2010-12-17 / Columnists

Rock Solid

The Season Of Giving – And Living
Commentary By Vivian Rattay Carter

Self-portrait of Betsy Self-portrait of Betsy Although it’s only December 17, I’ve already received some amazing gifts for Christmas this year.

You can’t buy any of them at Walmart.

They can’t be found in a shopping mall on Black Friday, so save your gas and tolls. You won’t need coins for parking.

These are not iGifts, so you

It’s O ur c an’t bu y them on Blac k Mon da y – not o n Amazon or eBay or by “Google-ing” anything. I’m talking about the gifts we receive from our life with others. The love and caring of family, friends, fellow members of community organizations, and even local business people can change our lives for the better. Let me count the ways.

I traded in my New Jersey landlord in May. The apartment in which I now reside may not ever be ready for a House Beautiful photo shoot, but it is warm enough and the things that break eventually get fixed. Thank you, Teri Farris, for demonstrating that a woman can maintain her own home with only occasional assistance from plumbers, electricians and handymen. Thanks also for the concern you show for me, my daughter and the children and parents you help, as they cross Newport Avenue going to and from school each day. “Cat people” are special people!

Another woman who inspired me this year is my friend Loretta Lynch. Seeing such a strong, smart, kind, and hard-working black woman rise to the top of the legal profession — still predominately a white man’s world — is an enormous treat. I will never forget looking out at the crowd that packed the courtroom for Loretta’s installation at Brooklyn Law School in early December. A sea of mostly white faces floating above their gray and blue suits — all present seemed awed by the gravity of the occasion. I wish my friend success in the tough job of U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. The U.S. Supreme Court may be next!

Last year at this time, I joked that “all I want for Christmas is my one front tooth.” I mourned the loss of my first baby tooth, after an x-ray showed the root was hopelessly infected by a drill bit embedded there since a root canal in 1992. Thank you, Dr. David Rogoff, for making a dental prosthesis I could afford. The years of patience you’ve devoted to the dental needs of my children are also appreciated.

I also traded in television for radio this year, and am so much the richer after making this “downgrade.” It had been years since I’d listened to WFUV, FM 90.7, a listener-supported station that broadcasts National Public Radio news and phenomenal non-commercial music from Fordham’s Bronx campus. Although the signal used to be chancy unless you had a good antenna, hearing it on the radio at Patrick Clark’s Sunlites Stained Glass studio got me listening again. In a totally retro homage to the 1940s, I even sat in the dark and listened to the eclectic cast of New York gubernatorial candidates as they “debated” each other in that live broadcast from Hofstra in November. Listening in the dark to the voices of these people who had stepped up with aspirations to lead the State of New York helped me to focus on their words and ideas, rather than their appearance. Maybe we need more of that these days.

I’ve written so many times about my four favorite community organizations that I will keep this one brief. Their devoted volunteers make them the gifts that keep on giving to me — First Congregational Church, Sebago Canoe Club, Rockaway Artists

Alliance and Rockaway Theatre Company. I’m richer

by entering into their spaces — it’s so much more

Our Mission. than eat, pray, love. Let’s add hugs, kisses, laughter, sweat, toil, and the chance to marvel at the beauty of life and work to make the planet a better place.

And, speaking of that, in 2010 I finally linked up with the folks who have been “creating the next generation of environmental leaders” for four decades. I’m talking about the awesome 91-year-old Pete Seeger and his vital, yet vintage, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization. Their environmental advocacy helped bring the Hudson River back from the brink of destruction in the 1960s, and they host the longest-running music/environmental festival in America – the Great Hudson River Revival, held every Father’s Day weekend at various riverfront locations for more than forty years. The Revival is a gathering of a broad range of experts on environmental issues from government, universities, and other activist groups, juried crafts vendors and their wares, an interesting range of food offerings, a chance to sail on the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and other classic vessels, plus scores of live performances by the greatest non-commercial musical talent anywhere! You can purchase tickets at www.clearwater.org.

After attending the festival, I was so moved that I decided to give back by working for a week in October as an education volunteer on the Sloop Clearwater. I will be speaking and displaying my photos of the voyage at the January 10 monthly meeting of Rockaway Artists Alliance — watch for details in The Wave. The Discovery 3D network also filmed the voyage for an upcoming program.

Last, but not least, I have treasured the gift of seeing my children develop their talents this past year. My daughter’s blossoming as an artist fills me with joy every day. Knowing that my son is finding expression through music gives me confidence in his

future, as well. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas

and a healthier, more peaceful and socially just

Mission. world in 2011!

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