music clubs, for Kazimierz is clearly the happening place in Krakow.

We, too, have changed. Where’s the horizon now, I wonder. Is it near, just sitting on my chair and finally settling into long periods of meditation? Is it sitting at my desk and writing? Or is it far, connecting with places and people I haven’t met yet, learning more, listening more? Stay still, I feel like telling the horizon. Stay still just for one minute so I can finally see you.

The blog will be silent during the week of our retreat.

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Loved this sign in Jerusalem store window

Okay, so here it is. I hate sickness, old age, and death.

I don’t care that it’s not Buddhistically correct, I don’t care about all those moments of grace.

Hate it, hate it, hate it.

There, I said it.


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Last night I called Emma (not her real name) to offer my condolences on the passing of her husband, whom I knew for many years for he and I had worked in Greyston together. He had died some 3 weeks ago and I don’t know what I expected to hear on the phone, everything from long silences interrupted by a few slow words to sobs, maybe a storm of tears.

When I asked Emma how she was doing she said, Fine, without any hesitation. When I said that this must be a difficult time for her she told me that her husband’s illness had lasted for 2 years. There were mileposts along the way, she said. Each time there was something new he couldn’t do or that  we couldn’t do together anymore, I grieved a little. When the cancer came back the last time and they said it was inoperable, I knew this day would come too.

She said all this very matter-of-factly, no drama of any kind, and when I asked her again if she was okay she said she was fine, this time with a small question mark at the end as if asking me why I was repeating myself.

The drama is coming from me, I thought to myself when I hung up the phone, not from her. She’d let go little by little by little, her expectations had changed over the span of two years, and now she seemed able to move on.

I had expected anguish, a deep felt sense of loss, an outpouring of grief. I didn’t get it.

Sometimes I mistake drama for real life. You know what I mean by drama, that gut-wrenching, heartstring-pulling, agonizing, tortured reaction that tells me I’m really on to something. After all, if I’m feeling something so strongly, then the thing or event that triggered all that must be really important and meaningful. The greater the outpouring of emotion, the more significant the event must be for my life. I celebrate the effects; I am sure I am in the middle of a major transformation.

But often all I’m doing is indulging my feelings, giving them the kind of free rein I wouldn’t give my dog, Stanley. I can feel deep sadness in response to something that happened today, and then go on. Or I can’t let go and it becomes a greater and grander opera.

Some people seem to be positively addicted to intense emotions; they don’t think they’re alive without them.

You know the old joke, my brother told me recently. Billy is born and doesn’t speak. He’s 2, then 3, and doesn’t say a word. Billy goes to kindergarten, he’s now in school, and he still hasn’t said one word. His parents are overwhelmed. Finally the family is having dinner and out of the blue Billy says, “Pass the salt.” His parents are stunned. Pass the salt! He could speak after all. “Why didn’t you say anything all this time?” they ask. ”Because till now everything was fine.”

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I love to read!

Stanley, Wednesday is your 13th homecoming day. You’ve been with us for 13 years, longer than any other dog I’ve ever had.

Says a lot about my survival skills.

How would you like to celebrate it, Stan? Big walks? Cuddling?

A 16-oz. steak you don’t have to cook it, those rolls from House of Pizza, and Rae’s feta cheese omelet. For breakfast. Then for dinner—

Okay, I got the picture. You’ve changed so much from the time you first came to us, Stanley.

Yeah? How?

When you first arrived, Stanley, you wanted no love, no stroking; all you wanted to do was guard the house. For the first few years you were a terror for anyone visiting us and we got regular visits from the dog police.

That was so much fun!

How have I changed, Stanley?

You’re not such a bully. That’s probably because Bubale, your partner in crime, is not around anymore. When that pit bull was alive Bernie and me had no say about anything.

Tell the truth, Stanley, you love bossy females!

I hate bossy females. I have one more question: Can I retire now?

Retire, Stanley? And pray tell, what exactly are you working so hard on right now?

I am Bernie’s Great Disrupter. I make sure to lie at the foot of his bed each and every night, even if I prefer to lie on my own dog bed, so that he has to watch out and not trip over me whenever he goes to the bathroom. Instead he picks up his cane, shuffles down to the foot of the bed, and then vaults over it in the other direction. That’s the most athletic thing he does all day, and it’s all thanks to me.

You’re his workout trainer, Stanley. His fitness coach.

And who’s around to lick all the foods he drops on the kitchen floor when he makes his breakfast? Just this morning he dropped the peanut butter jar and a big glop fell on the floor. Who came over and voluntarily licked all of it, saving you all that trouble of cleaning it up yourself?

You did, Stan.

Who licks the top of the yogurt cup when it falls to the floor so that it doesn’t leave big white spots?

You do, Stan.

Or that great chicken soup he heated up for lunch, some of which dripped down?

You’re a regular Mr. Clean, Stanley. All-purpose.

Who begs Bernie for food when he’s eating, helping him feel wanted and needed?

You do, Stanley, especially when I’m not looking.

Exactly. You yell at me to stop begging, so I have to now do it on Bernie’s other side where you can’t reach me. And what’s wrong with begging? Don’t you advise all Zen Peacemakers to learn to beg?

That’s a whole other practice, Stanley.

Didn’t the Buddha beg for food all his life? Why is it okay for him and not for me?

You’re right, Stanley, it’s time for you to retire.

Don’t rush me, retirement is a serious decision. I have to ponder it carefully.

Leeann says you do great when you’re with her and all the other dogs, Stanley. You’re deaf, mostly blind, with weak back legs and hips, but you still keep up as they climb up hills and go down valleys.

And I’m the oldest dog in the pack. I wonder if that makes me the wisest.


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Recently a friend wrote about how he deals with mental illness—working on it daily, cultivating sanity and creativity, getting stronger and more stable—and said: I get to recover every day.

In a way, I do too. I don’t know about mental illness, never received that diagnosis and don’t have enough training in the field. So what am I recovering from?

There was a period of time 20 years ago when Bernie, in starting a talk to big groups, would say: Hello, My name is Bernie. I am an addict. I am addicted to my self. I have always been an addict and will always be an addict.

It got a laugh.

But this is the big one, the addiction to the story and identity of my self, lovingly made up over the years, layer over cumulative layer. While in Israel I tended to drink lots of coffee with family members and friends (I arrived home late last night), and watched the stories we tell about ourselves change from visit to visit.

My self feels like a big house always in construction. I furnish one room lovingly, then decide this isn’t quite right and start furnishing another, then add another. I can never quite get that self right, always futzing with it: a little addition here (That book helped me so much!), subtract the patio (I guess the feedback she gave was okay but it could have been a little softer), another little tchotchke (Remember when . . .), a refinement on the tchotchke (It wasn’t like that at all!), a refinement on the refinement (I can’t swear to it, but still . . .).

I feel like a car accumulating bumper stickers:









My mother’s self is full of bumper stickers as well:







Since I’m younger, it’s easy for me to add more bumper stickers about the woman driving the car. But my mother is towards the end of her life, hasn’t driven in quite a while, and her mind fogs up so it’s hard for her to design new bumper stickers. Instead she mulls over the Big Ones, crying, exclaiming in her sleep, a perpetual grimace of pain ravaging her once beautiful face.

I’d like to tell her not to read bumper stickers anymore. Despairing of that, I try to remind her of happy bumper stickers, but that hasn’t gone very far for she seems to always get drawn to the ones that talk of anger, insecurity, and fear.

I don’t want her to approach the end of her life like that.

I don’t want to approach the end of my life like that.

Beauty helps. I went to the Via Dolorosa to visit Jerusalem Pottery, the oldest—and many say best—Armenian pottery in Jerusalem. There I met the owner, Hagop Karakashian, tall, handsome, and very courteous in the gracious Middle Eastern way. He told me that his grandfather, a highly respected Armenian potter, fled Turkey and came to Jerusalem in the early 1920s, and the family has made pottery in Jerusalem ever since. Check them out and look at the Armenian, Persian, and Turkish motifs in their gorgeous tiles, with the bluest blues, the deepest turquoises and Mesopotamian reds that I have seen. In the end he invited my sister and me upstairs to see the studio where they paint the pottery by hand.

You continue a tradition over 100 years old, I said to him. Did you feel it restrained you in some way?

He nodded. I did in the beginning. But then I realized that the tiles and crockery I design go everywhere. We get photos of our tiles and ceramics in kitchens around the world, the plates are used for fruit on so many tables. My art goes everywhere. He paused. It’s living and working here, in this city, that is so difficult. The religions fight all the time.

From the outside Jerusalem Pottery seems small, the entrance so nondescript you can easily miss it. You’ll find it across from the eighth Station of the Cross, someone told us, where Jesus met the three women of Jerusalem. For me, on this visit, it was more important than the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

And I remembered something my brother told me. Once, when he hosted my mother at a Sabbath dinner, his children asked her about the synagogue she had been religiously attending for at least 25 years. Did she feel close to God there? She shook her head. There’s no God there, she said, they just have some great songs.

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This morning I visited the old, walled city of Jerusalem. I walked on Via Dolorosa, as did Jesus before his crucifixion, small signs designating the Stations of the Cross.

But Via Dolorosa is also a bazaar full of stores of clothes, food, and souvenirs, colorful dresses hanging outside and store owners importuning you to come in, browse, have tea with mint. Most people stop and look at everything outside—purple and magenta coin scarves and corset belts for belly dancing (Get this! my sister instructs me), Turkish coffee and tea sets, small hills of orange saffron powder, and mounds of wooden crucifixes—how could you not? It’s colorful and downright gorgeous.

And in the middle of it all come the groups of pilgrims. They drop on their knees as their guide reads what happened to Jesus at this particular spot: Here he fell the second time; here he met the three women of Jerusalem, etc. They fall to their knees in the middle of all the shoppers, listening to that echo of events 2,000 years ago.

De donde estan ustedes? I mumble to an elderly lady leaning against the old stones, mesmerized by the cross commemorating Christ’s 6th Station. De Argentina, she says, barely looking at me.

The hubbub of tourists runs alongside them as they hear a different song. No one pushes, there’s no impatience. The two streams run together.

And I think of a friend of mine who emailed several days ago that his mother passed away. He attached two photos of her, one showing her as a young woman getting married to his father, the other somewhat older, when he got married. He sat with her at her bedside till she died.

I also think of another email yesterday from another friend about the joyous birth of a new granddaughter. She told me that the baby’s dark, bright eyes evoked some place else. Looking at them, she felt as though another world, another universe, was looking back at her through the baby’s eyes. She, too, sat with the baby’s mother till she gave birth.

And I think of myself, sitting by my mother these days when she won’t dress but remains in her pajamas, lacking interest in the world in which she had been super-active for so many years. She still has a strong will to live, the doctor told us earlier today.

Still, I feel like I’m sitting along some invisible perimeter dividing me from an invisible land on the other side, an echo of which reaches my ears even in the middle of the honking of cars on the street outside and the smell of coffee from the cheese shop a few doors down the block.

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My mother, Shoshana Brayer, and her granddaughter, Yardena Bar-Eden Allon

The doves don’t give up.

I sit in the sunny living room of my sister’s apartment in Jerusalem. I flew in here several days ago on account of my mother’s decline.

It’s late morning on Saturday, the Sabbath. There is less street noise, less car noise, mostly the talk of people walking back and forth from the synagogue. Jerusalem, ordinarily a very noisy city, is more quiet today.

But the doves don’t seem to know about Sabbath of any kind, not Muslim (Friday), Jewish (Saturday), or Christian (Sunday). They have long perched on the narrow column of ledges, 4 stories tall, that is on the inside of my sister’s building. The ledges were safe havens for them, inaccessible to humans or Jerusalem’s dangerous predators, cats, a good place to raise a family. But they left terrible messes in the garden and paths below, and finally the building’s human denizens sealed up their homes.

Every morning I hear them flying down, fluttering their heavy wings, eager to settle back on the ledges that were wide and safe enough for nesting, only to find them shut off by a gray tin siding. In vain they flutter and flutter even now, as I write this, against the tin blockage, bewildered and confused, always coming back, a little like Jews wishing to return from the diaspora, carrying their history and dreams with them.

How many generations have perched here, flying in for refuge from rain and wind, raising young, using it to launch them out into the world? In vain they cluck and flutter their wings. Home is cut off, sealed, done with.

I have never called Jerusalem home. I don’t have a geographical home, not even in Montague, Massachusetts, where I live. I lack that sense of rootedness anywhere. But whenever I return to where my parents—and now my mother—reside, there’s a sense of contact with previous generations and ancestors, with a long and deep karma that goes beyond parents, country, and tradition.

You don’t own me, I used to say silently on these trip to see my parents. You don’t control me. You don’t control my voice. I would sit and witness them, listen and observe. I had learned to do that at a very early age. At a time when young children whooped and hollered, I learned to be silent and listen.

Much, much later, and far away from them, that silence exploded into words and outbursts of feelings, scratches that effortlessly filled page after page. The silence would come back only when I returned to Jerusalem.

But now my mother, too, is silent. Full of heroic stories of struggle and survival, still dreaming of a movie to be made of her life, she nevertheless has become quiet. Sometimes, she admitted to me slowly the other day, my mind gets fogged up, and then it clears, and then it gets fogged up again.

Last night she didn’t come for dinner. It was Friday night, the sacred night of the Sabbath when for generations the family always came together. That was the plan this time, too. We gathered in my brother’s home: he and his girlfriend, my sister and brother-in-law and their friend, and myself, and we waited for her to come. Instead the message arrived from Swapna, her Indian caregiver: Mother is not coming. Not doing the 10-minute walk to her son’s home, not doing the wheelchair, not even 3 minutes in a car.

I went to see her, expecting to find her as I have almost every day this visit, in her pajamas. Instead she’d gotten dressed, she even had her hat on. But she sat at the table by the entrance when I arrived and said: I have no strength.

I returned and joined the others in the living room, looking at each other thoughtfully before sitting down to dinner. Ancestorless.

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Photo by a kind, unknown man

In my years of negotiating my way in this world, doctors, employers, professors, and family members hit on me, not to mention a college therapist I asked for help when I was a pretty crazy 18 year-old, in lots of pain and trouble, and who agreed on condition that we do our therapy at the empty home of a friend of his.

People talk about how important it is for women to tell the world about these experiences. Totally agree, but for me it’s no small challenge to tell myself those stories, to remind this independent-minded, strong individual what it took to travel the world of jobs, careers, education, therapy, and yes, travel. The price I often had to pay.

A little over a year ago I traveled on Swiss Airlines and, late at night, felt the hand of the man sitting next to me sidling up the side of my body to my breast. I was actually quite surprised; I didn’t think a woman past 65 would have to deal with this anymore, a positive side effect of retirement. What surprised me even more was the reaction of the stewardess, who was very concerned that I was disturbing other passengers’ sleep when I told her aloud what was happening because she ignored me as long as I kept my voice low.

When I look at the aftermath of the Weinstein scandal, I realize that for me the hardest thing is to remember the young woman’s vulnerability and ignorance, to remember the shame. The ignorance because the world was telling me to be tough and mature, this was the price of being a grown-up woman. And the shame because who among us doesn’t want to think of herself (and have the world think of her) as strong, in charge, capable, able to compete with the best and the brightest? Who wants to remember the times when we were told this was the way of the world and don’t be such a child, and when we believed it?

It’s not just gorgeous Hollywood starlets who get that message, we all get that message.

So you develop a thick skin, you try to pretend that none of those things really mattered, that you are strong, you were always strong, you could deal with everything. We’re tempted to say, like Monica Lewinski, that it was a consensual relationship because, if we don’t, then isn’t the implication that I was abused, that I was weak and dumb, that I could be taken advantage of?

The world out there is a projection of myself. I am no observer of the world, we’re all one and the same entity. So yes, rules and regulations for workplace are crucial; institutional changes are crucial. But what about all the personal disconnections? What about the men, like Weinstein, who have daughters but don’t stop to think how they would feel if other men did to their own daughters what they are doing to women?

And what about our disconnections as women, our places of retreat and withdrawal, all of which gets acted out in the relations between the genders? Yes, by all means, let’s face down the world. But let’s also look deeply and tenderly into our own selves, bear witness, and resolve to finally face down those old fears that so many of us absorbed practically from the womb.

That stewardess with Swiss Airlines is no other than me. I’m older and maybe a little more savvy about the ways of the world. But that woman is me, no doubt about it.



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I read that half of all Republican voters in this country support a pre-emptive strike at North Korea. This, of course, would mean war and the probable use of nuclear weapons. How do we avoid that, I wonder. How do we prevent the vitriol from rising to a persuasive pitch as it did before Bush went into Iraq for no good reason? Start demonstrations now. Start Facebook organizing now. Get European partners—

And then I hear getting up noises across the hall. I leave my computer and head out to the bedroom for the morning ritual.

How are you doing, Bernie? Did you sleep well? I ask.

I didn’t get to sleep for a long time. And you?

I slept great, Bernie, only I had a dream that you were trying to kill me.


And I must have been half awake because I heard you getting up to go to the bathroom while dreaming this. I heard you putting on your shoes and picking up your cane, and suddenly I was sure you were going to smash that cane on my skull.

And did I? he wonders. That’s not nice of me. Is Stanley on the rug blocking the way? Can I get to the bathroom?

Stanley’s not in the way, he’s been sleeping on the couch since breakfast. Do you ever want to kill me? I ask.

No. I think there were times you’ve wanted to kill me, he says. In the past.

Not kill, but close, I admit.

When he gets downstairs he sits down at the table. OK, say I, taking my seat close to him, time for the daily stabbing. Where are those little knives?

You mean prickers, he asks with a grin.

We’re talking about a glucose test because Bernie has Diabetes 2. I take out the little lancet, put in the device, prick his finger, get the blood onto the test strip, insert in the meter and check: 118, I tell him. Good. That’s because you didn’t have any dessert last night.

Soon I’ll get rid of my diabetes drugs.

That depends on whether you could let go of vanilla ice cream with Herrell’s chocolate fudge sauce. We start to negotiate. How about just vanilla ice cream?

How about just chocolate fudge sauce? he offers.

Medicine and illness subdue each other, I say, remembering the koan while I next examine the cancerous sore on his nose which will be removed in November, ponder what ointment it needs, what Band-Aid (Only the nose knows, Bernie says).

He’s ready to make his own breakfast, but not only has time passed since I wondered what I or Zen Peacemakers can do about the rhetoric surrounding North Korea, the energy has changed, too. It shifted from going out there to focusing in here, from creative thought to brushing the dog, from compiling a list of strategic options to compiling a list of to-dos, from saving the planet to hanging laundry, from loving everyone to loving one man (and a dog).

Like the photo of the back of our home above, on my way to plunging into the exquisite leaves of fall I bump into the barbecue grill and the satellite dish.

The Zen koan goes: Yunmen, teaching his community, said: “Medicine and sickness subdue each other. The whole earth is medicine. What is yourself?”

They say that it’ll be women who’ll save the world. Instead, Bernie and I argue about why I find white crumbs of used tissues in the pockets of his gray pants after they come out of the washing machine. Why do I worry about what he’s going to wear to Greyston? Why do I have to try to remember if the car has gas?

Why why why, he used to shake his head when I did formal study with him. Because at that time why was my favorite word in the English language.

Yes, if we had a less fragmented life, if our attention didn’t go from writing to laundry to sweeping leaves to taking out the trash and recyclables (Is it plastic/glass or paper today?) to returning books to the library and DVDs to the mailbox to making family phone calls to emptying the dehumidifier in the basement to taking out the spider on the floor to sewing buttons to shopping lists and what’s for dinner, etc., etc., etc., yes, if that happened we women would save the world.

Till then we’re saving it one human at a time, one home at a time, one spider, one button on a sweater, one undocumented family needing a ride to the courthouse, one man, one marriage, and one beer can thrown on the road, picked up and put into a blue recyclable bin.

In our spare time we try to address other issues.

Sometimes I think it’s enough, and sometimes I don’t.

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Photo by Rami Efal

So here we are, with Dail Moses-Taylor, in Greyston’s 35th anniversary gala.

I won’t fool you, my heart was actually with the small group of ZPers flying the next day to South Dakota to witness a gathering of descendants of the Wounded Knee massacre taking place this weekend in a camp in the Black Hills. Instead we ate filet mignon and drank red wine somewhere in the Rockefeller Estate in Tarrytown alongside 500 other people, celebrating.

Remember when we were happy if someone would make Greyston a party in their front yard? I asked Bernie in the car going down. I remembered being broke and attending big, elegant parties of other organizations or foundations, usually being the worst dressed in the crowd, and looking around for whom we could ask for money.

There was fundraising last night, too, but on a different level.

In the end I was very happy I went. You know why? Because we have to celebrate the good things, smile and laugh, not just weep. We have to be able to look back at 35 years and say—Wow, that did make some difference! That affected people! It’s not perfect, it’s not everything we wished and dreamed about, but it was and is something.

There are so many organizations that don’t survive their founders; most people don’t know how tricky it is for a company or organization to go on after a powerful founder, with a powerful vision, steps aside. Many disappear, or else they lose the vision and change completely.

That didn’t happen here. People appeared—new board members, presidents, new managers, and just people—who continued the work, bringing in their flavor into it, so that the vision now is so much richer and more inclusive:

Dail, above, leads the Pathmaker Program that addresses people’s needs not just for a job but other dreams as well—for study, for careers, for a better life for their children.

A man stopped by and introduced himself. He’d been chairman of the board when Greyston went through hard times and he led the effort to restructure its debt. He was humble and backed out as soon as someone else came by, and I wished he’d stayed around because I know how easy it is to get enthusiastic when things go well and how only a few are ready to work hard when things go south.

Of course, there was Dion Drew, who gives a terrific Ted talk about his four years in prison, with no one hiring him afterwards till he goes through the door at Greyston, and the family he’s raised since then. Dion has a rare talent for talking and inspiring; I told his wife Jackie that he sounded like a minister in the making.

Speaking of Dion, the banner Greyston carries now is Open Hiring, where Greyston will hire anyone applying for a job without asking about felonies or criminal record, without asking about a history in prison. Are you aware of how many young men of color are imprisoned in our system for nonviolent crimes, only to be met by shut doors when they come out, their future in shambles? How many business managers do you know who stand ready to take a risk on hiring people out of prison? Greyston is making a big push, through its own Center for Open Hiring, to convince other companies—including big ones, like Unilever—to do just that.

And what a time it was for me to be with Bernie there, somewhat fragile and tired after the trip down, but still so happy. Bearing witness to the exquisite opportunity our life affords us, using that precious time, the precious life, to create something, help someone, love someone, while outside the leaves change color and fall on the earth.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were there (see below), and Ben Cohen said, This small 2×2 brownie is changing the world. Everyone laughed, but I had a moment of déjà vu. The fancy lit tent disappeared, and I thought of Bernie pointing to a small cheese cake and telling us, his students, so young and idealistic at that time, and also to all the political, religious, and business figures who used to visit—This cheese cake will change the world. And I used to think to myself: A cheese cake? How does a cheese cake change the world?

But Ben Cohen sees in that brownie, the same brownie that Greyston ships up to Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont for its ice cream that then goes all over the world, what Bernie saw in the cheese cake 30 years ago. Each small thing contains the universe. Behind that small brownie stand bakers who change their lives, their children’s lives, and the life of the community. Behind that small brownie is a philosophy to give a second chance to people who’ve been in prison. Behind that brownie are the words, Bernie’s words, the emcee quoted in closing the evening: To heal the world is to heal yourself.

A little brownie, that’s it. And a lotta lotta work as we swirl up and down and sideways over many years, till finally coming to rest on the earth like the leaves outside.

Ben Cohen, Jerry Greenfield, Mike Brady (CEO of Greyston), and Bernie. Photo by Deborah Stewart.
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