2019
January
24
Thursday

It’s January, when people’s fancies turn resolutely to thoughts of stuff.

Like most folks’ weekends, ours are full of chores. My husband spent a Saturday afternoon repairing our vacuum and showing our son how to replace a broken pane in the front door. I was reminded of that after two articles about the importance of, simply put, taking care of your stuff.

One is a Dutch-born effort to fix things rather than throw them out. Volunteers at Repair Cafes will fix anything from a chair to a jukebox, and teach others how to become handy themselves. There are about 1,700 cafes in 35 countries, including 75 in the United States.

Right now, the queen of clutter is Marie Kondo, whose Netflix show (like her bestselling book) has attracted legions of fans and detractors. That last seems aimed at her unwillingness to regard books as sacred objects. That’s because, writes Margaret Dilloway in HuffPost, she regards every object as sacred.

Ms. Kondo’s ethos doesn’t come from a desire to scold, but rather the Japanese Shinto tradition of showing gratitude for and valuing what you have.

“My mother disliked the disposable, acquisitional mentality of Western culture,” Ms. Dilloway writes of her Japanese-born mom. “She recycled long before it was popular, repurposing objects others might throw away.”

She sounds, in short, like a Yankee farmwife: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. The epitome of that New England ethos can be summed up by the attic box labeled “String Too Short to be Saved.”

We have a first-floor apartment, so there is no attic available. But I still have a sweater my parents gave me for Christmas when I was 16 – younger than my son is now. I get compliments every time I wear it.

Here are our five stories for today. 

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1. Task for Venezuela’s new ‘president’: Make it more than a title

For years, people inside and outside Venezuela have debated how to halt its spiraling crises. Will a young politician declaring himself acting president prove the answer, or a high-stakes complication?

Yvonne
Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
Juan Guaidó, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, held a copy of the Venezuelan Constitution during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 23. Mr. Guaidó swore himself in as acting president, rejecting Mr. Maduro's widely disputed reelection, and was recognized as interim president by the US.

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Who is Juan Guaidó? That was a common question Wednesday, when the young, little-known opposition politician declared himself acting president of Venezuela. Mr. Guaidó, leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, rejects the results of Nicolás Maduro’s widely disputed reelection in May. Since then, he argues, Venezuela has lacked a president – and it’s his job to step in. Guaidó has been able to unify a long-splintered opposition, thanks in part to his youth, middle-class background and closeness to Leopoldo López, an influential opposition leader now under house arrest. But a confluence of events have laid the groundwork for someone to finally challenge Mr. Maduro’s legitimacy – from citizens’ severe struggles with inflation and shortages, to Venezuela’s increasing isolation on the international stage. Other countries in the Western Hemisphere quickly rallied behind Guaidó. But top of mind is where Venezuela’s armed forces will fall, and whether the country will be caught with two parallel governments. “No one wants to be the first to jump” away from Maduro, says Francisco Toro, a Venezuelan journalist.

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1. Task for Venezuela’s new ‘president’: Make it more than a title

Juan Guaidó, leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly and until last week a relative unknown, stood in front of hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters Wednesday to swear in Venezuela’s new president: himself.

Mr. Guaidó argues that Venezuela’s presidential election last year wasn’t valid, unrecognized by many nations, so his country is now without a president. It’s the job of the National Assembly to appoint an acting president and hold a new vote when that’s the case, according to the Constitution.

The interim presidency was quickly recognized by the United States, and later backed by a growing list of nations including Canada, Colombia, Brazil, and Chile. Nicolás Maduro, who was sworn in for his second presidential term earlier this month despite his widely disputed May victory, responded by ending diplomatic relations with the US.

Venezuela has suffered a pile-up of political, economic, and humanitarian crises in recent years, inducing hyperinflation and severe shortages. An estimated 3 million people have fled the country. Guaidó called for nationwide protests Jan. 23, marking the 61st anniversary of Venezuelan democracy. It wasn’t the first time Maduro has faced vocal opposition. Guaidó’s unifying message for the opposition has ushered Venezuela to this moment. But a confluence of events – including citizens’ struggles, protests in former government strongholds, lagging oil production, and increasing international isolation – have laid the groundwork for someone like him to challenge Mr. Maduro’s legitimacy.

“Everything synced in place for this to happen,” says Guillermo Zubillaga, head of the Venezuela Working Group at the America’s Society/Council of the Americas. “The crisis is a driver and an impetus for everyone to want something different: hyperinflation makes salaries worthless in a week, people are cooking with wood, and the trash isn’t collected,” he says.

Now that the international community has overwhelmingly rallied behind Guaidó, the question is what Maduro – and perhaps more important the armed forces – will do next. From sham elections to a 2017 attempt to dissolve the National Assembly, the only opposition-run branch of the government, Maduro has aimed to consolidate his grip on power. Top of mind now is where the armed forces, who were deeply loyal to Maduro’s predecessor, will fall: Splitting their support between two self-declared leaders, desert the shell of the project once known as 21st Century Socialism, or step in line behind Maduro.

Who is Juan Guaidó?

Opposition leaders have for decades been their own worst enemies when it comes to winning over the public. Aside from the 2015 National Assembly elections, which gave the opposition majority control, the opposition has largely been defined by its infighting, and its upper-class leaders’ failure to connect with Venezuelan voters.

Guaidó doesn’t fit that mold. He grew up in a large, middle-class family from coastal Vargas state. In 1999, the same year Hugo Chávez became president, his family survived one of the worst natural disasters in Venezuela’s recent history: a mudslide that killed thousands, and left countless others homeless.

Those who know Guaidó well say the landslides marked his life and gave him a sense of social responsibility. The 35-year-old industrial engineer graduated from Andrés Bello Catholic University, where he was part of a student movement protesting then-President Chávez in 2007. At the end of 2006, Chávez had ordered the closure of one of the most important television stations in the country, and called for a referendum to change the constitution and allow for unlimited reelection. It was his first and only electoral defeat in what would become a 14-year presidency.

“Juan was one of the main organizers [of the student protests],” says a former engineering classmate, who requested anonymity for his personal security. “That awoke his political conscience. He was always thinking about helping,” he says, describing Guaidó as honest and methodical. “As a good engineer, he always seeks to improve the process.”

During his foray into student politics, he fell in with opposition leader Leopoldo López, a large part of why he was picked to lead the National Assembly this year. 

“I don’t know how to say this politely, but [Guaidó] is where he is because he is Leopoldo López’s guy in liberty,” says Francisco Toro, a Venezuelan journalist and founder of the Caracas Chronicles. Mr. Lopez was sentenced to almost 14 years in prison in 2015 and has been under house arrest for the past nearly two years.

“He doesn’t do much that [Lopez] doesn’t agree with,” Mr. Toro says. “On the other hand, he’s a talented young guy, dynamic, and handling himself well.”

Aside from his family’s socioeconomic background, Guaidó has another key thing going for him: his age. He was a young teen when Chávez came to power, which makes it harder to peg him as part of the old guard blamed for the extreme inequality that helped thrust Chávez to power in the first place. He was also too young to play a part in the 2002 coup attempt and other events that long tarnished politicians looking to defeat Chavismo.

“He really carries no baggage that could discredit a politician,” says Mr. Zubillaga, and has a unifying “message of peaceful transition.” He’s talked about allowing for humanitarian aid to start entering the country, called for fresh elections within two months, and he’s offered amnesty to the military, another key group he’s appealed to via his own family’s military past.

Last year, Venezuela’s opposition was so decimated that few believed anyone could revitalize its image. The splintered parties allowed Maduro to run essentially unopposed, with part of the opposition sitting the election out and another portion putting forth a candidate at the last moment.

“We were living a period of low credibility and lots of internal conflicts,” says Freddy Guevara, the former vice president of the National Assembly, who is currently exiled in the Chilean embassy in Caracas.

One country, two presidents?

Guaidó’s offering a “breath of fresh air” to the opposition, Mr. Guevara says. To the international community, his movement also presents an opportunity to do something about the increasingly dire economic and humanitarian situation in recent years.

From neighboring nations dealing with the brunt of the Venezuelan exodus, to the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil (the US), the global community jumped at the opportunity to back Guaidó’s announcement. For years, outside players have vacillated between issuing harshly worded statements against government repression or encouraging dialogue, hands tied by the overwhelming anti-interventionist tendencies in the region.

The White House said its decision to back Guaidó was based on the Inter-American Democratic Charter that all Western Hemisphere nations other than Cuba signed on to in 2001. In a press briefing it said the US has only begun to “scratch the surface” of economic measures it could use to pressure Maduro into accepting a democratic transition.

Venezuela could find itself with two parallel governments – one run by the opposition and recognized internationally, but without control over state functions. 

A lot now comes down to key players like the military – and which leader they choose to back.

Maduro’s defense minister Vladimir Padrino López tweeted a rejection of Guaidó’s maneuver yesterday, but stopped short of overtly backing Maduro.

“The soldiers of this nation won’t accept a president imposed in the shadows or self-proclaimed unlawfully. The National Armed Forces defend the constitution and guarantee national sovereignty,” he tweeted.

“No one wants to be the first to jump” away from Maduro, says Toro. “The troops and midranking officers, of course they want to jump, they just don’t want to go to jail for it,” he says of soldiers’ disenchantment with the status quo. One of the worst-case scenarios Toro envisions is the possibility that only “part of the armed forces will jump – that’s how civil wars start,” he says.

On Wednesday, seas of Venezuelans decked out in the yellow, blue, and red of the flag filled city streets across the country at Guaidó’s behest. Hands waved in the air as their new interim leader raised his own to be sworn in. “We have a new president! We have a new president!” people shouted immediately. Videos of tearful reactions of Venezuelans abroad spread quickly across social media.

“I’m so glad I never gave up on Venezuela,” says Maria José Vicentini, a retiree in the Caracas crowd. “Now, I can really see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Howard LaFranchi contributed reporting from Washington.

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2. Round 2 with North Korea: What can Trump deliver this time?

When the goal is nuclear disarmament, it seems there should never be a bad time for summitry. Yet there are worries that a US president hungry for home-pleasing news might be tempted by a bad deal.

Yvonne

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Few were surprised when the White House announced Friday that President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will meet again in February. But most Korea and nuclear proliferation analysts part company with the administration over its characterization of the second summit as an opportunity to “build on the progress” made in Singapore last June. At the first summit, “unfortunately, Trump got nothing,” says Bruce Klingner, a longtime CIA Korea analyst now at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “There has been no progress since Singapore, so the risk is that we end up with a second summit that is once again just style over substance.” North Korea has continued developing its nuclear arsenal and missiles at dozens of sites across the country, experts point out. Some say the summit makes sense from a US political perspective. But Mr. Trump’s need for a positive outcome is a top concern for analysts: that the “America First” president could accept what some are calling an “America only” deal with Pyongyang. One example? Trump settles for nipping North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile program in the bud, in the interest of safeguarding the American “homeland,” while leaving the North’s shorter-range missiles threatening South Korea and Japan untouched.

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Round 2 with North Korea: What can Trump deliver this time?

President Trump loves to play golf, so he should understand when some describe the second summit he plans to hold with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un next month as a “mulligan.”

In the parlance of recreational golf, a mulligan is a redo, a second attempt generously granted when a first shot is badly whiffed or otherwise doesn’t end up so well.

“Trump, an avid golfer, might claim that first summit as his mulligan,” says Bruce Klingner, a longtime CIA Korea analyst who is now a Korea and Japan specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. “But he can’t afford to land in the rough or get outplayed again in his second match with Kim Jong-un.”

Few were surprised when the White House announced Friday that Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim will meet again in February, less than a year after the two leaders’ groundbreaking Singapore summit last June. The administration had been hinting for weeks that a second summit was likely in the first quarter of 2019. (The location of the second summit has yet to be announced, although Vietnam is widely seen as a likely venue.)

But most Korea and nuclear proliferation analysts part company with the administration over its characterization of the second summit as an opportunity to “build on the progress” made toward North Korea’s “final, fully verified denuclearization” in the seven months since Singapore.

On that score there has been no progress, they say. “You don’t give away a first summit with an opponent for nothing, and unfortunately, Trump got nothing,” Mr. Klingner says. “There has been no progress since Singapore, so the risk is that we end up with a second summit that is once again just style over substance.”

What worries some experts is that Trump may settle again for a summit with few or no serious denuclearization steps – even as he agrees to give Kim concessions he seeks but which risk sowing fears of abandonment among regional allies like South Korea and Japan. “There are a number of scenarios for either a successful or an unsuccessful second summit,” Klingner says, “but the real disaster would be if Trump gives away more concessions, particularly in terms of the US involvement in regional security.”

At the first summit, experts say, Trump accepted a communiqué that used far more vague language than previous agreements the US has struck with the North. And Trump has curtailed US-South Korea joint military exercises, to Kim’s great satisfaction.

North Korea did indeed suspend the nuclear testing and missile launches that fueled the pre-Singapore war of words between Trump and Kim. In the eyes of some analysts, that’s progress to build upon.

“Just the fact that both sides have agreed to a second summit is a clear step in the right direction, far from the days of ‘fire and fury’ threats or missile tests,” says Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest. “Now the hard work begins. Both nations must now show at least some tangible benefits from their diplomatic efforts during a second summit, or risk their efforts being panned as nothing more than reality TV.”

Mr. Kazianis says he’s hopeful the two sides can come to an “interim agreement” – for example, closing the Yongbyon nuclear facility in exchange for some initial sanctions relief – that would allow for something to build on going forward.

North Korean operations

Since the first summit, however, North Korea has continued developing its nuclear arsenal and missiles, and stockpiling nuclear fuels, at dozens of sites across the country, experts point out.

Indeed, some of those secret sites were revealed publicly by think-tank researchers following Friday’s announcement of a second summit.

“The inconvenient truth for the Trump administration is that the North Koreans are not putting their nuclear and missile programs fully on the table, so [the US negotiators] are still not working with a full data declaration even while the stated goal remains full and verified denuclearization,” says Victor Cha, a former White House director for Asian affairs who now holds the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

Dr. Cha is one of the authors of a CSIS report released Tuesday that claims to reveal nearly two dozen undeclared and secret ballistic missile bases and development sites in North Korea – including one base about 160 miles north of Seoul, the South Korean capital, which the report says is the headquarters of the North’s strategic missile force.

Cha’s group released another list of what it called secret nuclear and missile sites in December, which Trump quickly blasted as “fake news” – not because they don’t exist, but apparently because the sites are not all “secret” to US intelligence agencies.

But North Korea’s unwillingness to declare the full extent of its existing sites and capabilities gets to the crux of the problem the US faces, Cha says.

Political value

The North Koreans “are very interested in negotiating, but the key question here is, with what do they want to negotiate?” he says. “They’re willing to negotiate about future capabilities and future production, and then about past capabilities – in other words, things they don’t need anymore.

“What they’re not putting on the table,” Cha adds, “are their existing capabilities and stockpiles – and that’s the inconvenient truth.”

A second summit in February seems ill-timed to those who say there is no progress to build on. But to others it makes sense from a US political perspective, especially since much of Trump’s base sees Singapore as a shining success – and since an embattled president may be keen to enhance that perception.

“Things were bogged down, but then the North Korean leader came out with his December statement and his New Year’s Day address that Trump liked for some reason, and that gave energy to the process,” Cha says. “The timing was fortuitous for Trump. He’s dealing with the shutdown, Syria, Mueller and the whole Russia investigation, and a hostile Congress, so he kind of needs something,” he adds. “And that’s when [Kim] offered an opportunity to try to move forward.”

In announcing the second summit, the White House cited as progress North Korea’s release of American “hostages,” but no mention was made of progress on the North’s denuclearization – which national security adviser John Bolton had once said could be completed within a year.

Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders did say, however, that the US would maintain sanctions on North Korea until denuclearization is complete. That sets up a tough bargaining session with Kim, given persistent reports that sanctions relief is the North Korean leader’s top goal.

An America-only deal?

Clearly Trump wants a second summit to show progress. And it’s that need for a positive outcome that is emerging as a top pre-summit concern for analysts (and, indications are, for some US diplomats and intelligence officials as well): that the “America First” president could accept what some are calling an “America only” deal with Pyongyang and declare it a success.

One example? Trump settles for nipping North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program in the bud, in the interest of safeguarding the American “homeland,” while leaving the North’s shorter-range missiles threatening South Korea and Japan untouched.

An ICBMs-only deal “would be decoupling of US security in a narrow sense from the security of our allies and America’s broader security interests, and decoupling is exactly what the North Koreans want and the Chinese would like,” says Cha. “The North Koreans want to show the South Koreans that ‘the Americans don’t care about you,’ and the Chinese would love it because it would weaken our alliances in Asia.”

Feeding the concerns about an America-only deal are signs that the renegotiating of the deal that keeps about 28,000 US troops in South Korea is not going well. Under the current five-year deal, South Korea pays about $850 million annually toward the cost of hosting US forces. The Trump administration initially wanted Seoul to double its contribution, but lowered its demands when the South Koreans balked. Those talks continue.

Another source of worry are repeated statements from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the administration is seeking a deal with North Korea that delivers a “safer America” – no mention of America’s allies or regional security.

Ideally, a second summit would deliver a full declaration of North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities and sites, agreement on a clear and unambiguous definition of denuclearization, and a “robust verification regime” for ascertaining the data declaration, says Klingner from Heritage.

But just as important is what the summit should not include, he adds. There should be no peace declaration with the North at this point, no ICBMs-only deal, no agreed reduction in US forces in the region, and “no sanctions relief until the behavior that tripped those sanctions is eliminated.”

If Trump’s second summit with Kim makes some people nervous, it’s because America for the first time has a president who Klingner says “questions the utility of our alliances and of stationing US troops overseas” and who seems capable of accepting a deal that many others say shouldn’t even be on the table.

“Any kind of threat from North Korea you can reduce is a good thing, but if it comes at the expense of our allies and our forces on the ground there, that’s not a good thing,” says Klingner. “You don’t want to sacrifice the security of our allies and the security of our forces there on the altar of security for the homeland.”

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3. Beyond politics: Behind the wave of compassion toward federal workers

Many people know what it feels like to miss a paycheck. That empathy has led to coast-to-coast casseroles, gift cards, and food drives as Americans take care of neighbors who work for the federal government.

Yvonne
Julio Cortez/AP
Transportation Security Administration employees carry food from a community food bank Jan. 23. A food drive at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport was held to help government employees who are working without pay during the partial government shutdown.

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On Friday, 500 Coast Guard servicemen and -women stationed on Georgia’s Tybee Island will go without a second paycheck. In advance, islanders have flooded town clerk Jan LeViner with $20 gift cards to help – some $24,000. A dealership pitched in another $5,000. On Saturday, a benefit barbecue at nearby Hunter Air Field raised another $8,000. “I could not do anything in my office Thursday and Friday for the line of people outside my door wanting to come in and give cards,” says Ms. LeViner. “Politics is put aside, thank goodness, and we’re caring for each other. I’m seeing people who don’t have very much themselves handing me a $20 bill for the Coasties – and I know it’s one of the last $20 bills that they have.” The Coast Guard is unique – the only armed service branch not being paid. But the list of gift cards, free meals, and waived co-pays goes much further – a wave of compassion that is pushing against the walls of Congress and the White House as the nation’s elected leaders struggle to resolve a budget-shutdown-turned-moral-showdown. “The outpouring of public support is demonstrating the kind of compassion that politicians are failing to show, and it is a very powerful message,” says Costas Panagopoulos, a political scientist at Northeastern University.

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2. Beyond politics: Behind the wave of compassion toward federal workers

The Tybee Marine Rescue Squadron is a citizens’ response unit that uses private boats to mostly help wayward “klackers” – a local nickname for novice kayakers who get lost in the Southern salt marshes.

But the volunteers also search for drowning victims and shipwrecked sailors. And on those bigger jobs, inevitably over their shoulders is the Coast Guard chopper – “the Coasties” – bearing down to help the civilians “any time, anywhere, in any weather,” as MRS member Barry Brown says.

More than a month into the longest government shutdown in United States history – and days away from when some 500 Coasties on the Georgia coast are about to miss a second paycheck – the symbiosis between islanders and federal eyes-in-the-sky has taken on a new meaning.

Last Wednesday, Mr. Brown and others at the MRS squad led a fundraising effort that encouraged the island’s roughly 3,000 residents to give $20 gift cards to help Coast Guard members bridge the lapse in income. A few days later, town clerk Jan LeViner had collected $24,000. A dealership pitched in another $5,000. Cards poured in from Oklahoma and other places. On Saturday, a benefit barbecue at Hunter Air Field in nearby Savannah, Ga., raised another $8,000.

“I could not do anything in my office Thursday and Friday for the line of people outside my door wanting to come in and give cards,” says Ms. LeViner. “Politics is put aside, thank goodness, and we’re caring for each other. I’m seeing people who don’t have very much themselves handing me a $20 bill for the Coasties – and I know it’s one of the last $20 bills that they have.”

The Coast Guard is unique – the only armed service branch not being paid, even as the blue-coated crews patrol the nation’s seaward boundaries, intercepting, as they did Tuesday, a boat of migrants trying to enter the US illegally.

But the gift cards, free meals, and waived co-pays is much broader – a wave of compassion that is pushing against the walls of Congress and the White House this week as the nation’s elected leaders struggle to resolve a budget-shutdown-turned-moral-showdown.

“The outpouring of public support is demonstrating the kind of compassion that politicians are failing to show, and it is a very powerful message,” says Costas Panagopoulos, a political scientist at Northeastern University in Boston. “We are now living in such a polarized political climate in which people might recognize that a quick resolution to the shutdown problem may not be at hand, and that these people affected by it need help, and they are jumping in to help.”

It is the 10th federal shutdown since 1980. But no others have sparked this kind of response.

To be sure, some furloughed families report being berated by Facebook friends for not being financially prepared, reflecting, perhaps, a pervasive impatience with government-writ-large.

But for the most part, the response has been based on a recognition that furloughed workers are neighbors who build their professional lives around public service.

The Coasties and other federal employees “live a lot like us, week to week, some of them have savings and some don't,” says Mr. Brown, the MRS member. “I had a tragedy in my family four years ago, so I know what it feels like to not have money coming in, and nothing going on.”

Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot/AP
Orlando Posada and Rachael Michaels sort through food donations. They were among hundreds of volunteers and recipients Jan. 19, 2019, at Help for Hampton Roads Coast Guard Families food drive, sponsored by the Chief Petty Officer Association, in Chesapeake for families affected by the shutdown.

From cruise ship buffets to heating oil

In Tampa, Fla., the airport now has a pop-up food bank. KISS band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are offering a free meal per day at their Rock & Brews chain of airport eateries. Bahamas Paradise cruise line opened two boats offering a free lunch buffet to federal workers. Slick Energy is offering to defer payments on 100 gallons of heating oil for furloughed workers until 21 days after the shutdown ends. In the Boston area, the five Friendly Toast restaurant franchises all are offering free grub to government workers – one of many restaurants across the country offering free meals.

The charity has taken on biblical proportions for some. In Chattanooga, Tenn., members of the Mizpah Congregation synagogue have distributed $20 gift cards at the airport, quoting Leviticus, “[Y]ou shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer.”

And even though the TSA line can be a point of tension for those of Middle Eastern descent, the Grand Strand Muslim community in South Carolina has provided food and other items for Transportation Security Administration workers. 

Corporations, including banks, are stepping in. Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey is waiving co-pays and deductibles for emergency care.

“This new policy that we put into effect is not political at all,” says Robert C. Garrett, the chief executive officer. “It’s really a policy of compassion based on the needs of our community, and to really appreciate that our federal workers are doing their job for us, for our communities, for our country. Regardless of politics or political party – it doesn’t matter. This is the right thing to do.”

In Chicago, LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm, is hiring at least one furloughed employee per day for $15-an-hour wages.

“You can agree or disagree with the shutdown but still have empathy for the workers,” says Tom Gimbel, the CEO. “It’s not their fault that they’re not working. It’s the government that’s not working.”

To be sure, some members of Congress have given up their pay and President Trump has called the furloughed workers “great American workers” for their sacrifice.

But as the Senate takes up competing bills Thursday that would reopen the government, glimmers of compromise reflect a building impatience in the nation.

“In past shutdowns, the country was frustrated but expected and ultimately got politicians to work together to solve this problem,” says Professor Panagopoulos at Northeastern. Charity toward furloughed workers “shows what kind of low expectations Americans have about the government’s ability to provide this kind of support. They are essentially stepping in to do the work that elected officials should be doing – and that they are not doing.”

For Tom Edwards, a research scientist for the US Geological Survey based in Utah, furloughs are nothing new. This latest one is his sixth, as he has worked for the federal government in some capacity for 32 years.

“I’ve got a son deployed in the Middle East right now [and] I put my mom in hospice last week,” says Mr. Edwards. “This is kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back and I don’t need a stupid furlough on top of that. But if you think of all the additional straws on those families’ back – if it’s affecting me, when I don’t have many financial stressors, it must be horrible for those families” that have it worse.

And though Edwards is thankful for the support, he says the largess can’t cover the extent of the actual need.

“We’re a really strong nation of people who pull together in national crises and look out for their neighbors and look out for their friends, but it doesn’t necessarily put cash on the table,” he says.

‘It’s really hard to admit we need that help’

In Vermont, Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed legislation from the Democrat-controlled legislature to join California in extending unemployment benefits to people currently working without pay. The state has some 1,500 furloughed workers; so far, about 100 have signed up for benefits.

That tentative participation reflects what Elizabeth Arias of Joliet, Ill., says she is feeling. Her husband, a federal law enforcement officer in the Department of Homeland Security, is facing what she considers “indentured servitude” as he works 11-hour days without pay.

She is tracking updates on social media via #ShutdownStories, and has heard about a local cafe offering free lunch and a trampoline facility offering an hour of free gym time to blow off some steam.

So far, she has not taken any offers besides a gift card from a local businessperson. But that may soon change, she says, if the shutdown stretches on.

“It’s really hard to admit that we need that help,” she says in a phone interview. “And that’s kind of what it’s boiling down to.”

At the same time, she says, “people that do things like that for us will always have our loyalty. We will always remember that. The main thing I would like people to know and understand is that we don’t like being in this position. We don’t want to feel entitled. We don’t feel entitled to anything. We want to help other people.”

Staffer Clarence Leong contributed reporting from Boston.

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4. When students choose, they learn better. How can schools deliver?

Cake or pie? Sandals or boots? Everyone likes to have a choice. So it’s perhaps not surprising that teens who are able to pick what they’re studying on a given day learn better.

Yvonne

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At Vertus, an all-boys charter high school in Rochester, N.Y., students have some autonomy over the process of learning, but the boys are expected to work on every subject at least weekly. Personalized learning is seen as a way to close achievement gaps and increase student engagement. But offering students choices about their learning experience is difficult: Teachers must know the standards thoroughly and their curriculum well enough to improvise within it, and they must stay within the bounds of district and state mandates. While educators debate what will best prepare students for future workplaces, Tanji Reed Marshall at The Education Trust found that few teachers actually offer any choice at all. But giving students a say in each of three areas is critical: in what they learn, in the way they learn it, and in the way they demonstrate their learning, says Dr. Reed Marshall. Teacher coach Krystal Bankston says students sometimes make the wrong decisions, but that they learn important lessons when they reflect on their choices. “I think it’s a worthwhile shift,” Ms. Bankston says, “because it builds student confidence and it builds student buy-in.” 

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When students choose, they learn better. How can schools deliver?

Before Michael Mota goes to sleep each school night, the 17-year-old lies in bed thinking through his plan for the next day.

Michael is a senior at Vertus High School, an all-boys charter school in the Rochester City School District whose hallmark is a program that blends online classes with more traditional classroom teaching. Students spend about half their time in computer labs doing online coursework, and it’s this part of the day that Michael plans in advance. He decides whether to tackle a math lesson or a science one, for example, taking into account his own interests as well as his responsibilities. If he’s behind in science, he knows he should focus on that, even if he likes math better.

Many of the boys enter Vertus several years behind grade level, particularly in reading and math, and the lab time gives them a chance to fill gaps in their achievement. It seems to work: Vertus says that 71 percent of its students pass their Regents exams, required by the state of New York to graduate, compared with 38 percent in the Rochester City School District. 

For his part, though, Michael appreciates the opportunity to work faster than traditional classrooms allow. He says he used to get in trouble in middle school because he’d finish his work more quickly than his peers and have nothing else to do but goof around. Now, for example, if he finishes a history lesson first, he goes on to the next one – or switches to another subject.  

Michael likes being able to move at his own pace. “It helps me stay on track and focused,” he says. 

But Roshawn Murraine, a 16-year-old in his third year at Vertus, says the freedom to move at his own pace is “fake freedom,” because he still has to complete all of his classes within a set time frame. And he says Vertus’s brand of personalized learning isn’t all that personalized. 

“It’s not like you’re learning different stuff,” Roshawn says. “It’s just a different pace.” Each student still takes life sciences, global history, algebra, and the other courses New York State requires for graduation. And, unlike some schools that personalize learning by giving students a say over what they learn in each class and how they prove they have learned it, Vertus requires students to complete the exact same assignments and tests. 

It turns out that’s common. 

Personalized learning is among the most popular solutions in US schools today. It is seen as a way to close achievement gaps, increase student engagement, and offer a better education. Yet it doesn’t have a consistent script and every school does it differently. Giving students more control in the classroom is a common feature of personalized-learning programs, in theory, but in practice, how teachers do that and how much control they offer varies widely.

The fact is, offering students choices about their learning experience is difficult. Tanji Reed Marshall, a former teacher and the senior practice associate for P-12 literacy at The Education Trust, an education research and advocacy organization, recently studied how frequently teachers offer students choices in the classroom. The results – very seldom – were not entirely surprising. Dr. Reed Marshall says teachers have to know the standards they’re supposed to teach incredibly well, they have to know their curriculum enough to improvise within it, and they have to stay within the bounds of district and state mandates over what and how they teach.

“And designing learning is very complex,” she says. “They don’t always have the skill set.” 

Tara García Mathewson/The Hechinger Report
Vertus High School, an all-boys public charter school in Rochester, N.Y., offers students a personalized-learning experience by letting them complete classes at their own pace. In-school mentors, called preceptors, keep tabs on students' academic progress as well as their behavior and attendance.

Autonomy leads to engagement

The Education Trust defines three areas in which teachers can give students choice: in what they learn, in the way they learn it, and in the way they demonstrate their learning – what researchers called content, process, and product in a recent study. While this was not a study of personalized learning, per se, but student choice more narrowly, the results are illustrative. A review of more than 6,800 middle school assignments found only 10 percent of the assignments in English language arts, science, and social studies offered students choice in any of these three areas. In math, only 3 percent of assignments did the same, according to the study.

Reed Marshall believes that is a grave missed opportunity. Giving students a say in each of these three areas is critical, she says. With the autonomy to make choices, students are more engaged, and when that’s the case, they learn better.  

Krystal Bankston, who taught math for 10 years in Chattanooga, Tenn., and now coaches other teachers, saw that firsthand. When she was a teacher, she prioritized giving students a say in how they learned and how they demonstrated their progress. When they were working on projects, they also got to choose what, exactly, they studied. Ms. Bankston says students sometimes made the wrong decisions with their newfound power, but that they learned important lessons when they reflected on their choices. 

“I think it’s a worthwhile shift because it builds student confidence and it builds student buy-in,” Bankston says. “When students have a choice in the way they learn, they take ownership because they chose it.”

At Vertus, students have a level of autonomy over the process of learning. But their control ends there.

Vertus co-founder Leigh McGuigan is frank about why her school sets those limits: In college and in their first jobs, students likely will have to do things the way their professors and bosses say to do them. High school, she says, needs to prepare students for what comes next.  

Ironically, this is the same argument some educators use in favor of more student control in the classroom. Personalized learning, they say, will prepare students for success in 21st-century workplaces. But Dr. McGuigan argues that while some students may end up in jobs that give them freedom and autonomy, most won’t. 

“We personalize based on what the student needs to be academically successful; we do not necessarily personalize based on what the student wants,” McGuigan says. The fact is, teenagers aren’t always that good at wanting what is best for them, she adds, so teachers need to set some boundaries.

In 2014-15, the charter school’s first year, some students went months without working on subjects they didn’t like. Now the boys are expected to work on every subject at least weekly and in-school mentors, called preceptors (see sidebar), keep a close eye.

“In some cases, it’s just a student being a teenager – ‘I don’t like this; I don’t want to work on it’ – but we don’t want to miss the flags that it’s an academic issue and we need to have an intervention,” says Julie Locey, the school principal. 

And as much as she says she’d like to give students more say over what to study, the state requirements that every student must meet to graduate are uncompromising.

Multiple ways to personalize

That’s something school leaders across the country have to contend with. Amy Huang is the senior director of programs at Chicago-based LEAP Innovations, which created a personalized-learning framework used nationally. She acknowledges that state and even district-level requirements can limit flexibility. 

“At the end of the day, we do need certain baseline knowledge and skills,” Ms. Huang says. But, she adds, “Personalized learning we think of as a way to make those come to life.” 

The LEAP Learning Framework urges schools to personalize learning in multiple ways. Most schools focus first on giving students more control over their own education through goal-setting, monitoring of their own progress, and opportunities for self-advocacy, according to Huang. Self-paced instruction, which Vertus offers, is less common because most schools run up against the firm deadlines of the school day and year. 

Running a charter school, though, Vertus founders were free to add an extra hour to each school day and 20 extra days to the academic year, creating the time necessary to offer students this control. And the promise of such freedom is what hooks many students thinking about enrolling.  

And even with fairly narrow control over pace, students do take on new responsibility in the classroom. 

Clovis Meikle, a 17-year-old senior, says that in the fall he was spending about four hours on the computer each night. In part that’s because he’s taking an extra social studies class this year and had to put in extra work to stay on track, but it’s also because he knew that when basketball season started, it would take up more of his time. That’s an example of good decisionmaking teachers tout when giving students more control over their own learning. 

Though, of course, some of Clovis’s peers are not as self-motivated and forward-thinking, and Vertus educators want them to graduate, too. 

That’s one reason why The Education Trust researchers advocate offering students control of something beyond just the pace of their learning. Giving students choices about what they learn and how they prove they learned it creates additional opportunities to engage them.

Reed Marshall, The Education Trust researcher, says she hopes the study identifying how few assignments offer any choice at all prompts educators to think carefully about the connection between student motivation and engagement and outcomes.

“If I’m motivated, I’m going to stay the course,” Reed Marshall says. “I’m probably going to learn more.” 

Clarification: This story was updated with Tanji Reed Marshall’s full title at The Education Trust.

This story about personalized learning was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

Sidebar: Personalizing school culture with ‘preceptors’

Only about one-quarter of teachers in the Rochester City Schools are people of color – a stark mismatch with the district’s student population, which is about 80 percent black and Latino. At Vertus virtually all of the students are black or Latino, or both.

The founders of Vertus High School, both white, created an uncommon staffing model to get a critical mass of adults in the building who look like the students. While Vertus has 18 teachers on its staff this year, almost all of whom are white, it has 16 adults it calls preceptors, almost all of whom are black or Latino (and all of whom are men). Like mentors, preceptors take primary responsibility for 16 to 20 students, keeping tabs on their academic progress as well as their behavior and attendance. They aren't trained teachers. They are college-educated men from the community who offer an example to the boys at Vertus. One preceptor, Levi Bennett, was a full-time musician before he started working at Vertus. His degree is in communications.

The preceptors – and students’ relationships with them – change the dynamic in the school.

Michael Mota, a senior who is Puerto Rican and Dominican, remembers only three teachers of color in his middle school, plus a cafeteria worker and a security guard. 

“Here it feels totally different,” he says. He describes Vertus as a place where students respect each other and get respect from the adults in the building.

Mr. Bennett says this dynamic stops a lot of disagreements. “Because the kids respect us, they listen,” he says. And, like Michael, he acknowledged that much of the respect seems to be rooted in a sense of solidarity between the young black and brown men in the school and their mentors.

Although they don’t teach classes, preceptors spend a lot of time with students, shepherding them through the school day and year. The boys start the day with their preceptors and they are the ones texting and calling if the boys don’t show up to school. The preceptors monitor their groups during lab time, guiding them through the online classes, as necessary. They are the main point of contact for parents and anchors in the sometimes chaotic lives of their students.

Michael says Vertus does a good job of separating students from what they see every day in the streets, and preceptors are a critical part of that work.

“Being here has really changed me,” he says.  

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5. Welcome to Oodi: ‘Helsinki’s new living room’

Like a growing number of libraries, the new Helsinki Central Library doesn’t just lend out books. It hosts community spaces, a theater, toolshops, and even a restaurant, all in an effort to promote Finnish civil society.

Yvonne
Courtesy of Andrey Shadrin/Oodi
Oodi, the Helsinki Central Library in Finland, offers community spaces for families and events. The architecturally striking social center is open seven days a week, and late into the evening.

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With the opening last month of Oodi, the barrier-breaking Helsinki Central Library, one of Europe’s most design-conscious countries has a library that reflects its democratic ambitions. Oodi – which means “ode” in Finnish – “is not just a library,” says Tommi Laitio, Helsinki’s executive director of culture and leisure. “It’s also a symbol of the goals we have as a society.” The entire third floor – a soaring, tree-lined, open space dubbed “book heaven” – is devoted to books. But the library’s two other floors, which are connected by a spiral staircase embossed with a selection of Finnish words, are devoted to nonliterary and extra-literary pursuits. The vast, emporium-like ground floor includes a restaurant, a movie theater, and several concert areas. The second floor is for the technologically and experimentally minded, boasting a 3-D printing room and virtual technology cave. Oodi is very much a do-your-own-thing sort of place. “Idle hanging out is allowed,” reads the sign listing the library’s relatively few operating rules. “Oodi is Helsinki’s living room.”

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Welcome to Oodi: ‘Helsinki’s new living room’

The Finns like to call their country a “design nation,” one with a natural affinity for devising creative and efficient solutions for both spatial and social challenges.

With the opening last month of Oodi, the barrier-breaking Helsinki Central Library, one of Europe’s most design-conscious countries has a library that matches that motto, as well as one which reflects its democratic ambitions. Oodi – which means “ode” in Finnish – “is not just a library,” says Tommi Laitio, Helsinki’s executive director of culture and leisure. “It’s also a symbol of the goals we have as a society.”

According to Antti Nousjoki, one of the partners at ALA Architects, the Finnish firm behind the monumental $110 million, spaceship-like building, the designers’ objective was to create a library that empowered its users. “Oodi does not relegate citizens to the role of spectator or dictate single functions and possibilities,” says Mr. Nousjoki, “but rather acts as an open platform and tool for people to develop as they see fit.”

So if the building, which is sited at the entrance to the Helsinki peninsula, at the apex of the capital’s new metropolitan mall, also serves as a living monument to Finnish democracy, so much the better, says Nousjoki.

Oodi being foremost a library, books certainly have their place. The entire third floor – a soaring, tree-lined, open space dubbed “book heaven” – is devoted to them. The moniker is appropriate for a country that prides its status as the most literate in the world.

“Books hold a central place in the Finnish imagination,” says Raoul Grunstein, a former magazine publisher and the founder of Töölö Urban, an urban development firm. His firm created the Korjaamo Culture Factory and the Allas Sea Pool, two public spaces that have helped change the self-image of this once hidebound harborside town. “Finland was a backward country in the 19th century.... Books and reading, as well as libraries, were crucial in the growth of civil society. It’s fitting and wonderful that Helsinki has a library – and a creative public space – which helps celebrate and extend that tradition.”

Courtesy of Risto Rimppi/Oodi
Citizen's Party and the Children's World and other spaces on the third floor of Oodi.

Only 100,000 books are actually stored at Oodi. Indeed, one of the criticisms of the futuristic facility is that its collection is too small. However, users can readily access the 5.5 million volumes in the Finnish library system, which are delivered by autonomous book trolleys. Oodi is the first library in the world to employ robots of this type while visitors are present. [Editor's note: The original version mischaracterized the novelty of Oodi's robots.]

However, Oodi is not just about books. The library’s two other floors, which are connected by a spiral staircase embossed with a selection of Finnish words, are devoted to nonliterary and extra-literary pursuits. The vast, emporium-like ground floor includes a restaurant, a movie theater, and several concert areas, as well as a European Union information center, a reminder that support for the EU and its liberal values remains strong in this corner of Europe.

The second floor is for the technologically and experimentally minded, boasting a 3-D printing room and virtual technology cave. There’s also a Roman forum-like row of benches for just hanging out. No gimlet-eyed librarians patrol the corridors here, ensuring that users keep quiet and obey the rules. Oodi is very much a do-your-own-thing sort of place. “Idle hanging out is allowed,” reads the sign listing the library’s relatively few operating rules. “Oodi is Helsinki’s living room.”

The whole makes for an urban asylum that both the city designers and the architects like to think goes where no library has gone before, and encourages Helsinkians and other visitors to experience and expand their ontological and emotional limits. “We considered the fact that libraries will always be changing,” says Samuli Woolston, one of the building’s other architects. “Already their use is different from what it was 10 years ago.”

Both the architects and the city fathers expect that metamorphosis to continue, as Oodi “grows” new functions while “outgrowing” others.

“Oodi is very much a work in progress,” says Mr. Laitio, the city executive. He sees Oodi as a “means of allowing people to overcome their fear of the future. That’s what the second floor is about.” He adds, “It’s also supposed to be fun.”

“I suppose you could say that Oodi is the culmination of Finnish peoplehood,” says Mr. Grunstein. “At the same time,” he adds, “it’s an experiment to see if a library can be about something more than reading and can act as an empowering force for the greater community.”

One thing is inarguable: Oodi is wildly popular. Less than two months after its inauguration, Oodi has rapidly become one of Helsinki’s most popular attractions, as the teeming crowds of visitors attest. “We have been very positively surprised by the response to Oodi,” says Laitio. “In the first four weeks we were open we had nearly 350,000 visitors, which is a lot for a city of 650,000.”

Tuomas Uusheimo/Oodi
ALA Architects, a firm based in Helsinki, designed the central library.

“One unexpected and welcome surprise” has been the demand for literature, Laitio says. “Seventy-five percent of our children’s books are on loan, as are 50 percent of our Finnish fiction titles. We’re happy about that.”

“Above all, we are happy about the way that Helsinkians have taken to Oodi,” he says. “After all, this is their building. It is not uncommon to see visitors with tears in their eyes.”

One of those recent visitors is Finnish parliamentarian Pilvi Torsti. “One hundred years after our civil war,” she says, referring to the fratricidal conflict that ushered in the Finnish republic, “I am moved that we are a country and a society that is capable of something like this.”

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The Monitor's View

A plug for the purpose-driven worker

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Judging TV commercials during the Super Bowl is a popular pastime. This year, expect more of them to be “purpose driven.” Gillette’s “We Believe” ad, for example, calls on men to challenge “toxic” stereotypes of maleness. It has stirred debate, though it has yet to fall flat like a recent Pepsi ad that was seen as using Black Lives Matter imagery just to sell more soda. Surveys find corporate leaders increasingly believe they must stand up for a cause. One motive: better branding with consumers seeking values alignment. Another: the need to attract and retain workers. Last fall, 20,000 Google workers walked off the job for a day to protest the way the company had handled sexual-misconduct cases. It all fits into a global trend. In a new global survey about trust, the communications giant Edelman discovered a profound change from previous surveys: People are putting far more trust in their employers to do the right thing than they do in other institutions. The survey hints that more people seek a purpose in life – a calling beyond survival or profit-making. More companies are beginning to heed this desire.

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A plug for the purpose-driven worker

On Feb. 3, Americans will join in one of their favorite national pastimes – judging TV commercials during the Super Bowl. This year, if one ad released early by Gillette is any indicator, the commercials may be more than simply funny. They will be “purpose driven.”

Gillette’s 30-second “We Believe” commercial calls on more men to prevent harassment of women and to challenge “toxic” stereotypes of maleness. It has stirred similar debate as a Nike ad last year featuring Colin Kaepernick, the kneeling quarterback. Yet it has yet to fall flat like a recent Pepsi ad that was seen as using images of the Black Lives Matter movement only to sell more soda.

Surveys find corporate leaders increasingly believe they must stand up for a cause. The motive is not only better branding with consumers who want to associate with companies that align with their values. It may also be necessary to attract and retain younger workers.

More companies face rebellions from employees who disagree with their actions. Last fall, 20,000 Google workers walked off the job for a day to protest the way the company had dealt with cases of sexual misconduct. The demand was clear: You must earn our trust by showing what you stand for – other than making a profit.

All of this fits into a global trend. In a new survey of 28 countries about the levels of trust around the world, the communications giant Edelman found a profound change from previous surveys: People are putting far more trust in “my employer” to do the right thing in challenging times than they do in other institutions, such as media, government, and social activist groups. And a majority of employees say their employer is a trustworthy source of information about societal issues.

“People have low confidence that societal institutions will help them navigate a turbulent world, so they are turning to a critical relationship: their employer,” says Richard Edelman, the firm’s president and CEO.

Another survey done last year of American corporate leaders, conducted by GlobeScan and 3BL Media, found that advocacy by chief executive officers is on the rise. One big reason is to meet employee expectations.

Today’s C-suite executives must offer more than perks and pay to employees. Sports equipment retailer REI, for example, wants its 12,000 workers to be so close to the environment that it has closed its door on recent Black Fridays so employees can use the day to enjoy the outdoors.

The Edelman survey hints that more people seek a purpose in life – a calling beyond survival or profit-making. Employers are beginning to heed this desire. And more Americans may see it in the commercials during the 2019 Super Bowl.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

The power of being magnanimous

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When complications arose with a vendor agreement, today’s contributor found that there’s plenty of good to go around because God’s goodness is universal and limitless.

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The power of being magnanimous

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When I was young and my family would go out to dinner with another family, it astounded me when the two fathers would see who could be the first to grab the check and pay for the whole meal. “Why would anyone want to pay for another family’s meal?” I wondered.

Of course, as I grew up, I better understood the joys of being generous and found it more and more natural to want to give whatever I could to others. But still there was that sense of a zero-sum game in my thought – a sense that if I was generous with my resources, there would be less for me and my family.

And then one day I came upon this arresting statement by Mary Baker Eddy, my favorite author and the woman who founded The Christian Science Monitor: “He who is afraid of being too generous has lost the power of being magnanimous” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 165). Even as I read this statement I could sense something powerful behind it, something that lifted the idea of generosity above simply calculating how much one could afford to give to others.

This quote points to a source of resources so abundant that there’s enough for all. Christian Science explains that this source is the divine Spirit, God, that bestows limitless good, spiritual ideas and inspiration, on each of us.

I saw evidence of God’s abundance for all when a nonprofit group I’m a part of needed to find a new facility to meet in. I was able to find and secure a contract with another facility that offered the same rate, which was very helpful to our budget. However, before our first event at that facility, the facility was sold. The new owners were willing to honor our written contract even though it was not financially advantageous to them, but said that in years going forward they would have to increase our rate dramatically.

Sensing their distress, I felt a deep sense of love welling up within me. With it came an awareness of God as the real source of the joy and inspiration this activity included. Accordingly, neither of us could lose the ability to express and experience these qualities.

I found myself saying to the new owners, “This event needs to be a blessing for everyone, including you! What would it take for it to feel like a blessing this year, not just next year?” They named a very modest rate increase that they indicated they hoped to maintain the following year as well.

We agreed to sign new contracts based on that amount, and as we concluded, warmly shaking hands, they said, “This feels so good, we’ll even throw in some lemonade and homemade cookies for the event.”

There’s a story in the Bible of Christ Jesus feeding thousands of men, women, and children with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish (see Matthew 14:14-21). First he took stock of what was on hand. Then he thanked God, understanding the wholeness and universality of God’s goodness. The supply of food represented the manifestation of limitless divine supply – in other words, the substance of God’s, divine Love’s, tender, perpetual care for His creation.

Finally, Jesus commanded his disciples to share the food freely. Talk about picking up the tab for the whole meal! The whole transaction seemed to be outside a sense of possession. Jesus didn’t act as if he owned the fish, and he didn’t have less or suffer because of this generosity. In fact, the Bible says they gathered up 12 baskets of leftovers when everyone had finished eating.

Thinking about giving from a basis of possessing a finite amount of good can leave us feeling conflicted about being too generous or not generous enough. But we can accept the infinite resources of God, all the goodness that is supplied and maintained by “the infinite.” This will never lead us to be foolhardy or miserly, but rather inspire magnanimity that is both wise and selfless. And as we see more clearly that it’s the nature of good to multiply when shared, that divine Love is never depleted, we’ll see evidence of God’s care shining in our day-to-day experience.

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Viewfinder

Grand slam of a summer

Aly Song/Reuters
The roof of the Rod Laver Arena slides closed during a match between Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova and Danielle Collins of the United States during an Australian Open Semifinal in Melbourne Jan. 24. Record-breaking heat has gripped much of the country since November.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( January 25th, 2019 )

Thanks so much for spending time with us today. Come back tomorrow. Our Mexico correspondent, Whitney Eulich, is looking at another “caravan” wending its way north. At the Mexico-Guatemala border, information and services for migrants look different than last time.

Monitor Daily Podcast

January 24, 2019
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