Look Up

Look Up

Look up.

Look up to the sky, said God to Abraham, and count the stars, if you can.  That’s how many descendants you will have, how numerous your people will be.

Look up u to the sky, said the last generation of doctors to this one, and count the stars, if you can.  That’s how many lives you will save, how many hearts you will touch, how many stories you will change. Read More

“I Will Bless Those Who Bless You”

“I Will Bless Those Who Bless You”

It must hurt when someone who was a victim of South African apartheid turns to you and tells you, “Go back where you came from!”

Or when you and your four children and your pregnant wife end up in an Indonesian prison for want of enough money to pay a bogus fine that is only being charged because you’re not from around there.

Or when you dodge the Malaysian police every day running between your three jobs that they don’t want you to have, all so you don’t have to go back to the military slave labor camp across the border. Read More

More than Homeless

I spent a lot of Wednesday thinking about homelessness.  There’s a gauntlet of folks who line Centre Avenue outside PPG Paints Arena during large events like the Elton John concert I attended that night.  Some identify as veterans, others have service dogs parked by them with signs saying, “homeless and boneless,” and still others rely on their talents with a saxophone, but all are trying to work the crowd for a few coins or bills.  I took my change from Roz at the concession stand in singles, so I could tip her and have ones left to hand to the folks I passed on the way out of the concert. Read More

Make the Wind Blow

Bereshit 5779

October 5, 2018

 

Separation is a good thing.  I don’t mean divorce or being away from your kids or breaking up the band.  I mean the fact that thing A is over here and thing B is over there, and they stay that way.  Air belongs over here, in the lungs; an unpopped popcorn kernel belongs over there, in the stomach.  There is a structure in the body, the epiglottis, whose entire purpose is to keep it that way, but sometimes a little boy, who shouldn’t have been eating popcorn in the first place, gets a little too excited over his forbidden treat and accidentally sucked a kernel down the wrong tube.  Mercifully, the x-ray says otherwise.  Epiglottis 1, popcorn 0. Read More

Songs that Voices Never Shared

Shabbat Ha’azinu 5779/September 21-22, 2018

 

So long, Paul Simon.

We didn’t exactly “harmonize ‘til dawn,” but for 2 ½ hours Monday night, I got to harmonize with the nearly ageless songwriter at one of his final concerts, from Pittsburgh’s favorite, “America” (because he and Kathy boarded the Greyhound here) through “Sounds of Silence” at the end of the second encore.  For me it was especially fitting that Simon ended with the song that describes “people hearing without listening,” a line that is at the heart of Chapter 2 of Healing People, Not Patients – which is officially in print as of today! Read More

NPO

Yom Kippur 5779

 

NPO – Latin for nunc per os.  Nothing by mouth.

Show of hands – who here has ever been NPO in the hospital?  Lots of you, I see.

Another show of hands – how many of you were NPO and had no idea when they were going to let you eat again?  Ooooh, I was afraid of that.  Still lots of you.  Every evening the orders go in for all the surgical patients: “NPO after midnight.”  Read More

Gotta Start Somewhere

Rosh HaShanah 5779

Last year I wrote a holiday parody song for my office. We speak a dozen languages and observe half-a-dozen religions among us, and one thing quickly became apparent: there are an awful lot of different new years to celebrate: Chinese Lunar New Year. Nowruz. Rosh HaShanah. It all depends on where you decide to start – but you gotta start somewhere. Each new year marks the beginning of something different: trees, creation, the reign of the new king. Whatever you’re marking in time, you gotta start somewhere.

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