HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER

1. It’s Tuesday, December 12, 2017.

2. It’s the centennial of Boys Town, the charity for troubled children founded by Monsignor Joseph Edward Flanagan, aka Father Flanagan. From what I see on its Web site, it’s no longer solely aimed at helping boys.

Boys Town was into mail donation solicitations in a big way back in the day. It might still be, but I haven’t seen one in decades.

Its famous slogan, of course, was “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” and on the little stamps you were supposed to put on your Christmas cards was a drawing of a teenage boy carrying a smaller one.

That slogan, in turn, was the basis of a popular song of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s – among those recorded it were The Hollies, Neil Diamond and Righteous Brother Bill Medley.

The sentiment was that we’re supposed to help our brethren in need, no matter how difficult that might be.

3. It’s a sentiment that seems alien to 2017.

You don’t have to look far to see that.

This morning, Ed Lee, the mayor of San Francisco, died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 65. It must be a terrible day for his family, for his friends and for the people in the city who elected this man twice.

So do yourself a favor. DON’T look at the Twitter mentions for Ed Lee. Because there’s a strong push at this moment of pain in San Francisco to express hatred toward this man.

Lee was mayor of one of the nation’s most liberal cities and supported, as does many other people – including me – the concept of sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants.

The irrational antipathy toward these immigrants so consumes some folks – many of whom claim to be Christian but seem to have no concept about Christian principles – that their glee in the mayor’s death is unbridled.

I don’t know enough about Boys Town to know if it’s true to the ideals it proclaims. I do know it has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the charity evaluator, so somebody believes it’s pretty honest.

4. But what about it that needs to be rekindled in an awful lot of Americans is the idea that we sometimes need to help the people around us. That includes the undocumented.

Sometimes they can’t do it on their own. Sometimes they’re trying to make their lives better.

Yeah, they didn’t file the paperwork. They didn’t wait to starve to death or get savaged by criminals in their native land.

But the reality is they’re here and they’re contributing to our society. They work at a lot of jobs that people born here don’t want to do but need to be done. They pay taxes – which, looking at the Trump tax plan, is apparently something people with multi-billion-dollar hedge funds and real estate developers don’t want to do.

So the hatred is preposterous and sad. The viciousness – which extends toward to life of a pretty devoted public servant – reflects ill on the people who spew it.

And, because it’s virtually encouraged by the occupant of the Oval Office, it diminishes our nation.

No one in need today – not the undocumented, not the still suffering victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, not homeless veterans, not those suffering the ravages of drug abuse or anyone else you can think of – is so much a burden that we can’t bear it.

They ain’t heavy. They’re our brothers and sisters. On this Tuesday – the day before Hanukkah, 13 days before Christmas and about 100 days after the end of Eid al-Adhr – that’s what we need to remind ourselves.

5. On this day before the first night of Hanukkah, I’m thinking fondly of the folks for whom new memories of family and friends will be kindled – and old memories glow warmly – with the lighting of a candle.

Enjoy these eight days: Hanukkah comes once a year, but Hanukkah 2017 – or 5778 – is only now. Best wishes to all.

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