Finding a Purpose: Americans, Dogs, and a Seagull

I was moved by the Democratic National Convention, beginning with the Zoom-esque choir of American children singing the Star-Spangled Banner.

I was moved by the variety of spokespeople for the states’ Convention delegation, by our geography, our languages, our passions.

And I was moved by Joe Biden. If ever there was a time for a naturally garrulous talker to nail a speech, it was Thursday night, and he did it. Americans together. Collaboration. Unity. Purpose. The man spoke about finding a purpose amidst personal tragedy, and his purpose is national service. It is us. We’re going to bat for Biden.

I was moved again today by two episodes in my going-to-church program, CBS Sunday Morning. The theme, again, was purpose.

The first — a story told by Conor Knighton — was about a retired surgeon and pilot who, after losing his wife, found his way back to life again by flying animals to adoption centers through his non-profit, Dog Is My CoPilot. Peter Rork has rescued 15,000 dogs from overflowing shelters (often, high-kill, too) to underpopulated shelters with lots of foster and adoptive volunteers. In doing so, he knows that those animals have rescued him.

We feel the same way about our Kumba. He feels the same about his soft security companions. With a job to do — carrying — Kumba is able to relax around other dogs when we’re on our daily walks. We’ve still got the muzzle, but it stays home most of the time.

Kumba feels that way about his stuffed companions!

And the second, good-news story — told by the lovely Steve Hartman, On the Road — was about a lobster fisherman who was befriended by a seagull. She showed up on his boat out in the middle of the Gulf of Maine in 2005 and basically never left. When she suffered a leg injury a few months ago, Captain John Makowsky got the bird help at the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick. When the bird recovered, he released her back to the wild, but she continues to show up whenever he is at sea.

It’s about the purpose revealed whenever two living creatures truly need each other.

Steve Hartman, On the Road, CBS

Letting the World In

As the tears fell down my cheeks this morning, I realized how much I’ve gotten used to being hard to the world.

Tracking Florida’s COVID-19 numbers helps me know how the Coronavirus pandemic is going on in the world just outside our door. I was trained for this new project of mine during my nearly 30 years in the New York State Division of the Budget in Albany. There, we knew about how to tell a story by using numbers, and the real story that the right numbers deliver.

We see pictures of people gathered in bars, unmasked. We hear that our daughter’s friends are going out as usual, and are grateful that she has her eyes open to the danger and is staying home. Governor DeSantis stands by his position that it is testing that is creating these numbers, not an increase in the virus. He tells Floridians to be brave, sounding like a World War I officer commanding his soldiers out of the trenches and into the bullets and bayonets of the enemy.

The news alarms me, even when it’s presented by smart people with broad, educated perspectives. I read the paper, scan The New York Times’ alerts throughout the day, and take in the nightly PBS News Hour, but otherwise it’s light reality — there is really no such thing as too much Say Yes to the Dress — or fiction diversions — the new Perry Mason on HBO, Vera on PBS, and we may make it through the crime/horror/Arctic drama Fortitude, if only to remind ourselves why we migrated south.

So, all in all, my relationship with television has been pretty passive as of late.

Yet, here I was this morning, freely weeping while we watched today’s CBS Sunday Morning. Two segments touched me, and the first was a story from back in our old haunts, Albany, where amateur painter Steve Derrick has taken the time to honor the front line in Albany Medical Center by painting the portraits of what they look like after a long shift, showing them in a local gallery, and giving the paintings to the doctors, nurses, aides, and others have inspired him so. A nurse was in tears as she thanked him for seeing who she is. This is soul food.

As you may know, the OLVG Nurses and Chapel in Amsterdam gave me the support to begin my recovery last year. The time my husband and I spent in that sweet chapel gave us time alone in the presence of something more than ourselves. The music we heard there lifted us up.

I grew up singing at home. Dad played the guitar and sang baritone, my sister was the soprano, I was the alto, and Mom was the audience. School choirs broadened our repertoire. I sang in church choirs in Albany churches. That was my form of worship. When Mom died, Susie and I sang The Lord Bless You and Keep You, following harmonies we learned at Herbert Hoover Junior High School in Potomac, Maryland.

Several years ago, Grammy composer Eric Whitacre figured out how to create a virtual choir. He videoed himself conducting a piece, and the singers filmed themselves singing to his conducting and the accompanist’s music. Then, he pieced together all the videos and audios. The first year, he had several hundred. This year, it’s more than 17,000. Here it is. Happy tears!

Eric Whitacre’s Sing Gently