Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In Search of a Difficult Peace

There is perhaps no nation that tugs at the heart, draws upon emotion, or is filled with such political and historical nuance as the State of Israel. Founded on a moral imperative just three years after millions of Jews perished in the gas ovens and concentration camps of Hitler’s Germany, the birth of Israel is an inspirational, heroic tale, involving an unprecedented culmination of political, cultural, and religious factors that continue to confound and intrigue the world. When in 1948 the British Mandate of Palestine ceded to official U.N. recognition, Israel became a haven to Jews from all over the world, embraced them as family, provided sanctuary, and built a national community of citizens devoted to a common cause.

Aided by the courageous, last-minute support of President Harry Truman, whose recognition of Israel’s provisional government went against the advice of his foreign policy team, most of whom favored the oil-rich Arab nations, and by American Jewish support, Israel and the United States formed a lasting bond that has remained strong through Israel’s 63-year history. It has not, however, been an easy history. Peaceful coexistence between Israel and its Arab neighbors has proved difficult; many of Israel’s citizens discovered early on that they had merely exchanged the insecurity of pre-War Europe for the insecurity of the Middle East.

Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948. The next day, 23,000 Arab troops from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, lined the borders of the tiny new nation and sought its destruction. From its very founding, Israel has been surrounded by hostile forces intent on its annihilation. Virtually every decade of its existence, Israel has been forced to defend its very survival. It is a nation uniquely and existentially attuned to the constant risk of extinction and what it takes to survive. In 1967, when Nasser’s Egypt and the Arab Legion once again threatened Israel’s destruction, Israel in self-defense launched a pre-emptive strike, conquering the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Sinai, and the Gaza Strip. No longer content to be history’s victims, the Israel Defense Forces now ranks among the most capable military forces in the world.

It was Israel’s success in defending its borders during the Six-Day War that resulted in occupied territories and prompted U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which called on Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders in exchange for the normalization of relations with its Arab neighbors. Despite the PLO’s and other Arab states’ failure to officially acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, the smallest and most basic of concessions, Israel has gradually and willingly made peace whenever true compromise and sincere negotiation was in the offering. In 1979, Israel exchanged the Sinai Peninsula for peace with Egypt. In 1994, it ceded a large swath of land in exchange for official recognition by Jordan. Both agreements resulted in a stable, if narrow, peace among the nations involved. Peace with Syria has proved more difficult, notwithstanding Israel’s repeated offers to give up the Golan Heights in exchange for peace on its northern borders. Israel has had even less luck on its southern border, as its full and complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 has provided no peace in return, as Hamas continues to seek Israel’s complete and total destruction, firing missiles on Israeli villages and towns, and provoking Israeli reprisals.

There are times, it seems, that whatever Israel does, regardless of how many olive branches it offers, rockets continue to rain down on Israeli civilian targets. Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and suicide bombers from the West Bank remain an ever present threat to Israel’s population. Israelis themselves are intensely divided between doves and hawks, between those who would willingly exchange land for peace and those who take a more hard-line approach. But all Israelis are united on the need to defend their country.

I understand that Israel is far from perfect, and there is considerable room for debate on how it should respond to the threats it faces. While Israel must be entitled to defend itself, its actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are more complicated. There, Israel’s actions, particularly under Netanyahu, have been counterproductive and resulted in unnecessary friction with the United States and Western Europe. The expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem on the eve of planned peace talks and in violation of U.S. policy, has been unhelpful. And the building of a security fence along its eastern border, while providing a justifiable defense to suicide bombers, has encroached upon 7% of West Bank territory in order to include the largest settlements.

Why is peace in this land so elusive? Every U.S. administration for the past half century has made concerted efforts to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians, with little to show for it. The Oslo Accords in 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn between the outstretched arms of Bill Clinton, accompanied the promise of peace; the PLO finally recognized Israel’s right to exist and Israel agreed to formation of an independent Palestinian Authority as a starting point for future peace negotiations. But peace has been fleeting. In 2000, in what should have been a turning point in the conflict, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in concert with President Clinton, offered Arafat a Palestinian state on 100 percent of the Gaza Strip and 95 percent of the West Bank, including sovereignty over half of Jerusalem and the surface area of the Temple Mount. Although it was the first time that Israel had ever offered to give up a portion of Jerusalem, and although the vast majority of Israeli settlements were set to be disbanded, Arafat and the Palestinians responded with a flat “no.” That the Palestinians might ever again receive such a generous offer is almost unimaginable, and yet, somehow, Israel is too often portrayed as the bad guy in this sordid affair.

It is true that history has not been kind to the Palestinians. Displaced upon Israel’s founding, then rejected and scorned by the very Arab nations which claim to be concerned with their welfare and political existence, the Palestinians have been deprived of statehood, suffered affronts to their dignity and experienced second-class status as their successive leaders have persistently rejected compromise and perpetuated their people’s suffering. President Obama understands and, to some extent, empathizes with the Palestinians’ predicament, which is why I believe he recently called for “bold action” and insisted to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and in a speech before AIPAC, that the starting point for peace negotiations must be the pre-1967 borders with “mutually agreed swaps.” Although the American press made much ado about the alleged rift between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama’s statement in fact was merely a continuation of U.S. policy and the public articulation of what has been the basis of virtually all peace talks between the respective parties. 

The formula for peace is relatively easy to outline, which only serves to render the elusiveness of peace so frustrating. The only hope for peace in Palestine is a two-state solution that guarantees Israel’s security and officially acknowledges its right to exist among the world of nations, while uplifting and respecting the dignity and peoplehood of the Palestinians. Land for peace -- Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and the dismantling of settlements, including in East Jerusalem, in exchange for a demilitarized Palestinian state that officially recognizes Israel’s right to exist -- is precisely the formula required for a lasting peace.

It appears that Netanyahu and Obama do not fully trust each other, and that is a shame, really, for it is simply another pothole on the road to peace. Netanyahu is less willing than his predecessors to take a chance on peace, to lead Israel into courageous and bold action, to risk political disfavor among his Likud supporters, even as his party occupies a minority of seats in the Knesset. Unlike Rabin and Barak in the Clinton years, and Olmert in the Bush years, each of whom understood that the security and very existence of Israel demands that Israel take risks for a lasting peace, Netanyahu seems more interested in his political survival at home than his historical legacy as peacemaker. Israel cannot move forward until it fundamentally addresses the cruel reality that it continues to effectively rule over and occupy territory outside of its internationally recognized borders containing more than a million non-citizen residents, including families with children who want and need a country of their own.  To absorb the population of the West Bank into Israel proper would be to compromise the democratic character of Israel, its Jewish nature, or both.

Of course, the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation further complicates matters, for as long as the dignity of the Palestinian people and their hope of independent statehood resides with the leaders of Hamas, peace will remain an empty promise. President Obama is right to call for bold action. He must, however, demand as much from the Palestinians as he does from the Israelis.

U.S. policy is and will remain, rightly so, pro-Israel. Israel is a staunch U.S. alley and strategic partner. It is the most democratic country in the Middle East. It generates more life-saving medical research than all of Europe combined. When natural and man-made tragedies happen around the world, whether in Haiti, Indonesia, Turkey, or anywhere else, Israel is among the first to respond in providing medical and technical aid. Because of Israel, Jews will never again be without sanctuary. But like his predecessors, President Obama must develop the capacity and credibility to push and prod and pressure both sides of the conflict, or he too will make little progress towards peace. Bold action is required if the vision of a peaceful world is ever to be attained. We must remain firmly committed to Israel’s safety and security, while continuing to push for the establishment of a legitimate, independent nation for the Palestinians.

I will always believe that the possibility of peace remains our best hope.  I envision a world in which Palestinians and Israelis exchange currencies and commerce, and tour each other’s countries; where friendships develop and thrive across borders; where the boundaries are open and the fear of rocket fire and terrorism a thing of the past. Is it such an unrealistic dream? Perhaps, but I refuse to give up the possibility that the dream of a democratic Palestine living peacefully, side-by-side with a secure and democratic Israel will one day become reality. Let us hope that President Obama’s call for boldness and courage will not go unheeded, that pride and egos and power struggles will not again prevent meaningful progress in the quest for peace.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Coffee with Hertzberg

Arthur Hertzberg (June 9, 1921 – April 17, 2006) was a rabbi, college professor, international scholar, writer, and political activist. Born in Poland, at the age of five his family immigrated to the United States, where he remained loyal to his traditions while embracing the American spirit. Raised as an Orthodox Jew in Baltimore, Maryland, Hertzberg strayed from his traditional upbringing to become a Conservative rabbi, though his love of Judaism and the Jewish texts remained the center of his life as a scholar, educator, and Jewish communal leader. I recently picked up a copy of his memoir at the Free Library of Philadelphia, A Jew in America: My Life and a People’s Struggle for Identity (Harper San Francisco 2002). Although I never met Rabbi Hertzberg and knew of him only from a distance, his writings inspired me to write the following fictional conversation, one that I imagine may have occurred in some form between Professor Hertzberg and many of the young people he taught and influenced over the course of six decades. Some of the quotes and comments attributed to Hertzberg below were adopted, literally in some instances and loosely in others, from A Jew in America.
The first time Mike Wilkerson encountered Professor Hertzberg outside of class was in the student lounge. He had sought sustenance in his afternoon cup of Joe before heading to the library, adding a touch of cream and heading for the exit, when he spotted the professor seated in a lounge chair and reading a copy of The New York Times. The professor looked in Mike’s direction and greeted him with a friendly nod. Sensing an invitation to conversation, Mike walked on over.

“Hi Professor,” he said. “Anything interesting in the news today?”

“Ah, Mr. Wilkerson,” the Professor replied. “Have a seat.” He glanced at the inside pages of The Times, frowned, and folded the paper in two, placing it next to him on his armrest. “All the usual stuff. War, famine, poverty, inequality.”

“Thanks for brightening up my day, Professor,” Mike said with a grin as he sipped on his coffee. “But I have enough problems on my own.”

“To compete with war and famine? These must be large problems.” The professor smiled. “So what’s on your mind, Mr. Wilkerson?”

“Well,” Mike hesitated, momentarily reflecting on the professor’s war and famine remark, “I’m having trouble making an important decision.” Mike took another sip of coffee and glanced at his shoelaces. “I have a good job offer from a large accounting firm and, well, I know I should be grateful and all, but . . . I’m just not sure. When I entered college four years ago, I was hoping that I could graduate with a decent job. But now, I’m not sure that’s enough. I don’t want to wake up in twenty years wondering if there was more to it than that.”

“You want to know what to do with your life,” the professor stated rhetorically. “How to make the most of the gifts God has bestowed on you?”

“Yes, precisely,” Mike replied hopefully.

“Welcome to America, my friend,” the professor said nonchalantly. “I can still remember the opening lecture in a course I took in American history my sophomore year at Johns Hopkins. The professor was discussing Frederick Jackson Turner and his thesis on the uniqueness of American society.”

Mike was not certain where this story was heading, or its relevance, but he was intrigued. Professor Hertzberg had a compelling presence. When he spoke, people listened. He possessed an air of authority.

The professor continued, “Turner pointed out that the early immigrants who came to the New World discovered they had a whole wilderness in front of them. Most had left their previous lives behind. When they arrived on the shores of America, they found they could reinvent themselves, begin life anew. You see, the men and women who came here lived on the frontier of Western civilization. If things went badly in Philadelphia, or New York, or Boston, they could pick up and move west, where the land was untamed and unspoiled. If the circumstances demanded, they could move still farther west, as far as the eye and the imagination could take them.” He gestured with outstretched arms and looked in both directions. “Americans were shaped by the frontier. We are a country of second chances.”

“That’s very interesting,” Mike said, “but. . . .”

“The point of this story is not Turner’s thesis,” the professor stated patiently, sensing Mike’s bewilderment, “but the question it raises.” He stared at Mike as if waiting for him to fill-in the blanks.

“I’m afraid I don’t know the question,” Mike said, somewhat embarrassed at his inability to match the professor’s gift of philosophical discourse.

“Ah, but I think you do,” the professor insisted. Mike looked at the professor and took another sip of his coffee, hoping a jolt of caffeine would inspire his brain. The professor continued, “It is the question that all of us must confront at some point in our lives.”

“I’m sure you're right, professor, but I’m still not sure of the question.”

“Well,” the professor said, “think of it this way. If a man comes to this country to reinvent himself, if he leaves his past and his heritage behind, as millions of American immigrants have done over the course of our history, by what compass does he steer?” He looked at Mike as if expecting an answer.

“By what compass does he steer?” Mike repeated the question to himself. “I guess that depends on a lot of things.”

“Precisely, and it is different for everyone. It all boils down to the values by which he chooses to live his life. How else to keep from turning in the wrong direction?”

“Yes, yes, exactly,” Mike said with some excitement. “But how does one find the answer?”

“I wish I could provide you with an answer, Mr. Wilkerson. However, I am just a lowly professor and rabbi. I can only ask the questions and insist that the questions be asked. If the last half century has taught me anything, however, it is that only a lucky few dare address these questions while they are still young. Most confront the meaningful questions only after the frustrations of life have beaten them down, often when it is too late.”

“But how do I find my compass?”

The professor smiled ever so slightly. “Aristotle taught that we dare not live the unexamined life. But I am afraid, Mr. Wilkerson, that there is no alternative to the difficult journey of questioning and self-questioning. The task of the inquiring mind is to ask all the questions, and to keep asking them.” The professor paused and looked around. “It is much easier to live by the accepted clichés and standards of the day, to not ask questions of ourselves. It is easier still to not upset others by raising questions. To go against the larger culture can be a lonely journey.”

“How so?” Mike asked.

“Take our common patriarch, Abraham. He was the first to break with idolatry, to insist that there is only one God. But when he came to this conviction, he was the only person in the world who believed this. He was alone, a man truly steering by his own compass.”

“OK. I think I understand,” Mike said. "But can I ask," he decided to turn the tables on the professor, “by what compass do you steer?”

“I thought you might ask me that, Mr. Wilkerson. Well, let me explain that, first and foremost, I am a Jew. It is the core of my identity. This hardly makes me unique, of course, but unlike many of my fellow American Jews, I do not consider myself a Jew because I like bagels and lox, or Borscht Belt humor, or because I occasionally speak a little Yiddish. My most serious act as a Jew is that I continue to study the historical literature of the Jewish people: the Torah, the Talmud, and the Tanach.”

“What is the Tanach?” Mike asked.

“The Hebrew Scriptures,” the professor replied, “Or, as some of you Christians like to call it, the Old Testament. But there is nothing old about it to me, you understand. No offense.”

“None taken,” Mike offered.

“It is the literature of my people, and it presents a set of ethical and moral precepts by which I measure my conduct each day, values and standards taught in these books. This is my compass. I have insisted all my life that being a Jew is rooted in the values that you affirm and not in the food you eat or the enemies that you fight. The prime teaching of the Jewish tradition is why I have spoken out on behalf of the poor, why I fought so passionately for the civil rights of blacks and minorities, why I opposed the Vietnam War. It is why I helped found the Peace Now movement and advocated, as a Zionist and lover of Israel, for the creation of a Palestinian state and for the rights of Palestinian refugees under Israeli occupation. My positions have not always been popular, but I am steered by my Jewish compass. It is my moral duty to be on the side of those who struggle for respect and dignity, even at the expense of some longstanding friendships.” The professor paused as if to further collect his thoughts.

“I’m not Jewish,” Mike offered. “I mean, does that matter?” Mike shook around his coffee cup to see if any steam was left.

The professor looked directly at Mike. “Of course not, Mr. Wilkerson. You need not be a Jew to contemplate these things. Perhaps your compass is in the teachings of Jesus or the writings of Paul. Perhaps it is in the inspiration of the great Prophets of the last half century, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama. There are many others.” He took a last sip of his coffee, which was undoubtedly getting cold. “It can be a lonely journey, but it is not an empty one. You must find your compass, Mr. Wilkerson and, like Abraham, lead your life by its guide.”

Mike suspected the professor was right, but he remained uncertain, paralyzed almost, of trusting his instincts and examining his values. Life’s demands and daily pressures too often stood in the way of a contemplative, morally pure life. Was he strong enough to live his life by the principles and values he holds dear? Was he all talk and no action? He would need to confront these questions for a long time to come.

Mike thanked the professor for his time and his thoughts, stood up and said goodbye. His journey had begun.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Girl from Ohio: A Mother's Day Tribute

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. – Washington Irving
Richard Nixon once said that his mother was a “saint.” On this point, at least, he may have told the truth. Even saints give birth to sinners. It is a sentiment shared by many sons, including me, about their mothers. But we are often reluctant to speak of our mothers in such sentimental terms. I am not trying to suggest that my mom is a saint in the ecclesiastical sense. In the movie Michael, John Travolta portrays an angel who protests, “I’m not THAT kind of angel.” My mother might also protest that she is not THAT kind of “saint,” but her life is surely a testament to the goodness of God’s creations.

Born and bred a country girl, Mom spent the first three years of her life in Parkersburg, West Virginia, then moved with her family to a large, white-pillared estate in Akron, Ohio, the place she called home the remainder of her childhood. But it was neither an ideal setting nor an ideal childhood. Her father was an attorney who made his money in construction and real estate, a conservative and serious man with traditional notions of gender roles and class structures. Although he never showed my mom much love or affection, she continues to hold firm to the notion that he tried his best. You see, my mom always sees the best in everyone and refuses to believe that some people can be simply self-absorbed or cruel.

When my mom was eight years old, she was sent to live in West Virginia with her Aunt Boe, her father’s sister, for part of the summer. She had fun there, but looked forward to returning home to her mother’s embrace. When she arrived home, however, her mother was not there. Annoyed at her questions - “Where’s Mom?” - her father deployed Norm, Mom’s 13 year-old brother, to inform her of the news. “Mom is no longer living with us,” Norm said, “Pop and Mom are getting divorced.” Her father never said one word about it nor concerned himself with the effect of this news on his daughter. Although unusual in those days, Mom remained with her father in the cold, formal house in Akron, only occasionally seeing her mother, until she could be sent away to boarding school. Never really understanding why it happened, Mom remained close to her mother and chose not to assign blame to anyone for this turn of events. Years later, it was my mom who took care of my grandmother when she was old, sick, and lacking financial means; and Mom was by her side the night she died.

For any young child, the news that your family is breaking apart is devastating, as it surely was for my mom. Yet, she always possessed a soulful, powerful sense of God’s presence. Anyone who does not believe in God should speak to my mother. Raised in a religiously indifferent family, her father rarely attended church and did nothing to encourage it. But from the time her parents divorced, Mom awoke every Sunday morning and walked alone to the local Presbyterian Church, where she attended Sunday school classes and worship services. When she returned home, she would find her father and two brothers asleep, or off to the racetrack, or attending to their more secular concerns. Looking back, Mom has said, “I really think God took me in my arms and held me. It is something I always felt.”

When Mom was thirteen, her father sent her away to Hathaway Brown, a select all-girls boarding school in Shaker Heights, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. Her classmates came from some of the wealthiest and most accomplished families in Ohio. They were fast and sophisticated, far different from Mom, who remained in many ways the innocent country girl from West Virginia. Alone among her peers, she continued to attend church each Sunday – a prominent American Baptist church with an engaging pastor and innovative worship services. Many of her classmates would go on to attend some of the nation’s finest universities – Smith, Wellesley, Radcliffe and Barnard. As a straight-A student, Mom could have attended any of these schools, but my grandfather believed her education was sufficient at Hathaway Brown, which he perceived as a finishing school, a reflection of the times and of women’s role in society in the late 1940’s. Though she rarely contradicted her father’s decisions about her life, Mom had other ideas about college. There were no father-daughter college visits, but at least Grandpa accepted Mom’s ambition to attend college. Although she seriously considered all-girls Smith College in Massachusetts, she opted instead for the less pretentious, coeducational Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where she would eventually meet my dad and begin a new life.

Mom and Dad exchanged vows on September 1, 1951, and, nearly six decades later, they remain happily married, two people who share a love and devotion rarely seen in today’s fast-paced culture. That she has remained with my Dad for sixty years alone may qualify my mother for sainthood. I tease my father often that he “married up,” but he only laughs a little at this remark, for secretly he realizes just how true is the sentiment, and what a lucky man he has been.

A lesser person might well have despaired the kind of childhood that my mother lived, separated from a loving mother, living with an uncaring father and sent away to boarding school. But through it all my mom maintained a deep and abiding faith. It is, I believe, why she remains to this day secure in the face of life’s challenges and why her life is devoted to serving others: her family and her church, her former students, the PTA, a neighbor grieving over a lost relative, a homeless man on a street corner, anyone needing a helping hand. She is a woman of great empathy and compassion for others, almost to a fault, with little concern for self-recognition. Everyone who has ever met my mom has been swept away by her abundant optimism and sunny disposition. Whatever life throws her way, she can turn darkness into sunshine with an almost surreal energy.

My mother has always been compelled to serve. When I was growing up with my sister and brother in New Jersey, Mom took care of everyone and everything. She tended to our family in a way that is less appreciated in current times, but was profoundly important in developing our family’s character and strength. She was always there for us and, even when she started work, first as a librarian and later as a school teacher, she always managed each night to have dinner on the table, keep the house neat, and clean and fold the laundry. She fed and walked the dog, cleaned the dishes, chauffeured us to basketball practices and orchestra rehearsals, helped with our homework and still had time to prepare her lesson plans for the next day. When I played Little League, it was Mom with catcher’s mitt in hand, crouched down from forty-five feet away, who caught my formidable fastballs. She would never allow me to take something off my pitches to her, to treat her as a “girl,” for she was a solid athlete in her own right. At Hathaway Brown, she often reminded me, she was a star field hockey, basketball, and softball player, one who could keep up with her older brothers.

If that were not enough, Mom also faithfully fulfilled the role as a pastor’s wife and, later, “First Lady” of the New Jersey Lutheran Synod when my dad was its President. She hosted dinner parties on Saturday nights, attended both church services on Sunday mornings when my dad preached, helped with the coffee hour, and then volunteered for church activities during the week. She rarely said no to anyone, constantly overextending herself to serve as a Sunday school teacher and chairperson of the Lutheran women’s group. She coordinated a prayer chain one week, visited shut-ins the next, and made cookies for the Girl Scouts when she was not otherwise packing our lunches or folding our laundry or putting us to bed. Come to think of it, Dad, what the hell did you do?

“A mother is a person,” quipped Tennerva Jordan, “who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” Self-sacrificing to a fault, there have been times that my mother’s excessive zeal to serve her family and others has caused me to become a touch exasperated. When we visit, even now, I will enter the kitchen in the morning and exclaim, “Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll make my own breakfast.” But I have to elbow her out of the way, as she insists on buttering my English muffin (“I don’t want butter”) or pouring my coffee (“I can do it myself”). If she would only listen to me, I painstakingly protest, I could go about my business and all would be well. But it is to no avail.

I know, I know. What’s a son to do? I feel guilty for insufficiently appreciating Mom’s unwavering efforts. Despite my exasperation, I know that Mom’s insistence on doing these things is an expression that she wants only the best for me and for all of us, that her love is infinite and endless. If she could, she would give us the world. Instead, she has attempted to serve the world. As a schoolteacher in the 1970’s, Mom taught scores of first-graders to read and, as the letters from her students attest, she greatly influenced and molded their young lives. Today, as a grandmother of six and the adopted grandmother of several young families in her neighborhood, she continues spreading to others a bright and shining love that perhaps, in today’s cynical and fast-paced world, only young children can fully appreciate.

“Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes, by dozens and hundreds,” wrote Kate Douglas Wiggin. “Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins, comrades and friends – but only one mother in the whole world.” There is a reason why mothers are special, for they bring us into this world, then watch over us as we try to find our way. In the end, for a special few, they remain true to their lifelong purpose, to make their children feel the unique love that only a “Mom” can dispense. And that is what makes a mother a “saint.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!