2021
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Monitor Daily Podcast

May 07, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

Cicada cuisine, come and get it

The cicadas are coming. Time to pull out the frying pan? For those excited about the insects that will soon emerge from underground in the eastern United States – a once-every-17-years phenomenon – it’s an opportunity to tantalize the palate.

Yes, cicadas are edible, as are many insects – an excellent source of protein. Recipes are circulating online. Cultural norms are being reevaluated. And we’re all being encouraged to eat less meat to address climate change. 

“I know I’ll be snacking on a few,” retired entomologist Michael Raupp told the Monitor’s Dwight Weingarten as he reported a story on cicada “life lessons.”

Somehow, eating a creature that can offer life lessons feels wrong. But it’s really the “ick” factor that turns off most Americans from eating insects. When a college friend returned from a Peace Corps stint in what was then Zaire in the early 1980s, he brought back a big plastic bag of dried-over-a-fire grasshoppers.

“Try one!” Bruce offered. We hesitated and finally relented. Crunchy. Maybe a little bitter. I didn’t gag, but I also didn’t go for seconds.

Almost 40 years later, Bruce reminisces enthusiastically about all the insects he ate – crickets, termites, flying ants, palm beetle grubs “the size of your thumb” – and how he learned to overcome his bias.

“Much of the world finds bugs of one sort or another a great treat,” Bruce writes in an email. “It’s all in our heads, we Westerners.”

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For Biden, vaccine patent waiver is a test of US leadership

True leadership often involves making hard choices. President Biden’s support for a vaccine patent waiver received mixed reviews. But it signaled a U.S. intent to return to global moral leadership.

Linda

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When President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the United States would support a World Trade Organization emergency waiver of COVID-19 vaccine patents, the decision was about more than “the right thing to do.” For some global experts and analysts, the decision reflects something else as well: Mr. Biden’s vision, sharpened over his first three months in office, of reasserting U.S. global leadership.

The larger message the president is sending with the vaccine waiver, some experts say: The coronavirus pandemic is the latest and most urgent in a list of global challenges that will require a strong and complex multilateral response, and the U.S. intends to reclaim the mantle of leader on these issues.

“I see this as an important signal that we’re stepping up our international engagement and intend to put the U.S. back in the driver’s seat” of the multilateral system, says J. Stephen Morrison at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“This is not saying international property rights are not important,” he adds. “It’s saying [the U.S.] is not leaving the solution to market forces – and that political leadership needs to step up and shape the future on this.”

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For Biden, vaccine patent waiver is a test of US leadership

Evan Vucci/AP/File
President Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19 vaccinations at the White House in Washington April 21, 2021. For Mr. Biden, the decision to support an emergency waiver of COVID-19 vaccine patents was about more than “the right thing to do.”

When asked during a July 2020 one-on-one campaign event with public health activist Ady Barkan if he supported sharing COVID-19 vaccine technology with the developing world, presidential candidate Joe Biden didn’t hestitate.

“Absolutely, positively,” Mr. Biden responded. “This is the only humane thing in the world to do.”

At the time, his unequivocal response staked out the moral high ground of the controversial issue of vaccine patents and pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property rights. The Trump administration opposed any patent waivers for vaccines that in the summer of 2020 were still only in development.

But Wednesday, when President Biden announced through trade representative Katherine Tai that the United States would support a World Trade Organization (WTO) emergency waiver of COVID-19 vaccine patents, the decision was about more than “the right thing to do,” as the president would say.

For some global health experts and international political analysts, the decision reflects something else as well: Mr. Biden’s vision, sharpened over the first three months of his tenure, of refurbishing and reasserting U.S. global leadership.

The larger message the president is sending with the vaccine waiver, some experts say: The coronavirus pandemic is the latest and most urgent of a list of global challenges that will require a strong and complex multilateral response, and the U.S. intends to reclaim the mantle of leader on these issues.

“I see this as an important signal that we’re stepping up our international engagement and intend to put the U.S. back in the driver’s seat” of the multilateral system, says J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“This is not saying international property rights are not important,” he adds, “it’s saying [the U.S.] is not leaving the solution to market forces – and that political leadership needs to step up and shape the future on this.”

No one – including in the Biden administration – is touting a patent waiver as a quick or be-all solution to the global vaccine gap that experts say will be acute for at least the coming six months.

For one thing, WTO debate over a waiver to the body’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, is likely to drag on for months. That's precious time during which the world will be nervously watching the evolution of India’s current catastrophic second wave, plus pandemic inroads in other poor countries with weak health systems.

As Mr. Morrison notes, what’s needed as much or more than a waiver is a “complex combination” of high-tech transfer, greater production capacity, an expanded high-skilled workforce in many countries, and smoother supply chains of critical materials for vaccine production.

But President Biden’s decision to put U.S. muscle behind a patent waiver altered the global debate and shifted perceptions of the U.S. in one fell swoop, others say.

Channi Anand/AP
Indians, mostly youngsters, line up to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Jammu, India, May 7, 2021, as coronavirus cases nationwide surge to record levels.

“This is something that will really boost Biden’s reputation as a global leader,” says Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. “It’s got enormous symbolic resonance.”

Noting that respect for intellectual property (IP) rights has long been a bone of contention between the wealthy (and generally patent-holding) North and the developing South, Dr. Gostin says, “I never thought I’d ever see the day that an American president would support waiver of intellectual property” rights.

Mr. Biden’s surprise move has received mixed reviews, from high praise – generally from the developing world – to rejection and protests that scarce raw materials and weak global supply chains are more to blame than IP rights for the dearth of vaccines outside the rich, developed countries.

“MONUMENTAL MOMENT,” tweeted World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, adding that the president’s decision reflected “the wisdom and moral leadership of the United States.”

In South Africa – which joined with India in October to propose the WTO approve a temporary suspension of IP protections for vaccine production – Mr. Biden’s move drew guarded optimism.

“The U.S. coming out with statements in support of the waiver is massive and it will have a trickle-down effect on other countries” that had previously opposed it, said Umunyana Rugege, executive director of Section 27, a health activist organization in South Africa, in remarks Friday to journalists.

She noted that since the U.S. announced its support for the waiver, New Zealand and France have come out in favor as well.

Still others, like the Brookings Institution’s Kavita Patel, note that the major vaccine manufacturers were the beneficiaries of billions of dollars in vaccine research and development funding from G20 countries (major but not necessarily wealthy economies), so it is only right that they and their populations benefit from that participation.

Response to President Biden’s move from other developed countries with strong pharmaceutical industries has been mixed.

The European Union offered lukewarm support, saying it was open to exploring a waiver of vaccine patents at the WTO. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel came out flatly opposed, championing instead the traditional developed-world position that IP rights are a “source of innovation” and must be protected as a critical tool for addressing the pandemic and future global challenges.

As some global health experts note, simply approving a waiver will mean little in the context of the current global vaccine crisis if it gives vaccine producers cold feet about other steps that may be more critical in the short term.

“It is an open question whether this change in position by the U.S. will make it easier or increase pressure on the current vaccine developers to reach more licensing deals, to transfer their technology to more manufacturers,” says Lisa Larrimore Ouellette, a professor of patent law and expert in intellectual property and innovation at Stanford Law School in Palo Alto, California.

Eldar Emric/AP
A container with boxes of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 is delivered at the Sarajevo Airport, Bosnia, May 4, 2021. The head of the World Trade Organization said May 7 that the U.S. call to remove patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines could help expand fair access but might not be the most “critical issue,” as officials in Europe increasingly insisted that more vaccine exports are the more pressing priority.

“Or it may make them more reluctant to do that.”

That position is prevalent even in India, which along with South Africa first came up with the patent waiver plan.

Mr. Biden’s decision is a welcome turning point, says Achal Prabhala, coordinator of the AccessIBSA project, which campaigns for greater access to medicines in India, Brazil, and South Africa. But beyond a patent waiver, “we need to have actual vaccine technology transferred into an opening licensing system,” he adds.

To date in the pandemic, low-income countries account for only 0.2% of the world’s vaccinations, experts note. Just 14 of Africa’s 54 countries have vaccinated at least 1% of their population, on a continent that produces only around 1% of the vaccines it administers.

All that may be true, IP rights advocates say, but they maintain that nothing about the U.S. shift on a patent waiver will change conditions in developing countries quickly. Even more, some caution only China and Russia would have the capacity in the short term to take advantage of newly accessible IP – two countries Mr. Biden has increasingly characterized as America’s principal rivals in the competition for global political and economic leadership.

Indeed, if some global health activists are applauding Mr. Biden’s support for a patent waiver, it is not so much because it is seen as a quick fix to a vaccine shortage. Rather, it’s because the decision is seen as placing the U.S. – traditionally a staunch supporter of intellectual property rights and private pharmaceutical companies’ patents – in the opposing camp that prioritizes global health as a right and a security issue for a globalized world.

From this perspective, the U.S. interest is served as much by a healthy global population as by other domestic steps it takes. As Ms. Patel says, the good job the U.S. has done with its vaccine rollout will be of little use “if we do not make sure that the whole world is vaccinated.”

For many South African activists who fought a similar battle over IP rights and HIV/AIDS drugs in the 1990s and 2000s, the U.S. support for a patent waiver will serve another useful purpose if it prompts a broader debate and eventually movement on the question of global access to health services.

The world “needs a real reckoning about the impact of intellectual property on access to health-care services and in particular medicines” in the Global South, says Fatima Hassan, director of South Africa’s Health Justice Initiative.

If indeed one of Mr. Biden’s goals with his patent waiver move was to reassert U.S. global leadership, then the president is going to have multiple opportunities soon to demonstrate that, says Mr. Morrison of CSIS.

Noting that “we’re entering a season of intense and high-level political engagement,” with the WHO, the G7 group of advanced economies, and other multilateral bodies coming together in the coming weeks, Mr. Morrison says, “Biden’s going to have ample opportunity to demonstrate global leadership. But the question will be, what comes next?”

A deeper look

When a lawmaker’s conscience clashes with the party line

What happens when a lawmaker’s principles and her voters’ wishes are at odds with one another? Liz Cheney has refused to embrace what she calls the “big lie,” even though it may cost her her GOP leadership position.

Linda
Patrick Semansky/AP
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming (center) speaks with President Donald Trump during a bill signing ceremony in the White House in Washington Nov. 25, 2019. Ms. Cheney has refused to embrace the former president’s unproven election fraud claims even though it may cost her her GOP leadership position.

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Just a few months ago, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney beat back an attempt to oust her from Republican leadership after she cast what she described as a “vote of conscience” to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

That victory may have been short-lived. Now, Ms. Cheney’s insistence on refuting Mr. Trump’s unproven claims of election fraud – which polls show a majority of Republican voters believe – is once again imperiling her political future. Even some erstwhile supporters say they would prefer to see her directing her firepower against President Joe Biden’s $6 trillion progressive agenda, not fist-bumping him on the floor of the House while characterizing Mr. Trump as a threat to democracy. 

The rift has raised new questions – among them, whether it is an abrogation of a leader’s duty to take a sustained stand for principle that conflicts with the will of her voters and fellow lawmakers. 

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, who has known Ms. Cheney since she was a little girl, says he believes she’ll prevail in 2022 – but even if not, she won’t regret her decision. He says, She’s going to put this down as a badge of courage.”

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When a lawmaker’s conscience clashes with the party line

Just a few months ago, Rep. Liz Cheney – scion of one of the most influential vice presidents in history – beat back an attempt to oust her from Republican House leadership after she cast what she described as a “vote of conscience” to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Now she is facing another challenge. And this time, she may have a far harder time prevailing, with GOP leaders already coalescing around a younger, Trumpier successor.  

Ms. Cheney’s insistence on refuting the former president’s unproven claims of election fraud – which polls show a majority of Republican voters believe – has frustrated even some erstwhile supporters. At a time when the GOP is tantalizingly close to retaking the House in 2022, they say she is endangering the party’s future by re-litigating the past. They would prefer to see her directing her firepower against President Joe Biden’s $6 trillion progressive agenda, not fist-bumping him on the floor of the House while characterizing Mr. Trump as a threat to democracy. 

The rift is the latest twist in an ongoing, multi-year struggle over the direction of the Republican Party, with Mr. Trump continuing to exert his dominance even after losing the White House. And it has raised new questions – among them, whether it is an abrogation of a leader’s duty to take a sustained stand for principle that conflicts with the will of her voters and fellow lawmakers. 

“I’m all for principled stands. Any member of Congress can take any vote they want as long as they can explain it and defend it,” says Matt Mackowiak, a Republican political consultant based in Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C., who characterizes Jan. 6 as the third-worst day in U.S. history after Pearl Harbor and 9/11. But, he adds, echoing a favorite line of former House Speaker John Boehner, “a leader without followers is a guy taking a walk, and right now she’s taking a walk.” 

He calls Ms. Cheney “deeply principled and substantive, and exceedingly bright,” adding that someone with that mix of skills is an asset on the GOP leadership team. 

But he doubts her stance will actually persuade any voters who believe Mr. Trump’s narrative. “One member of Congress from Wyoming is not going to change voters’ views on this.”

Still, Ms. Cheney seems determined to try. And she’s made it clear that she is willing to risk a promising political future in an attempt to save her party from what she sees as dangerous erosion of democratic principles.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post this week, Ms. Cheney described this moment as a critical juncture for the GOP. 

“The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” she wrote. “We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.”

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, shown during an April news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, has withdrawn his support for No. 3 House Republican Liz Cheney, who survived an earlier challenge this year after voting to impeach former President Donald Trump.

Debate over Trump’s role in GOP

The split reemerged after a House GOP retreat in Florida, where Ms. Cheney was clearly at odds with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who had initially blamed Mr. Trump for his role on Jan. 6 but later softened his stance. He had supported Ms. Cheney in the earlier challenge to her leadership position, which she survived in a 145-61 vote. But this week he was caught on mic saying he’d “had it” with her. 

Much of the debate has centered around the party’s ongoing relationship with Mr. Trump. Do they need his help to win in 2022 – or at least make sure not to alienate him and draw his wrath? Should they downplay his election fraud claims – which numerous Trump-appointed judges dismissed as baseless – or embrace them? 

Ms. Cheney’s larger beef appears to be not only with Mr. Trump’s “big lie” about the 2020 election, as she put it, but what she sees as Mr. Trump’s anti-democratic tendencies and the danger his rhetoric and actions pose not just to the GOP but to the country. The New Yorker reported May 6, citing a source close to the Cheney family, that it was Ms. Cheney who “secretly orchestrated an unprecedented op-ed in The Washington Post by all ten living former Defense Secretaries, including her father, warning against Trump’s efforts to politicize the military.” That op-ed ran three days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, believes Ms. Cheney’s concerns are genuine. But he also sees her and her allies as essentially being in denial about the trajectory of the Republican Party in recent years, by viewing the Trump years as “an aberration.”

“The Republican establishment wants to treat the last six years of Trump as the political version of the ‘Dallas’ dream season,” says Mr. Olsen.

Some Republicans who supported Ms. Cheney after her impeachment vote now say she is distracting from party priorities by crossing swords with Mr. Trump when much of the party leadership would just like to move on after a turbulent four years.

“There’s no concern about how she voted on impeachment. That decision has been made,” Representative McCarthy said. “I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message.”

GOP House leaders are now backing New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a onetime protégé of former Speaker Paul Ryan, who entered the House as a moderate but went on to embrace Mr. Trump, winning his public endorsement this week. She seems all but certain to replace Ms. Cheney in a GOP conference vote next week. 

But if the problem with Ms. Cheney is her focus on the past, then Ms. Cheney’s supporters want to know why Republicans are backing Ms. Stefanik, who this week went on Steve Bannon’s radio show and expressed support for Arizona’s controversial election “audit.”

Andrew Harnik/AP/File
GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York listens during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington Nov. 20, 2019.

“They’re the ones who are putting Trump front and center,” says former GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock, who represented a Virginia swing district from 2015-19. “He wants to make this a cult about him and that’s what the Republicans are allowing to happen.”

Ms. Comstock says she personally heard from GOP members in November and December that they knew his claims about election fraud were not true, but felt they had to humor him and play along in order to get his support in the 2022 midterms. “Playing along with someone who’s living in fantasy land and thinks he’s still president is not working,” she says.

“The emperor has no clothes and she knows that,” says former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, who represented the state along with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and has known Ms. Cheney since she was a little girl. “She’s speaking with great clarity from her internal gyroscope.”

Ironically, Ms. Cheney voted in accord with Mr. Trump more often than her favored replacement – 92.9% of the time compared with Ms. Stefanik’s 77.7%, according to an analysis by data analysis website FiveThirtyEight.com. The Lugar Center ranks Ms. Stefanik as the 13th most bipartisan member of Congress, while Ms. Cheney sits at 421st out of 435 House members – something that normally might be seen as a sign of the latter’s conservative bona fides. 

But Ms. Stefanik caught Mr. Trump’s attention with her impassioned criticism of the 2019 impeachment proceedings against him, and again voted against impeaching him in a hastily brought trial after the Jan. 6 attack this year. Ms. Cheney was one of 10 GOP members of the House who voted for impeaching the president.

The stakes in Wyoming

Back in Wyoming, where Mr. Trump won 70% of the vote, Ms. Cheney’s impeachment vote did not play well. Rivals immediately began announcing plans to challenge her in the 2022 election for Wyoming’s sole representative to Congress, and a Trump-affiliated pollster found that Ms. Cheney would lose 21-54 to one of them and do only slightly better against another. 

“She’s risked her political future in Wyoming,” says Professor James King at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, whose areas of research include the effects of congressional candidates attacking the president. Still, he thinks that with her smarts and strong base Ms. Cheney could potentially pull through. 

“She did not get elected ... simply because her last name is Cheney,” he says.

Tony Barton, a Republican county commissioner in Weston County in northeastern Wyoming, says that while there’s a vocal portion of constituents upset with Ms. Cheney, he personally agrees with her – and thinks she may have more support in the state than it seems.

“I think history will find her on the right side of that [issue],” says the father and construction business owner who adds that his first consideration in weighing candidates is their character and integrity. “You do swear an oath to the Constitution.”

Asked whether Ms. Cheney is within her rights as a representative of the people to take a stand that runs against the will of her constituents in Wyoming, Ms. Comstock says it would be one thing to go against them on matters like Western water rates or agricultural issues. But when it comes to a fundamental constitutional question, she says, the calculus is different. Mr. Barton and Professor King agree she has a right to act according to her conscience on this point. 

Former Senator Simpson, a 90-year-old dean of Wyoming politics who has seen an election or two, says he believes she will prevail. But even if she doesn’t, it won’t bring her down. 

“I have no idea what she will do in the future, but I know she won’t be disheartened by this,” he says. “She’s going to put this down as a badge of courage.”

Restaurants are hiring, but where are the workers?

First restaurant workers were laid off – and reaped special pandemic jobless benefits. Now eateries are desperate to hire them back. Could all this be leading toward better pay in a difficult industry?

Linda
Patrik Jonsson/The Christian Science Monitor
Restaurateur Ian Davis sits in his sushi bar, Raw Ingredients, on Tybee Island, Georgia, on May 4, 2021. Mr. Davis has had to close another restaurant, Ripe Ingredients, amid a massive labor shortage. "At some point, we have to return to some kind of balance," he says. "I hope."

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Amid a nationwide labor shortage that’s affecting his industry, Ian Davis bluntly says, “These are desperate times.” Just 4 miles away from his sushi restaurant on Tybee Island, Georgia, a crab shack is offering $3,000 signing bonuses. Some restaurant owners and economists think generous jobless benefits have chilled the hiring process. At the same time, persistent school closures and limited child care prevent many others from leaving home. And some workers have simply moved on to other industries.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported a surprisingly low gain of just 266,000 jobs nationwide in April – with economists attributing the weakness partly to a tight supply of willing workers. 

A potential silver lining: It’s possible the circumstances create an impetus to improve pay and working conditions for the longer term.

“This crisis of trying to find employees to even staff your place – I think it’s raising the bar for a lot of different restaurants to say ... ‘We have to think of our model and what can we do to not just attract people, but to keep them here,’” says Ben Fileccia, director of operations at the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.

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Restaurants are hiring, but where are the workers?

Ian Davis first opened Raw Ingredients sushi bar on Tybee Island, Georgia, five years ago, with a gaggle of local kids among his first customers. Today, as that group of teenagers visits his restaurant, Mr. Davis serves them a quick pitch.

“Let’s put some boots on!” he says. “You like sushi. Time to sling the sushi.”

Amid a nationwide labor shortage, business owners like Mr. Davis say they have little option but to try to turn patrons into employees. He’s already closed one restaurant in an effort to consolidate staff. Competition to hire for the summer season is fierce every year in tourist destinations like Tybee, but locals say it’s never been this intense. Just 4 miles away, the Crab Shack is offering $3,000 signing bonuses.

“These are desperate times,” says Mr. Davis. “We lost pretty much everybody during the pandemic. So now I’m pulling people off the street.”

But it’s more than rival restaurants keeping his staff from reaching capacity. A mixture of expanded unemployment benefits, the health risks of COVID-19, and economic shifts brought on by the pandemic is hampering the restaurant and hospitality industry, even as demand for its services increases with the rise in vaccinations. Those causes have proved a recipe for a worker shortage from fast-food chains to five-star kitchens. 

While experts predict the shortage will abate over time, they say it may also be a rare opportunity for pro-worker changes in the industry. Already, some owners are raising pay, adding benefits, and distributing compensation more evenly – despite the industry’s often-thin profit margins. If such changes outlast the current shortage, some experts say they may give workers a more personal connection to the institutions they help maintain.

“This crisis of trying to find employees to even staff your place – I think it’s raising the bar for a lot of different restaurants to say ... ‘We have to think of our model and what can we do to not just attract people, but to keep them here,’” says Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy at the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported a surprisingly low gain of just 266,000 jobs nationwide in April – with economists attributing the weakness partly to a tight supply of willing workers. With the economy in rebound mode, the consensus forecast had been for a net gain of 1 million jobs.

Industries that have complained the loudest about a shortage of workers – restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues – were able to add 331,000 jobs in April (while some other industries reduced overall employment). That comes nowhere near to meeting their surge in demand for new hires. Just this week, for example, restaurant chain KFC announced plans to add 20,000 workers.

How pandemic reshaped an industry

Hiring shortages are familiar in the restaurant and hospitality industry, so dependent on cyclical shifts in demand. Approaching peak season, employers compete each year for a shared pool of applicants. Positions are often temporary, whether by choice of the employer or the workers themselves.

Patrik Jonsson/The Christian Science Monitor
Beachgoers walk by a plea for help on the door of Ripe Ingredients, a Tybee Island, Georgia, restaurant, on May 3, 2021. The restaurant is closed because the owner can't find enough cooks and servers to open it. Another restaurant on the island is offering $3,000 signing bonuses for the season.

“The restaurant industry historically has had uniquely high turnover,” writes Culinary Agents founder and CEO Alice Cheng in an email. “Pre-pandemic recruiting and retention were always ongoing challenges for most hospitality businesses.”

The coronavirus initially turned that challenge on its head. With lockdowns, restaurants furloughed much of their staff. And searching for a more stable income, many workers either moved or even left the field, says Michael Traud, program director at Drexel University’s department of food and hospitality management.

Yet a year later, the pandemic has intensified the problem it once took away. “In January, 7% of restaurant operators rated recruitment and retention of workforce as their top challenge; by April that number had risen to 57%,” writes Hudson Riehle, senior vice president for research at the National Restaurant Association, in an email. 

With coronavirus cases decreasing and vaccinations continuing to rise, many Americans want to make up for a lost year of dining out and traveling. Restaurants and hotels are opening or reopening to meet the demand, which means competition for workers is higher than ever. 

“All of a sudden the job market is just flooded with openings and we’ve never seen that,” says Mr. Fileccia.

Meanwhile, fewer workers are available. 

Pandemic relief too generous?

Expanded unemployment aid, extended under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, gives some Americans an incentive to stay home rather than take a low-paying job. Those payments last until early September, and may be extended further. 

Many conservatives say that overgenerous unemployment assistance is harming the economy. Governors in South Carolina and Montana moved this week to end pandemic jobless benefits.

“This tragedy is what happens when Washington know-it-alls decide to pretend they’re generous by paying more for unemployment than for work,” said GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska in a statement Friday, referring to the nation’s worker shortages.

Mr. Davis, on Tybee Island, thinks generous jobless benefits have chilled the hiring process. For part of last year, potential servers could collect about $900 a week on unemployment – about $300 more than what many expect to make on the job. (Nationally, average hourly pay for a server is $13.20, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.) Employees may return when the supplemental payments phase out, but by then, Mr. David says, they may expect more than he’s able to pay. 

At the same time, persistent school closures and limited child care prevent many others from leaving home in the first place. Concern over COVID-19 also remains high, and the jobs themselves have become more difficult. Employees must wear masks and cover more territory in socially distant or outdoor dining areas. Some workers have simply moved on to other industries where jobs have opened up – in some cases to larger employers like Amazon where pay or benefits are stronger. 

After more than a decade in some of Atlanta’s renowned kitchens, former executive chef Brian Carson left the industry a month ago after reaching an “impasse” with owners over hours and pay. 

In his opinion, the current worker shortage is “no different than a strike.”

“You fired these folks a year ago,” he says, “and now you’re mad that they don’t want to come back and do the same [tough] job for the same crappy pay?”

Opportunity for a reset of working conditions?

A lifelong “food nerd,” Mr. Carson still watches his former line of work from afar and hopes the nearly 14 million workers in the industry can bargain for better conditions. A nationwide hiring shortage may offer the right time to attempt just that.

“Now there is opportunity for businesses to revisit what is working and address the changes that need to be made in order to grow and thrive,” writes Ms. Cheng. “Those who continue to prioritize their teams will attract the workers they’re hoping for.”

In turn, teams that feel prioritized tend to stay in their jobs longer, says Mr. Fileccia.

Signing and referral bonuses, higher pay (for the front and back of the house), and benefits like insurance and a 401(k) could help ease the employee shortage now, and create a more stable workforce. For those who already aspire to enter the industry, the shortage also offers a chance to pick and choose among employers.

But there’s no such thing as a free lunch, says Mr. Fileccia, and for pay to rise, consumers will have to eat the cost. Customers have grown used to the price of their meals remaining stable, he says. Prices haven’t risen dramatically in the past 20 years.

“I’m hoping this past year, if it’s done anything, has shown how fragile this industry is,” says Mr. Fileccia. “We do need to get buy-in from guests to say, ‘Listen, when we want to go out, we’re going to have to pay more.’” 

Closing a restaurant showed Mr. Davis the industry’s fragility firsthand. He hopes more workers find their way into his kitchen, without him having to goad them off the street. 

He can’t compete with lavish signing bonuses offered elsewhere, or even pay much above minimum wage. But he can provide a close-knit “family atmosphere,” respect, and maybe even some sushi on the side.

For his restaurant, and the industry at large, he hopes there are employees out there looking for the same. 

“The idea that there’s too much work and too little pay for you to return, that would be an ugly balloon” for the industry, he says. Nurturing a new generation of workers to embrace restaurant work, he says, is “the hardest thing.”

‘Blank check’ for El Salvador’s Bukele? Court dismissals spark concern.

What happens when threats to democratic norms have democratic support? That familiar, difficult dilemma is playing out in El Salvador, critics of the country’s wildly popular president say.

Linda

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Two years ago, when El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele was elected, “there were three separate branches of government” in the country, says Geoff Thale, president of the Washington Office on Latin America.

“Now,” Mr. Thale says, “there’s one.”

Last weekend, when El Salvador’s newly elected legislature took its seats, it voted to dismiss five Supreme Court justices and the attorney general, replacing them with Bukele sympathizers. The move prompted concern from critics at home and officials abroad, who had already feared the young president was adopting an authoritarian leadership style. 

Those hoping El Salvador can bolster its democratic institutions face a difficulty: the government’s popularity. Mr. Bukele himself enjoys approval ratings of nearly 90%, and his alliance now holds a supermajority in the Legislative Assembly.

Still, there are levers for change, observers say, pointing to past examples. Other countries in the region “started down these paths toward concentrating power in one branch or another,” says Leonor Arteaga Rubio, previously a deputy in the Salvadoran Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman. “They aren’t perfect parallels, but due to some kind of intervention – most often citizen, sometimes international – they were able to get their democracies back on course.”

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‘Blank check’ for El Salvador’s Bukele? Court dismissals spark concern.

Secretaria de Prensa de La Presidencia/Reuters
El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele takes part in a meeting with accredited ambassadors in El Salvador, at the Presidential House in San Salvador May 3, 2021.

When Nayib Bukele was voted El Salvador’s new president in 2019, he had popular backing, but little support in the government. Two years later, the landscape of democracy has changed dramatically.

Saturday, in the recently elected Legislative Assembly’s first session, his alliance’s newfound supermajority swiftly dismissed five Supreme Court justices and the attorney general, replacing them with Bukele sympathizers.

In 2019, “there were three separate branches of government” in El Salvador, says Geoff Thale, president of the Washington Office on Latin America. “Now there’s one.”

The moves raised immediate condemnation, both abroad and at home. There was little regard for the constitutional process in removing and replacing the justices, critics say, confirming long-held concerns that Mr. Bukele was adopting an authoritarian leadership style. But his vast popularity – with nearly 90% approval in recent polls – and wins through free and fair democratic elections complicate efforts to convince Salvadorans that this concentration of power is risky for the country’s democratic health.

“The panorama is really challenging, but there are things that can be done” to correct course, says Leonor Arteaga Rubio, program director at the Due Process of Law Foundation in Washington, and previously a deputy in the Salvadoran Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman. Other countries and international organizations need to condition aid packages and consider individual sanctions, she says, and Salvadoran civil society should strengthen civic education and engagement.

“What worries me most right now is the citizen backing” for actions that weaken institutions and do away with checks and balances, she says. “I fear that when Salvadorans realize what has happened, it will be too late…. They will stick with him as long as he is resolving their problems.”   

Jose Cabezas/Reuters
Representatives react as they vote for the removal of Supreme Court judges in the Salvadoran legislature in San Salvador, El Salvador, May 1, 2021. The dismissal of five judges and the attorney general has prompted international criticism.

“FIRED!”

Mr. Bukele has gained widespread support for his populist agenda, including an iron-fist approach to fighting organized crime, promises to weed out corruption, and his tough handling of COVID-19. Many voters appreciate his rejection of the two main political parties that led the country since the end of its 12-year civil war in 1992.

The media-savvy leader tapped into that support to defend his party’s moves over the weekend. Directly following the vote to replace the five judges serving in the constitutional chamber of the top court, he tweeted that it came down to the will of the people: “And the people of El Salvador, through their representatives, said: FIRED!”

For Guadalupe Alfaro, a vendor in the capital San Salvador, the dismissals were the right decision.

“I don’t get why there’s so much drama around this,” says Ms. Alfaro, adding that previous governments replaced public officials, too. These judges “were saying everything was unconstitutional and it’s hard to govern when you’re dealing with enemies. It’s fine to have opposition, but not enemies.” Legislators argued the justices had unconstitutionally impeded the government’s ability to adequately respond to COVID-19 by ruling against some of Mr. Bukele’s pandemic restrictions.

Marcela Galeas, a lawyer and analyst in San Salvador, fears citizens supporting the judicial overhaul aren’t thinking long-term. “We have a climate of judicial insecurity, and constitutionally speaking it’s made the guarantee of individual rights more vulnerable,” Ms. Galeas says. “This near-absolute power means the law can be applied disproportionately and anyone of us could be at its mercy.”

Mr. Bukele isn’t writing a new playbook. Critics point to examples of countries that have eliminated checks and balances of the judiciary in the past as cautionary tales. From Nicaragua to Venezuela to Honduras, there are plenty of examples of governments manipulating the judicial branch – often with popular support – to extend presidential term limits or wipe out the opposition.

“Do all presidents seek to have allies on the Supreme Court and in the attorney general? Yes. That’s a political reality,” says Mr. Thale. But “most presidents and governments recognize there needs to be a degree of independence, and Bukele has abandoned that.”

Jose Cabezas/Reuters
People hold signs reading "Respect for the constitution," as they protest against the removal of Supreme Court judges and the attorney general by El Salvador's legislature, in San Salvador, El Salvador, May 2, 2021.

Riding high…for how long?

But it isn’t a given that support will stay high, Mr. Thale warns. “Presidents who adopt these kind of measures tend to lose popularity or support, because they don’t succeed in improving daily life.”

That’s key to the international community’s next move, observers say. Many are calling for the International Monetary Fund to pause negotiations on a key loan, or for the United States to condition its development aid on El Salvador’s commitment to its institutions’ democratic health. But these are tricky options: Withholding loans or aid could increase economic instability, generating more migration. Yet the instability and political impunity that may emerge from meddling with the judiciary could drive even more down the line.

And for some, the immediate fallout from the judicial overhaul has raised the most concern. Mr. Bukele doubled down on his contempt for the international outcry the day after the vote: “To our friends in the international community: We want to work with you, trade, travel, get to know each other, and help where we can. Our doors are more open than ever,” he posted on Twitter. “But with all due respect: We’re cleaning our house … and it’s none of your business.”

On Monday, the president met with foreign diplomats in San Salvador for a meeting that attendees said they were promised was private. It ended up aired on national TV.

Andrea Alvarez, a homemaker in San Salvador, says she is on board with dismissing the judges and the attorney general – it’s the way things go in politics, even if it is generating “uncertainty,” she says. But the president’s reaction to the international community has her concerned.

“You can’t act this way … that doesn’t make our country look good. I think this can have some very negative consequences in terms of diplomatic relations.”

Stark choices

Other countries in the region have started down concerning paths for democracy, yet managed to change course. An extreme case is Chile: During dictator Augusto Pinochet’s rule, international pressure led his government to allow a 1988 plebiscite, which resulted in the end of his rule. Others point to more recent examples like Bolivians taking to the street to protest President Evo Morale’s claims to winning a fourth consecutive term in a contested vote, or Peruvians last year turning out en masse to protest what was largely viewed as a legislative coup, after congressmen swiftly ousted a president on questionable charges.

“These countries started down these paths toward concentrating power in one branch or another,” says Ms. Arteaga. “They aren’t perfect parallels, but due to some kind of intervention – most often citizen, sometimes international – they were able to get their democracies back on course.”

She hasn’t lost hope for El Salvador, but she’s disappointed.

“It doesn’t surprise me, but it pains me that we haven’t learned as a country the high cost of giving a blank check to a president,” she says. “The themes of delinquency, crime, and poverty are really strong in El Salvador right now. And citizens are prioritizing their survival over themes of democracy.”

Consolidating power and weakening institutions are “abstract concepts compared to a president who arrives with food and financial aid,” Ms. Arteaga says. “That’s how they survive.”

‘This is a great story’: Whooping cranes make a comeback

Finding the right rules of engagement between people and animals is key to bringing endangered species back to healthy numbers. One corner of the Gulf Coast is trying to get it right.

Linda
Pat Sullivan/AP/File
A pair of whooping cranes walk through shallow marsh water looking for food near the Aransas Wildlife Refuge in Fulton, Texas, Dec. 17, 2011. Whooping cranes are vulnerable to predation and take a relatively long time to reproduce. Years may go by before a pair successfully raise a chick.

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Last month endangered whooping cranes laid eggs in Texas for the first time since the 1800s – a sign that recent reintroduction efforts have made slow but steady progress. Globally, whooping cranes now number over 800, with two of the largest populations in the United States living near Corpus Christi, Texas, and in southwest Louisiana.

Whooping cranes prefer to live in big, shallow, freshwater marshes. They’re vulnerable to predation and take a relatively long time to reproduce. Years may go by before a pair successfully raise a chick.

“Everything with whooping cranes takes time,” says Sara Zimorski, a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “So we’re still somewhat on the front end of this whole thing ... but we’re seeing some progress.”

Challenges do remain. People have shot and killed 14 cranes in the Louisiana group, which for a population of about 75 is a sizable loss. Public awareness and education are priorities for local conservationists and government agencies moving forward. 

But the progress is encouraging. The species has increased roughly fiftyfold in 80 years. “They’re resilient,” says Wade Harrell of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The species is on a comeback.”

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‘This is a great story’: Whooping cranes make a comeback

Last month, on a pair of rice and crawfish fields in southeast Texas, mounds of vegetation a few feet tall made modern history. The mounds were nests, built over the course of several days by two pairs of whooping cranes from Louisiana.

“Historically there probably were whooping cranes nesting in Texas, but it’s been an awful long time since that’s happened,” says Wade Harrell, whooping crane recovery coordinator at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“They’re resilient, and they can use a variety of different habitats,” he adds. “The species is on a comeback.” 

That’s cause for cautious optimism among conservation groups and government agencies that have been working for years – increasingly in partnership with private landowners – to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. 

The endangered whooping crane – North America’s tallest bird – last laid eggs in Texas in the late 1800s, it’s believed. Back then, the bird’s mournful, croaking call was widespread on the continent. Every spring they would migrate from the Gulf Coast to nesting grounds in the northern United States and Canada, returning to the Gulf every winter.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries/File
A whooping crane stands on a nest in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, March 5, 2018. A decade ago, a nonmigratory group of cranes was reintroduced to a marshland conservation area in southwest Louisiana.

But by World War II, there were fewer than 20 wild whooping cranes left, due to overhunting and the conversion of wetlands to farmland in the American Midwest.

Cranes make a comeback

Reintroduction efforts have made slow but steady progress. Globally, whooping cranes now number over 800, according to the International Crane Foundation (ICF). Among the largest populations in the U.S. are a migratory group that overwinter in and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Corpus Christi, Texas, and a nonmigratory group that was reintroduced to a marshland conservation area in southwest Louisiana in 2011.

Whooping cranes prefer to live in big, shallow, freshwater marshes. They’re vulnerable to predators and take a relatively long time to reproduce, not reaching adulthood for several years. Then, they have to find a mate for life, and many cranes are often unsuccessful with their first nests. It can take years for a pair to successfully raise a chick.

“Everything with whooping cranes takes time,” says Sara Zimorski, a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “So we’re still somewhat on the front end of this whole thing.”

“There are challenges and things that need to improve, but we’re seeing some progress,” she adds. 

The two pairs that nested in Texas this year crossed the border from Louisiana. Their nests weren’t successful – membrane and eggshell pieces on one nest suggest a chick hatched but didn’t live very long, according to Ms. Zimorski. But because both pairs were nesting for the first time, it wasn’t that surprising, she says.

“They get better with age and experience,” she adds. “Hopefully even a little experience with hatching a chick will give them a boost in the future.”

Calibrating crane and human interactions

Challenges do remain. People have shot and killed 14 cranes in the Louisiana group, which for a population of about 75 is a sizable loss. Public awareness and education are priorities for local conservationists and government agencies moving forward.

As whooping cranes become more numerous, they will inevitably come into closer contact with humans, with some choosing to settle on private land. To encourage a welcoming environment for the birds, a government program provides financial and technical assistance if landowners agree to preserve part of their land as wildlife habitat. Rules of engagement have to be clearly laid out, experts say, particularly during the sensitive spring nesting period.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Whooping cranes in Jefferson County, Texas, April 13, 2021. “The species is on a comeback,” says Wade Harrell, whooping crane recovery coordinator at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Like parents ourselves, that early stage is tiring and stressful, but worthwhile in the end,” says Dr. Harrell. “Let them do their thing so they can raise that next generation.”

Compared with recent history, at least, these are good problems. Young whooping cranes expanding their range means more interactions with humans, but it also means a catastrophic event like a hurricane won’t wipe out the entire species.

And it’s evidence that as the whooping crane population recovers, it’s also adapting to the modern era. Only 10 or 15 years ago, experts thought cranes might restrict themselves to coastal marshes. Now, they’re overwintering 80 miles from the Gulf and nesting in crawfish farms.

“The fact that they’ve gotten to this age, have bonded, and are doing what cranes are supposed to do, that’s just a milestone. It’s just fantastic,” says Liz Smith, ICF’s North America program director, based near Corpus Christi.

ICF has focused in recent years on raising public awareness of the migratory group that overwinters near the Texas Gulf Coast. Now, as that population expands up the coast toward Houston, ICF is expanding its operations up the coast as well. This year it hired its first staff member in Louisiana. “It’s not inconceivable,” says Dr. Smith, that the Texas group and the Louisiana group “will meet and overlap, which would be a great conservation success.”

As exciting as that prospect may be, it’s worth reflecting on how far whooping cranes have come, says Jeffrey Wozniak, an ecosystem ecologist at Sam Houston State University. The Texas population has doubled since he started researching it 14 years ago. A species that numbered under two dozen has increased roughly fiftyfold in 80 years.

“It shows you what hard work and good collaboration can result in,” adds Dr. Wozniak. “This is a great story.”

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How India lightens its crisis

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For journalists in India, these are head-twisting days. The government’s failure to deal with a surge in coronavirus cases has turned the news media’s attention to a part of society that has responded well: the millions of volunteers and small-scale donors who are assisting sick and destitute people during a COVID-19 wave.

For a country that has long ranked relatively low in charitable giving, India is coming on strong in weaving new levels of public trust. “There is ... an impressive supply of ordinary citizens, charities, private companies and even the odd public servant taking their own initiatives to mitigate the crisis,” reports The Economist.

Worldwide, levels of trust in government and news media declined last year, according to a survey by Edelman communications. But trust in nonprofits remains high, notably for their ethical practices, such as transparency, honesty, and public purpose. “Trust restores balance and enables partnership,” the Edelman survey found.

As the world watches India cope with a virus surge, it can also be witness to a society strengthening its social bonds. People are healing in more ways than one.

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How India lightens its crisis

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Homeless people line up for free food at a charity in Hyderabad, India, May 6.

For journalists in India, these are head-twisting days. The government’s failure to deal with a surge in coronavirus cases has turned the news media’s attention to a part of society that has responded well: the millions of volunteers and small-scale donors who are assisting sick and destitute people during a COVID-19 wave.

For a country that has long ranked relatively low in charitable giving, India is coming on strong in weaving new levels of public trust.

Stories of people feeding hundreds have gone viral. So have tales of social media “warriors” helping people find medical supplies. “There is ... an impressive supply of ordinary citizens, charities, private companies and even the odd public servant taking their own initiatives to mitigate the crisis,” reports The Economist.

On social media, too, big-name observers note the rush of giving: “We’re total strangers to each other, we’re donating, we’re trying to figure a way to end each other’s pain and suffering,” said famed Indian actor Kriti Sanon on Instagram.

One reason for journalists suddenly discovering this burst of charity is that an estimated 90% of giving in India is local and religious-based. Most of India’s 4 million nonprofits are small with only a handful of employees. Philanthropy by the wealthy has certainly grown – it hit a record high last year and is expected to go even higher because of the response to COVID-19. But says Meenakshi Batra of Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) India, “India has a strong culture of giving, but it largely remains unorganized and informal. Assisting others or helping strangers is viewed as a family or a community/religious obligation.”

Just before the pandemic, a CAF survey found 34% of Indians had helped a stranger, 34% had donated money, and 19% had done volunteer work. The next survey will likely raise those figures as a result of the pandemic. Also, people in India may have noticed the generous giving from Indians abroad, a diaspora estimated to be more than 32 million.

Worldwide, levels of trust in government and news media declined last year, according to a survey by Edelman communications. But trust in nonprofits remains high, notably for their ethical practices, such as transparency, honesty, and public purpose. “Trust restores balance and enables partnership,” the Edelman survey found.

As the world watches India cope with a virus surge, it can also be witness to a society strengthening its social bonds. People are healing in more ways than one.

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 Mother-love of God

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Whether or not our mom is still with us, and whether or not we have children of our own, we are all capable of feeling and sharing the love of our divine Mother, God – tenderly nurturing, encouraging, and protecting.

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The Mother-love of God

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

Love can seem difficult to define. But God is described in the Bible as Love itself, so I’ve found that’s a good place to start. This divine Love is more than fondness, parental commitment, or strong emotion. Words are inadequate to convey the magnitude of infinite Love, of what it is and what it does for each of us. But one way it can be understood is as the mothering nature of God that encourages, protects, and nurtures.

All of us, as God’s children, are enveloped in God’s mothering love, and are innately able to feel that love in our daily lives. But for a time, I couldn’t see anyone in my life that represented a mother figure to me. My own mother had passed some years before, and I prayed to see the ideal of motherhood manifested more tangibly in my experience.

And then came this inspiration: Be the Mother-love of God you wish to see in the world.

What? Me? I’d never even had children of my own! And yet the message was clear. I was to more actively express God-impelled mothering qualities toward others.

As we let God’s love for Her spiritual children, rather than a personal sense of love, inspire our interactions, healing is a natural result. Our role is to get our sense of ourselves as emotion-driven mortals out of the way, and to instead let divine Love shine through us. Human love, while commendable, isn’t powerful enough to heal as divine Love, the infinitely powerful God, does.

So each day I prayed, “Let the Mother-love of God shine in me so that others, too, will feel this love and experience healing.” This was not a personal ability I asked for. Divine Love is impersonal and shines continuously on all. It is stronger than unconditional human love, which loves in spite of flaws. Divine Love knows us as spiritual and flawless, loving in a way that heals problems.

I began to be more conscientious in expressing God’s love and asking God to help me be the answer to someone else’s need.

One evening, I had a persistent, compelling urge to go for a walk. I had gone only a short distance when I saw someone who looked distressed. Carefully I approached her and asked if she needed help. I was concerned because she wasn’t dressed for the cold, and the temperature was falling fast.

Yearning to help, I really prayed to know what to do. I gently asked if I could walk her home, as she had told me where she lived, and I offered her my jacket. She agreed and took the jacket. As we walked, she confided that she had recently moved to the area and was having a hard time settling in.

Mostly I listened and prayed to say the right thing, which in this case was very little. Meanwhile, I prayed silently to know that God’s mothering love was present and enveloping, embracing, and comforting us both. As we passed by the street where I live, I pointed out my house and said she could knock on my door if she ever felt she needed someone to talk to, and she would be welcome.

When we arrived at her house, she gave me back my jacket, threw her arms around me in a big hug, and disappeared into the house. Since then, I’ve seen her occasionally in the neighborhood, and she appears to be thriving.

To me this was a clear example of how praying to feel God’s love for all equips us to help others in times of need. Even the warm jacket I gave this individual to wear could be seen as representing a loving hug from the heavenly Mother that continuously watches over each of us.

How heartening it is to know that each and every person in the world is included in the loving embrace of God, whose Mother-love tenderly enfolds, guides, and protects Her dear children now and forever.

Viewfinder

Blossoms of friendship

Joerg Carstensen/dpa/AP
A woman walks through a cherry blossom avenue in heavy rain in Berlin, May 7, 2021. The trees were a gift from Japan, indicating friendship between the two countries and recognizing German reunification. A Japanese TV station launched a campaign to raise money to plant the trees, and citizens donated so generously that more than 9,000 trees were planted, beginning in November 1990 at Glienicke Bridge, which had symbolized Germany's division.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Thank you for joining us today. Please come back Monday, when I explore the question, Is politics the new religion?

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