Climb Out of the Cocoon

I’ve been obsessed with the events of September 11, like the rest of the world. I have no frame of reference for what happened and can’t even begin to understand how anyone can justify what happened in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

Going into a cocoon was a natural reaction to unspeakable horror. But now more than a month has gone by, and I think it’s time to get moving again — for our own good, the good of the country, and the good of the industry. While I’m no expert on psychology or group think, I’ve devised a list of things we can do that might help… a little.

Turn off the TV. I’m suffering from “round-the-clock-CNN-disease,” and it’s not great. My wife being Mormon, we have family home evening one night a week. There is no prescribed plan, just a time to spend with the family going for a walk, playing Chutes and Ladders (my record against my five-year-old Molly is 1,455 wins and 1,445 losses), or just talking about the day.

Talk to an old person or two. Are you going to be an old person some day? We all hope so. Find a retirement home in your area, and volunteer one hour per week. It’s not much time, and it’ll help you get your perspective about world affairs. Talk to people who lived through World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Learn from those who have been before us.

Subscribe to The Oxford American. Purely a selfish motive here. I’ve been reading this terrific magazine since it started several years ago. If you like wonderful Southern writing and quirky stories, this is for you. Unfortunately, it needs to sign up 3,000 subscribers by January to stay in business. It’s $19.95 per year, and you can subscribe by emailing at Its music issue (and CD) is worth the price by itself. Tell ’em Peter sent you.

Plan a big nonholiday party. Seems tacky to plan a big blowout party this year, doesn’t it? At my company, Whitlock ebs, we decided to adopt families from the Angel Tree program at one of our fine local malls. We don’t need a night of debauchery when people are going to bed hungry and cold in our town. It’s easy to get involved, and it gives everyone in the office a common goal: Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, realize that being hungry knows no religious boundaries.

Know that people are basically good. My last article dealt with the job market. I asked people to send me their resumes or let me know if they had projects for unemployed people to work on. The response has been tremendous. I’ve received close to 400 resumes and lots of offers for project work. I’m wading through them every day trying to set up connections. You may still send resumes or projects to me at

Bury a grudge or two. Close your eyes and think of one or two people you know that really piss you off. What caused the problem? I just finished reading an account of one branch of my mother’s family. My grandfather and a long-dead aunt didn’t speak for decades, and nobody could remember what started it. What a waste. End a grudge this week. It’s not easy, but I actually tried it. I called a guy that really screwed me professionally a few years ago. I told him that everything was OK, and it was time to bury the hatchet. I’m sure he’s wondering what the hell my motivation was, but it made me feel better. Clean out the psychic closet and move on.

Make work a bitch-free zone. How many of us take our jobs for granted? No more. Most of us should be happy as hell to have somewhere to go in the morning to be productive. Make every day at work count, like you do on the weekends. Take that extra project, lower the snide remarks by 10 percent, and keep the mood light — you’ll go a long way to improving your job security.

September 11 has forced most of us to wake up to the reality that we live in a hostile, dangerous world. It would be a shame if all those innocent people died in vain, and we turned into the barbarians we’re all waving the flags against. The only way to rise above this is to be a little nicer, a little more patient, and a little more grateful for what we’ve got.

Thanks for all the mail and the feedback. I try to get back to everyone within a few hours. I can be reached at

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