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Life In the Time of Corona (Fourth in an unlimited series)

Life In the Time of Corona (Fourth in an unlimited series)
(Note: The following was written by my son Marc Cascio, who is in his 28th year
of teaching high school and coaching youth soccer—Chuck Cascio)
 
REALIZING ‘PURPOSE’ IN THE TIME OF CORONA 
By Marc Cascio
     
     Before he died, my Grandpa Wells used to stand guard at the doors of the Sunrise Retirement home where he eventually passed away. Nobody, not even my mother, could explain why he assumed this role: certainly nobody asked him to and, though he had once been a stalwart and aggressive man who survived D-Day and was a known entity to high-up generals, in his later days he would have been ineffective at stopping nearly anyone who invaded the home. Still, every morning, as the other elderly people shuffled here and there and busied themselves with whatever filled the time, my grandfather took up his post at the door, and there he remained.
     
     I understand now. My grandfather was a man of action and had been for his whole life. He was on his own early, and the perpetual motion of the military provided sanctuary for his restless nature. If he was cleaning boots, he was doing so for a purpose, regardless of how important he viewed that purpose. By acting as a sentry, he created meaning for himself, and that meaning gave him purpose. He probably knew he wasn't really protecting his house any longer, but nobody said as much and the sense of  purpose fed his restless soul.

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     If nothing else, I have come to understand the meaning of purpose through this whole damned virus thing. I MISS my work! I MISS my students and my players! The time that I get to spend with my own family is wonderful, yes, but I miss feeling like more of a contributor. I know some may be inclined to think by saying that I am guilty of a transgression against my family, but part of my self importance is derived from my own children seeing me work hard and seeing me try to help others. I cannot divorce myself from that, and the days seem soooo long sometimes.

     The other day, in a moment of unwitting precociousness, our 13 year old, Zoey, said she misses school because it gives her purpose. I am not surprised. My mom doesn't need to work, but she still does. She works at a Sunrise facility and (sorry mom), but she is probably older than some of the residents. Yet she won't stop working. She will brave the virus, because not working is a worse fate. My dad's retirement too is a paradox: He works as hard now as he ever did, and that is harder than most everyone I know. His work gives him purpose. He won't stop.
     
     It is wrong, of course, to feel sorry for myself when I still have my health and when we are in a much better spot than many whose life and/or livelihood have been ripped away, but I still feel the absence of purpose. And I now understand what drives an old man to stand by a door protecting nothing in one sense…and everything in another.
 
Copyright: Marc Cascio, all rights reserved.
 

Life In the Time of Corona (Third in an unlimited series)

 
Life In the Time of Corona (Third in an unlimited series)
by Chuck Cascio
chuckwrites@yahoo.com 

As a former high school and college educator over the course of 27 years, I was curious to know how students today feel about most academic institutions being closed for the remainder of the school year. So I asked my niece, Caroline, and five of my grandchildren (Maddie, Jack, Ryan, Zoey, and Wyatt) to write a few sentences about how the coronavirus and school closings are affecting them. Here, in their own words, are their comments (from youngest to oldest):

Wyatt (age 10; fifth grader)--The  coronavirus pandemic is a little bit scary to me because I have no school for the rest of the year. Coronavirus is a weird thing to handle for me because I cannot walk to any friends' houses or speak to any friends in person. I have no idea what to do now. I can't be near anyone or make any contact with anyone. I do go outside a lot and am bored when I can't go outside.

Zoey (age 13; eighth grader)--The corona quarantine and the virus in general will never be forgotten and will be a future history lesson. The quarantine has left a lot of different feelings to a lot of different people. To some, it might be an extended summer. To others, it is a serious pandemic. I believe that this is a serious time which should not be treated as a time to hang out with friends all day and go out to the mall or play games of any sort. Even though school was closed for the rest of the year, it is important to spend some of the day studying what you already learned during the year. Overall, I believe that this time should not be taken lightly because the virus is killing and infecting millions a day all over the world. 

 

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School grounds midday and midweek in the time of coronaphoto by chuck cascio

Ryan (age 14; high school freshman)— My time during the coronavirus has been a mixture of feelings. At first, this time off was the best thing ever--school was out, I could hang with my friends all day and nothing was better than this! Then my feelings started to change--my parents started saying no to hangouts, and I couldn’t hang with my friends as much. All in all, this “coronacation” has been a mixture of having fun with my friends, boredom, and overall getting more sleep!

Jack (age14; high school freshman)—This coronavirus quarantine has left me extremely bored and often wondering what I should do with my time. i have been able to practice sports in my backyard and lift weights in my garage. I wish this could all be over and everything would go back to normal. 

Maddie (age16; high school junior)—While I will admit I was one hoping for a few days off of school to make up for the missed snow days, this was not what I expected. I miss not having things to go to and do. I miss spring sports and school friends, and I miss a normal routine. Lately, at home, I have been spending a lot of time trying to do things outdoors. I refuse to sit inside all day and not do anything...it was making me go crazy! I am hoping to make the best of this and hope this all comes to an end soon so we can all get back to normalcy. 

Caroline (age 19; college freshman)--Although being quarantined in our houses is not fun, I think that it is the right thing to do to flatten the curve. I have taken all of this extra time to start a 400-hour violin practice challenge where I post videos of me playing each day. In addition to focusing on violin, I have also been cooking and baking a lot more, which I was unable to do during my time on campus each week. Finally, I think this has been a great time for everyone to reflect on their lifestyles and daily choices. Fewer people are going places, which isn’t fun, but it’s making the planet greener and reducing carbon emissions; people are eating healthier because they are forced to cook more or learn to cook; more people are contacting each other because they aren’t caught up in their own lives and activities; and people are forgiving themselves for not being busy and giving them “me time” where they learn or practice a skill that they’ve always wanted to do. Even though a lot of people’s new year resolutions might be messed up by this virus, we will be able to take this time to start new goals and find fun workouts to do at home by yourself or with your family! 

Have a comment or a story to add to the "Life in the Times of Corona" series? Write to me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

copyright chuck cascio; all rights reserved.

 

Life In the Time of Corona (Second in an unlimited series)

Life In the Time of Corona (Second in an unlimited series)

My friend and former colleague John Scott, an outstanding teacher and baseball coach, wrote the following, expressing his own affection for our National Pastime. I am proud to publish it with his permission.

 

Diamond Days
by
John Scott

Diamond Days....

Sights and sounds of days on the field…

The aroma of the fresh cut field. The soft breeze kicks up the dust. 

The smell of leather. The crack of the bat. 

Cheers. Chatter. All of that. 

You take the mound. He digs in at home. The catcher crouches, goes through his signs.

You tip your hat, re-grip the ball, begin your wind-up and then let loose the mighty pitch.

A curve spins along the way.

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The batter peers, picks up the seams as the ball draws near.

He sets his eyes, adjusts his stance, begins his swing...

He’s got a chance!

The swing is mighty. The crowd goes quiet as the ball meets the bat in a tremendous crack! 

They all look up, race toward the ball. The left fielder sprints, lays out but can’t quite reach the ball. 

The ump cries out, “FOUL BALL!” 

It’s just one pitch, and there are many more.

But to the boys it is so much more. 

Each pitch, each swing, each throw and catch is set in their memory from the field that day. 

There is something magical and therapeutic about playing—and watching—our  National Pastime! 

 

About John Scott: John played baseball from Little League, Babe Ruth League, American Legion, and high school through college and then coached baseball for 19 years at three different high schools in Fairfax County, VA.

Story copyright: John Scott, all rights reserved.

Photo copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

Life In the Time of Corona (First in an unlimited series)

Life In the Time of Corona--First in an unlimited series
Baseball, where are ye?
by Chuck Cascio
chuckwrites@yahoo.com
 
Baseball, where are ye?
 
To me, you have always represented the start of the new year—
 
the presence of spring and time spent outdoors amid flowering trees and watching kids take on the challenge of the bat and ball;
 
the promise of summer ahead, replete with the gentle call of family, cookouts, beaches, and surf;
 
the ultimate beauty of fall with a series of games that defy analysis, challenge athleticism, and truly identify the sport's heroes;
 
Come back, baseball! 
 
Soon! 
 
You are missed!

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copyright text and photo: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

 

The Movie "Just Mercy"--See. Think. Act

The Movie Just Mercy

See. Think. Act.

by

Chuck Cascio

     If you have not yet seen the movie Just Mercy, you should put it on your "must do" list, especially during Black History Month. It is a true story that provides viewers with reminders of past injustices, the realization that injustices still exist, and the sense of how much must be done to eliminate those injustices in the future. 

     Be prepared to feel uncomfortable but in a meaningful, important way when viewing Just Mercy. And the movie will also make you aware that there are people who truly commit their lives to eliminating injustice...and those people are the real, little-known heroes of history.

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     Just Mercy is the story of African American Bryan Stevenson (played powerfully by Michael A. Jordan), a young, Harvard-educated attorney, who in the late 1980s goes to Alabama to defend prisoners wrongly imprisoned and those not provided proper representation. The movie focuses on one case in particular--that of Walter McMillian (played by Jamie Foxx, in a moving performance), an African American in Alabama sentenced to die for the murder of an 18-year-old girl despite abundant evidence proving his innocence. The movie captures the racism and the legal and political obstacles Stevenson encounters while fighting for McMillian's life and the lives of many other prisoners.  

   The film is produced by Participant, a media company committed to developing entertainment that inspires positive social change, and the story succeeds in encouraging viewers to recognize the inequalities that existed in the era of this movie and those that still exist today. For me, a Boomer who moved from Brooklyn to Northern Virginia as a kid in the 1950s, the movie brought back uncomfortable memories from my youth. And it reminded me that, 30 years later during the years in which Just Mercy takes place, those injustices were still evident...and that too many still exist today albeit in less immediately obvious ways. Some of the realities the film brought back to me from my childhood:

     >>> Seeing signs above restrooms and water fountains and elsewhere that said, "Coloreds" and others that said, "Whites."

     >>> The street signs on motels that specified, "Coloreds not allowed."

     >>> Raw anger rippling through some classmates as Northern Virginia started to integrate schools.

     >>> The time an African American musician friend of mine was given a different menu at a restaurant from the one I was given, the prices on his menu several times more expensive than the prices on mine. We walked out, and as we were leaving someone behind us said, "Well, you can't say that we refused to serve him."

     And, sadly, there are many more from my 1950s-60s childhood. Incidents that confused me, incidents that my parents made sure I recognized as wrong, incidents that still run through my head. They are especially vivid when I see a movie like Just Mercy, so much so that I believe the movie should be shown to high school students and discussed in depth with them. The story is ideal for a conversation around racial injustice, where it has been, where it exists today, and what needs to be done about it in the future.

     As Just Mercy reveals, Bryan Stevenson did more than commit himself to a couple of years worth of work for the unjustly incarcerated. He formed the Equal Justice Initiative in 1989, a nonprofit organization that, as stated on its website (www.eji.org),

“…provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. We challenge the death penalty and excessive punishment and we provide re-entry assistance to formerly incarcerated people.” 

     There is much work to be done. According to the Pew Research Center, African Americans represent only 12% of the U.S. adult population but 33% of the sentenced prison population. Hispanics make up 16% of the adult population and account for 23% of inmates. Whites comprise 64% of adults and 30% of prisoners.  

     In these swirling, fast-paced times it is important to remind ourselves of the realities of past injustices, to take time to look closely at the current lives of minorities, and to take steps for a more equitable future. So here are three things to consider doing, any one of which will stimulate thinking and expand the much-needed conversation:

1) Just see the movie.

2) Think about, document, and/or discuss your own experiences regarding racism.

3) Go to the Equal Justice Initiative website (www.eji.org) and explore it, looking especially at the various materials developed for classroom use, which can also be used  in less-formal discussions with today's youths.

   Doing any of these will stimulate thoughts about where we were, where we are, and where we are headed. Sometimes mercy emerges from discomfort.

Copyright Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.