Do What You Can

Without love – you are nothing. Among the messages in Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo’s guest sermon today at Trinity Presbyterian Church was that no matter what else you have going on in your life, it’s love that will get you through the day – and your life. He also questioned why there is so little commitment today; why don’t we KEEP the promises we make? He says it’s because we IMG_0695 - Copyare weak. My belief is that we give up too easily – call it weak – call it lazy. We feel like making a commitment in the moment – and then we lose interest. Campolo told a great story about visiting Haiti following the earthquake that ravaged the nation. He was solicited by young girls offering themselves to him for $10 each. He took all three to his room, ordered all the Disney movies the hotel had (8) and called room service and ordered four extra-large banana splits. After the last girl had fallen asleep following hours of watching Disney movies and enjoying their ice cream party, he felt as though he had done nothing to really help IMG_0645 - CopyIMG_0687 - Copythese young girls who would be back out on the streets again finding men who would take advantage of them. But Campolo said whether it was his own voice or the voice of God inside him, he heard the message that he gave back the childhood of those three girls if only for one night. He did what he could.

We’ve heard the message a lot recently, especially since the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy: pay it forward; do one nice thing for someone else; if not every day – as often as you can. Do what you can – and the world will be a better place.

A City to Enjoy Over and Over Again

The City by the Bay never disappoints. San Francisco has a plethora of sites and sounds to enjoy, not to mention outstanding restaurants and neighborhoods.

Union Square across from the Westin St. Francis

We spent January 20-23, 2011  back in the city we’ve visited at least four times before including out honeymoon 20 years ago. For this trip we stayed at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square. Usually, we choose bed and breakfasts, enjoying the unique accommodations and the morning meal. My husband, who travels on business often, used his Starwood points to book three nights for $60 per night. You can’t go wrong with that. This Westin property was perfect for a long weekend. We purchased two Muni passes for $20 each and traveled all over town throughout the weekend saving a fortune on a rental car and hotel parking which runs about $50 per night.

The weather was outstanding. I should have brought a few short-sleeved shirts and even shorts. Never having been to SF in January, I knew the temperatures could fluctuate between 50 and 60 but each day, temperatures were at least 65.

Hyde-Powell Cable line heading to Hyde Pier on left

Our first day included a Hyde-Powell cable car ride to Hyde Pier which is a federal site. Several tall ships and schooners are docked there. We strolled the dock in warm sunshine and admired all of the history. There were only a handful of people at the pier mid-afternoon on a Thursday. It was wonderful to see people actually swimming in the bay.

For dinner, we took a trolley on Market Street to the Ferry Building which is now home to gourmet shops, restaurants and ferry docks to Sausalito and Tiburon. We enjoyed the happy hour

Yummy clam chowder

prices on oysters, outstanding clam chowder and beer at Hog Island Oyster Company.

We hopped another trolley (Route 45) and headed to Union Street where we got off at Hyde for some tapas at a Spanish restaurant, Zarzuela. We ordered three small plates and some sangria. Directly opposite Zarzuela is an ice cream shop, Swenson’s. We enjoyed a cone while standing outside across the street from a laundromat with one of the coolest names I’ve ever seen, “The Missing Sock.” (San Francisco seems to have dozens of laundromats – many with unique names.) With the weather so


A sign showing you can't forget you are in earthquake country.

marvelous, we decided to take a ferry to Sausalito Friday morning. We skipped the pricier options for traveling to the island (ferries along Fisherman’s Wharf) and took the $8.25 one-way ferry to Sausalito. We walked and walked; admiring the marina, the shops and enjoyed the warm, pleasant weather. While most of the attractions

A perfect day for a ferry ride to Sausalito - just $8.25 one way.

are on the north side, we walked south and mingled with the residents. We enjoyed lunch at Sausalito Taco Shop on Bridgeway. Since it’s five o’clock somewhere, I had a margarita with lunch; my husband enjoyed a Mexican brew.

After walking to the north end of Bridgeway and checking out the many shops along with enjoying the street musicians, we took the ferry back at 3:30 p.m.

Houseboats, sailboats, even a floating home that looks like the Taj Mahal - all in Sausalito.

Dinner Friday took us to North Beach via bus from the hotel. We ate at Sindoni’s where we had eaten in 2007. The family-run restaurant is outstanding with homemade sauce and pasta, wonderful fish and veal selections and great local customers.

We were also in North Beach since we had tickets to see Beach Blanket Babylon. The comedy-musical satire show has been running for more than 30 years. It’s a difficult show to describe. The outlandish costumes and headdresses worn by the performers accentuate the amazing music and comedy that satirizes today’s politics, pop culture, religion and more. The show has a San Francisco flavor so it’s unlike anything you might see elsewhere.

Lombard entrance to the massive Presidio - a military site turned commercial, park & residential in 1994.

Saturday after I headed to the hotel gym for a morning workout, we decided to explore the vast area known as the Presidio. We again took the 45 bus to the end which let us off at the Presidio’s Lombard gate. we walked for several miles through lush grounds and streets lined with homes and buildings renovated after the military turned over the base for civilian use in 1994. Had we been better prepared, we would have sought out bicycles to rent since everything we wanted to see was so far away. We should have hopped the free shuttle bus that circles the Presidio, but it only runs once an hour on weekends.

We decided to take the 45 back along Union Street. We explored the shops for a few blocks. My husband had a real longing for sushi, so we hopped the 22 trolley to Japantown. You can get your fill of sushi at the restaurant that created the sushi

Sushi via conveyor boat in Japantown

boat that floats on a conveyor as you sit at the counter. Not being a tremendous sushi fan, I did truly enjoy the pieces I ate in this unique setting. After resting at the hotel, it was time for another meal. Saturday night can be hellish in San Francisco if you don’t have a reservation – and we did not.

But we headed to Fillmore to a Peruvian restaurant – Fresca. The 30-seat restaurant was not too crowded at 6 p.m. We were offered a table or seats at the bar. Since Fresca does not serve hard liquor – only beer and wine, you can watch the chefs cook in the open kitchen. What a treat. Many locals eat at Fresca often as we found out. A nice couple chatted with us as we waited for our delectable dishes. I enjoyed the sea bass and risotto – my husband had a chicken stew. The best was last as we shared a dessert – the beignets. The fried dough was rolled in cinnamon-sugar and placed on a pool of a caramel-apple syrup and sprinkled with powdered sugar. New Orleans has nothing on this Peruvian version of lusciousness.

View of the Palace of the Fine Arts form the Presidio.

While I had originally planned to spend out time in San Francisco exploring some museums we have not visited yet, the weather was so outstanding, we couldn’t resist spending as much time as possible outdoors. We sat for about an hour in Union Square; we walked everywhere we didn’t take the bus to and enjoyed two breakfasts at Roxanne’s at Powell and Bush where we had eaten a few years back.

I certainly did leave my heart in San Francisco, returning to the east coast and another snow storm. As the former California governor says, “I’ll be back.”

Just Passing Through

“We’re not owners here; we’re just passing through.” In the outstanding Academy Award-winning film, Out of Africa, Denys Finch Hatton (played by the wonderfully photogenic Robert Redford) is dancing with Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) and laments to her that our possessions and our lives are fleeting.

Imagine the despair and hopelessness felt by the tens of thousands of Haitians affected by the earthquake. Their lives were always difficult. Haiti is among the poorest nations in the world. Formal education is rare; illiteracy is the norm. But, this was their normal. The happiness experienced in the past, friends, family and day-to-day tasks will likely never be the same. While we are so very resilient as a species, lives in Haiti have been cut short; those who have survived may be suffering for an incredibly long time with illnesses, injuries that never heal properly and the loss of loved ones.

The 11 year-old girl who ws a miracle just the other day; pulled from the rubble in Port-au-Prince died.

Anna’s life was fleeting. She did not own her life; she was just passing through.

As our nation honors Martin Luther King, Junior with a day of service, we remember to help those in our communities. This week, Sustainable Cherry Hill ( and the Center for Transformation in Camden are presenting “The Poet of Poverty.” The documentary profiles Father Michael Doyle, a long-time advocate of Camden, its people and what is good no matter where you live. The event also includes a panel discussion led by Father Doyle and other local community leaders. The event itself is a sell out, but the message is: take your passions, your knowledge, your strength to other communities that need your help. Rutgers-Camden is also planning an event the end of the month to inspire the campus community to help in its host community.

While an earthquake of the magnitude that struck Haiti is never like to strike in our region, there is poverty and hopeless people within a few miles of you. We can help in many ways large and small. What is important is that we try to help.

“When you think the gods are punishing you, they answer your prayers,” said Karen Blixen in Out of Africa. We can help answer some prayers..every day.

The Wait – Finding Hope

Can you imagine being in the shoes of a person who has loved ones in Haiti and you can’t reach them? For as much communication and connectivity we have in our lives today to not be able to reach someone on a cell phone or by email must be incredibly horrifying. Even as the Red Cross and other agencies populate their special pages and web sites to help find victims and survivors of the earthquake, the agonizing hours and days of waiting are anguishing.

The searches are continuing; there are some miracles as an 11-year-old girl is pulled alive from the rubble with a badly mangled leg. Doctors Without Borders are setting up portable hospitals somewhere near Port-Au-Prince. Aid is beginning to flow into the devastated area, but roads remain blocked and survivors are living in the streets and the few open areas that remain. Families and children are helpless

These facts from a CNN report before the earthquake are stunning:

Athena Kolbe of the University of Michigan did a survey last summer of nearly 1,000 households in three highly populated neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

Just over half the people in those neighborhoods had access to electricity — when it was available at all — the survey found.

Most used public or private water kiosks as their main source of drinking and cooking water, and most used shared pit latrines rather than bathrooms, Kolbe found in her study for the Small Arms Survey. Few families had water piped into their homes.

More than nine out of 10 used charcoal for cooking; the others used gas.

Adults had an average of just over two and a half years of formal schooling.

Eighty percent of Haiti’s 9 million residents live under the poverty line. More than half — 54 percent — live in abject poverty, according to the CIA Factbook.

Now, factor in a disaster of this proportion, and you’ve probably seen Haiti fall 50 years behind where the nation started. Whatever we can give, however we can help, we must try. I’m going to the Red Cross web site:

Dig as deep as you can.

100,000 and counting in Haiti

The death toll in Haiti will likely top 100,000. That’s like wiping out all of Cherry Hill and Haddonfield in one fell swoop. The photos and video this morning of the president’s house were remarkable. It’s hard to imagine the White House being similarly devastated. It could have happened September 11, but that would have been man-made.

Just the other day I was thinking about how San Francisco recovered after the October 1989 6.8 earthquake. The Marina district was devastated. The 101 freeway collapsed on itself crushing motorists. Remember Al Michaels switching from World Series play-by-play to disaster coverage? That earthquake struck just before the digital age. Cell phones weren’t big and computers were just starting to become mainstream. Even in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, cell phones, texts and emails to the outside world were possible so many families could find out how their loved ones fared in this disaster.

Being in the news business for so long, as I saw word of the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti Tuesday night, I knew the disaster would be widespread. A hospital collapsed, bodies are in the streets, the bone-crushing injuries others are suffering – it’s heartbreaking. Now, the tent cities will rise from the rubble. People are already camping out awaiting help from around the world.

The faces of the survivors will be filled with shock and grief for days to come. People who have tried and failed to get word from their loved ones in Haiti will get devastating news in the coming days. Some lucky people will find out their loved ones did survive, but have lost everything, or worse, are tragically injured.

For most of us, we do what we can: we donate blood, write a check to the Red Cross or other relief organization. Still others who are specially trained, will be heading to Haiti to help the stricken people in any way they can. So remember the victims, the survivors and those relief workers as well as the search and rescue workers who have so much to do for months to come.

One thing we know: people are resilient. We find a way to start again. No matter how horrible the crisis, we dig deep and look to find what it takes to move forward. Bless the children, their families and all those stricken tonight.