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Leah Dunaief

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Here are three of my most feared words: what’s your password? I understand that passwords were designed to keep out the unwelcome in any digital circumstance. Early passwords worked for ATM machines. After all, we didn’t want anyone else to be able to get our money, right?  OK, so that was four numbers that we could remember, certainly easier than committing our social security number to memory, for example.

Not any longer do we enjoy such brevity. Now we are asked to use eight or 10 numbers and letters, the combinations of which must contain capitals, lower case, numbers and some other vital symbol, like an asterisk or a dollar sign or an exclamation point. And we are admonished not to use the same password twice for fear of opening the gates to financial ruination. I would bet the fact is, though, that the only person kept at bay by the request for the password is the password holder who has forgotten the sacred assemblage of letters, numbers and pound signs.

Further, needing the password makes no sense since the frequently asked question, “Forgot your password? Press here to make another,” often allows anyone to bypass the gate anyway. All the intruder has to do is come up with a new password, and they are in.

Some passwords are useful. Certainly, we don’t want just anyone to access our banking records if we bank online. And if we pay for a service, like a subscription to a newspaper, we don’t want an undesignated person to share it. But some of the pass requirements are just plain stupid. Who else but me cares how many steps I walk per day? Or how much sleep I averaged over the past week?? Or how much I weigh? Almost as soon as I apply for an app, I have to select a password to use it, even though the app is free.

Passwords are just one irritant of the digital age, however. As long as I am voicing my frustrations, let’s consider telephones and what has become of what was a perfectly helpful way to enter in conversation with another human. Just try to call an airline or an insurance company and see how long you are put on hold. Sometimes they will tell you that the operator will be with you in 28 minutes and ask if you would like them to hold your place in line and call you back. That’s civilized. Or the automated voice will try to shove you off to their website. But you cannot ask questions of a home page beyond the couple of programmed Q&As posted there. 

When you finally get a person on the other end, after pressing any number of buttons, they will ask you to hold for the correct extension, which will ring and ring and finally disconnect you. Then you have to start all over.

I recognize that there is an attempt to have a paperless world. I understand that companies are feeling pressured financially and are trying to cut down on personnel. But does the world have to get there by driving us to distraction first? Some technology is actually helpful. Instead of a password, some apps ask for fingerprint ID. Once you register with your thumb or whichever finger you choose, you need only to present that finger in the future, and you are immediately admitted. Why isn’t that more commonly used to authenticate the user? Or ask a personal question as the price of admission only the user would be able to answer, like the name of your junior high school or your first pet’s name. Sometimes I am asked two or three questions like that, but only after I have already offered my password. And usually it’s my mother’s maiden name, which by itself used to work but no longer. Not complicated enough, I guess.

One friend figured she had solved the password problem by putting all her passwords into one file on her cellphone. Only trouble? She has forgotten the file’s password. 

Pumpkin Pie. METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Here comes my favorite weekend of the year: Thanksgiving. It starts on a Thursday, as all good weekends should. We, the Dunaief Clan, have managed to extend it into three, even four days. We deserve no less. Like many American families, our immediate members are stretched across the entire continent, from the California coast to the middle of Suffolk County on Long Island, and from below the Mason-Dixon Line and the Florida Peninsula to the Gulf of Mexico. They need that much time just to get to Grandma’s house and back.

What’s waiting for them when they arrive? Food! All kinds of favorite foods. And love. Lots of love that bridges three generations with mighty hugs. Why, it even takes a good part of that long weekend before all the members of the family finish hugging each other, at which point we sit down to eat. We get back up some hours later, only to regroup for the next meal. We know we are among the fortunate in that regard and give thanks.

Food means so many different things. There are the traditional historic dishes that symbolize the meal eaten by the Pilgrims. But we have added so much more to the basics. And each person has a favorite that tickles them when they look at the offerings on the laden table and know it was prepared especially for them. Food is love, and special foods carry that message.

It still amazes me to be surrounded by the many members of my tribe. Almost 60 years ago, before I was married, there was just me. Then, three months later, there were the two of us, my husband and I. Now there are children and children-in-law, and their children and eventually, their children-in-law. Together we populate the dining room and fill the house with chatter and laughter.

One of the high points of the weekend follows Thanksgiving dinner, when we are still sitting around the table, digesting sufficiently until we can have dessert, and we tell each other what we are most thankful for that occurred in the past year. In that way, I get to catch up on some of the events in my loved ones’ lives, and they on mine.

Speaking of dessert, the pumpkin pies will be an issue this year. For all the Thanksgivings we have celebrated here, 53 to be exact, we have enjoyed the classic finale from The Good Steer. Their pies pleased all our taste buds, from my children to my parents, who would join us from the city during those early years. Alas, The Good Steer on Middle Country Road in Lake Grove is no more, the family having closed the business. 

So, faced with this significant void, I have done some research and have come up with replacements. Whether they will be acceptable remains a sensitive question. I’ve had a number of friends offer suggestions, and I thank them kindly because they understand how important it is to find an alternative source. After all, no two differently-made pumpkin pies taste the same. The result here hangs in the balance until Thursday eve. Keep your fingers crossed for me, as my reputation as the Best Thanksgiving Grandma depends on this important outcome.

Actually I have a monopoly on the title. Thanksgiving is always celebrated at our house. My in-law children know and accept that arrangement because I trade Thanksgiving for Christmas. That seems to work for everyone in the family.

This year, we have a special event to celebrate. My oldest grandson has asked the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with to marry him, and she has accepted. We will welcome her enthusiastically, and I will give thanks for the blessing of seeing our family continue to grow.

Wishing you all, Dear Readers, a Happy Thanksgiving with the foods you enjoy and the people you love, whether they be relatives or close friends or perhaps those you recently met and have chosen to share this celebratory meal. 

On this day, we are reminded that we are all Americans together.

The 2019 People of the Year event at the Three Village Inn. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Thanksgiving is almost here, and many of us are bustling about, packing for a distant visit with loved ones or making sure the house is in good shape to receive those traveling to us. For most Americans, it is our favorite holiday, defined by turkey and the trimmings. What could be bad about an eating holiday? The only skunk at the party is abandoned overeating, and most of us, wise from unfortunate past experience, try to avoid that.

The other thing that makes Thanksgiving special is the conscious awareness, again by most of us, of how much we have to be grateful for, including the community in which we live. It takes exceptional people to make a strong community, some of them leaders of organizations, others simply caring neighbors who go out of their way to help when help is needed.

In recognition of the many who enhance the quality of our lives, we publish a Thank You edition of the newspaper and website on the Thursday between Christmas and New Year’s. We call that issue, “People of the Year,” and we solicit suggestions for profiles from our staff, community leaders and especially from readers. 

We have been doing this for 47 years, since we started publishing, and we still haven’t run out of winners. In fact, the more we meet, the larger the circle grows. [Confession in the spirit of full disclosure: I used to worry that we would indeed run out of nominees.] Sometimes we get lots of suggestions for the same person. We’ve even had readers bring in petitions with many signatures to help us choose whom to profile.

Ultimately the TBR Editorial Board makes the final decisions, so if you disagree with any of the choices, blame us.

When we published only one newspaper, selection was fairly easy. As our editions grew, we produced a different slate for each. Recently, however, we have realized that what happens in Stony Brook can also affect Northport and vice versa, so we now publish a master list of sorts honoring those who have gone the extra mile on behalf of our communities. And by so doing, we have eased the strain on our COVID-reduced staff.

The purpose of the profiles, in addition to offering these terrific people our thanks, is also to give them a spotlight to help them with their work, which is usually ongoing. With that goal in mind, we refrain from writing in this issue about those who have retired or are deceased. However, those stories, along with many we couldn’t fit in, may become features in future additions.

We have tried, each year, to keep their selection a secret from the winners. They seem to enjoy opening the paper in print or on the web and finding themselves and their efforts acknowledged. Of course, it’s fun to be appreciated, then with the additional kick of it being a surprise. 

Until the year 2020, we invited the People of the Year to supper at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook, generally on a late Sunday afternoon in March. At that venue, we gave each recipient a framed certificate, spoke for a minute about why they were selected, then gave them the mic to elaborate on their work.

Many of the past awardees also attended each year. Based on how long the residents lingered over dessert after the last certificate was announced, we concluded that there was a lot of cross pollination among them, further strengthening our communities and their interactions. 

We stopped those suppers with the advent of the coronavirus, fearing the possibility of a super spreader event. With each passing year, we hope to restore that tradition. It was delightful for us and, we believe, helpful for the community.

So we will wait to see what happens in 2023 and if we can resume partying. We all hope for the start of an After Times.

Alarm clock concept

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

You wouldn’t know, of course, dear reader, but I almost always write this column each week at the last minute. Why? I could say it is to get in the latest news, or that I am so busy I can’t write it sooner, but that’s not the truth. The reason is that I am an incorrigible procrastinator. And even when I do write ahead of time and submit the column early, I feel so virtuous, and I want to extend that good feeling as long as I can, which causes me to procrastinate writing the next column until the last minute.

What’s more, I believe most people, and especially most journalists, are closet procrastinators, and that part of the appeal of journalism is the ever-present deadlines, without which we would do nothing but be sloths.

It’s much easier to be lazy. I like to sit on the back deck and just stare out at the trees and think. Perhaps that’s meditating, which would put a respectable spin on it, but it’s more just peacefully enjoying my thoughts and my ease. A deadline, however, does move me.

A recent TED talk, that my oldest son emailed me, confirmed my belief about the existence of multitudes of procrastinators. Tim Urban, a writer and blogger, is also a funny man when he offers a look “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator,” as the subject of his talk. He maintains that we have a rational decision-maker in our brains, who knows when we should get started on a project or chore, and also an instant gratification monkey, who overrides the rational decision-maker in favor of doing things that are easy and fun. There is, according to Urban, a third being we carry in our heads that is a kind of guardian angel. That one is the panic monster, the only being the instant gratification monkey is terrified of. The panic monster, after putting the whole system in chaos by arriving on the scene, successfully motivates us procrastinators to do what we need to do before the deadline.

So what do I do when I am heeding the instant gratification monkey?

I do all sorts of vitally important things, like cleaning out the pantry on my way to the computer keyboard. Of course, by the time I have finished, it’s time to start making dinner or going to bed. You can believe I have a neatly arranged pantry.

The New York Times print version is impossible for me to ignore, and it’s a perfect procrastinator’s tool. No matter how much of the daily issue I have read, there is always more to read, all of it equally important, of course. I carefully read the obits of people I have never heard of, and whose names I will shortly forget, but their lives must have great meaning for me right now.

Then there is the call of the wild from the kitchen refrigerator. I must be hungry, and surely there is something in there that I need to eat at this moment. If the frig fails me, I can resort to the organized pantry alongside.

We all need fresh air, especially if we are about to do something that requires some cognitive effort, so we should probably take a walk before we sit down to create. And after the walk, we need a bit of a rest, say a 20-minute power nap. And who was that we were supposed to call back? We should do it right now, before we forget.

Hey, we can’t begin working yet. “Jeopardy!” is on shortly. We’ll start immediately after the final question. That is, if we are not too tired. If we are too tired, we can always write that next column in the morning, before we go to press.

And that is how, after more than 46-and-one-half years of writing a column, I still do so at the last minute. The fault must be in my DNA. I’ll blame it on my mom. 

METRO photo

This is a rerun of last year’s explanation, updated for the current elections. 

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Inside this issue is a treasure trove of first-hand information about the candidates and the issues in the coming election. How do I know? Because we, the different members of the editorial board of Times Beacon Record Newspapers, personally interviewed people running for office across the three towns that we serve: Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington. The offices the candidates are running for are all local except for Congress, which means that these are the officials who will have the most direct effect on our lives. 

The positions range this year from county  comptroller and county clerk to state senators, and assembly men and women and Congress.

We asked them questions without bias, seeking only to understand who they were, what they believed and what we could expect from each of them, should they be elected — or re-elected, as the case might be. The setting in our conference room was relaxed, and we hoped comfortable, with opponents for each office seated together around the table responding to questions put to them by our editors and reporters. 

Sometimes there was only one candidate who  might be running unopposed or against a shadow opponent, but mostly there were two during each session. Most of the time, the hour went by calmly, but occasionally the opponents get testy with each other — they may even become openly hostile.

METRO photo

At one such session some years ago, one of the candidates invited the other out to the back parking lot “to settle things.” When the other began to take off his jacket, we quickly intervened. But there were no such flare-ups this year. 

The answers were timed in an attempt to get to the main ideas without running on too long. There was ample time at the end for each visitor to tell us anything more that perhaps we hadn’t elicited with our questioning. 

We discussed the candidates at the end of each hour and came to a conclusion for the endorsement. 

We have written up the details of each interview in a separate article for the election section. Most of the time, the editorial group was unanimous because the choices were fairly direct. But for a couple of races, we talked over the pros and cons of each candidate at length before making the selection. These endorsements are based on both the in-depth interviews and the considerable information we know about the incumbents since we have been covering them closely throughout their terms in office. Of course, after reading the stories, you may or may not agree with our conclusions. Our job is to get you thinking.

The many hours that are given to this task, throughout the month of October, are a service for our readers. We are privileged to enjoy an extended face-to-face time with those standing for election, and we feel an obligation to pass along whatever information, facts and impressions we gather during these sessions. We sincerely hope we help in the sometimes-difficult job of casting a responsible vote.

Each year we include in the election section a sample ballot that we are able to procure from the Suffolk County Board of Elections because readers have told us that it is a great advantage for them to receive the ballot at the voting poll already knowing how it is laid out.

Our editorial board is made up of staffers with different political leanings, but when we put our journalists’ hats on, we try to judge each race strictly on the merits of the opposing candidates. And while it is technically possible for me to be tyrannical about the final selections, that is almost never the case. We decide by majority rule.

Sincere thanks to the talented staff who join in this extra work each year. We truly believe that we are watchdogs for the people, and nowhere is that more necessary than in reporting about government and its office holders. We hope we have helped you, whether you read by newspaper and/or online. Now please vote. 

Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Gene Sprouse

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Last week I wrote about the pleasure of getting away, even for a day, and enjoying the foliage season in lower New England. This time I want to wax rhapsodic (well, in a manner of speaking) about the special places we love here in the neighborhood. 

Do you have such a special place? By which, I mean a place you go when you want to enjoy the beauty of the area, where you can sit and relax and let concerns just melt away for a few minutes. Or where you can go to think out troubles peacefully, deciding what to do next. Or maybe, you just want a bucolic walk.

One such location for me is the Frank Melville Memorial Park, not far from 25A and my office in Setauket, but nicely hidden from view. Opened in 1937 as a memorial to Frank Melville Jr., it was the brainchild of his wife, Jennie MacConnell Melville, and his son, Ward Melville. While it is privately owned, the park is open for the pleasure of the public every day from sunrise to sunset.

So who was Frank Melville, you might ask, and how did it happen that a park is dedicated to him?

Frank Melville Jr. started by selling shoes to the residents from his sailboat on a fixed schedule, as he and his family of wife and small children circumnavigated Long Island. Eventually, he founded the Thom McAn brand with J. Franklin McElwain, a New Hampshire shoe manufacturer, exactly one hundred years ago. Their first retail shoe store in New York, selling a few simple styles at a low fixed price, then expanded to hundreds of stores across the US, becoming the largest footwear retailer in the country with 1400 stores. The brand name was eventually bought by Sears 86 years later. 

As they grew wealthy, the Melvilles, who lived in Manhattan, bought a second home for themselves in Old Field, and became increasingly philanthropic, donating local land for community benefit, including what is now the campus for Stony Brook University. And it was Ward Melville, who visualized and created Stony Brook Village in 1941, the first outdoor mall in the country, and to this day, a fun daytime destination.

When I walk through the park, which surrounds the duck pond with leafy and varied greenery now changing colors, I marvel at the generosity and vision of the Melville family in fashioning such a jewel for anyone who wishes to enjoy its paved path, picture postcard views and many benches. It is such a place of respite for those of us who work just around the corner and those who come with their dogs from farther away. 

Dogs are welcome, as long as their owners pick up after them. We sat on one of the benches last Saturday and called out, “Hello, Dog,” to the various pooches as they walked by with their owners. The dogs immediately veered over for a pat, and sometimes the owners lingered for a chat. 

It was quite a social affair on a beautiful fall afternoon for dogs and people.

One of the people we met as we strolled along was Anita Lago, an energetic woman from Stony Brook who discovered the pond and the park eight years ago and has been coming over to enjoy the swans regularly since then. When she was found cleaning out the stray fishing lines and other detritus that might enmesh the fowl, she was offered a pail and a rake by the foundation that oversees the park and invited to be official. And so, she can be found at water’s edge, when she is not at her full-time job, a hard-working volunteer helping to keep the pond clean and the swans and other fowl safe.

The Frank Melville Memorial Park is supported by donations from a grateful public. It’s that kind of place, one that brings out the best in all of us as it gifts to us all year round.

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

It was time to get away, even for a day, and when better than on foliage weekend! So Saturday, we took the ferry to Connecticut and started up Route 8 to get to the Berkshires and the seasonal colors. Were we too late in the fall? Shortly after we left Bridgeport, our choice of time and place were confirmed. It was a perfect autumn day, sunny, bright, soft breeze, balmy even, and the colors burst upon us, the reds, oranges, yellows mixed with a still significant amount of green as we began to drive through the hills. No, we were not too late.

We had been concerned, too, about the effects of the summer’s drought on the leaves. We needn’t have worried. Perhaps, it wasn’t the most dramatic foliage we had ever witnessed, some trees were already bare, but it was brilliant enough to excite our eyes. We whooped around every bend in the road that presented us with a new palette of hills and color. 

The timing of foliage season has altered somewhat over the past few years. Climate change has impacted peak leaf peeping by extending the warmer weather that keeps trees green. Hence the optimal viewing time has also been delayed. This year, according to records, seems like it will clock in as the fifth warmest. So it turned out that our urge for an outing was right on.

Where to go?

The Store

While it was possible just to drive slowly, drinking in the scenery, it was also fun to have a destination in mind. We left the highway, or rather it left us as it ended in Winsted, incidentally, my dad’s birthplace, and we started on a local road that eventually led us to Southfield, the home of a long-ago college roommate with whom we had lost contact. She, and her family, as we discovered, no longer lived there, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the tiny town. Yes, it was one of those “blink and you will miss it” villages, but we didn’t blink. We parked and had lunch at The Store, a delightful coffee, pastry and sandwich shop with tables inside as well as out front. Happily installed in one corner of the patio with a turkey and avocado sandwich and a generous slice of chocolate-banana bread, to be washed down with ambrosial coffee, we chatted up the couple at the adjoining table, who were smiling at us.

In fact, it was the kind of day that prompted everyone to smile. There we were, amid glorious leafage, basking in ideal temperature and bright sunlight in the peaceful countryside. They told us their names, Paul and Julia, and that they were from Westchester County and celebrating their anniversary. For the first time, they were at leisure to do that because their two children, a son and a daughter, were at college. She was a psychologist, he worked in finance, and they had left their responsibilities behind to stay at the historic inn in the next village for the weekend.

They were fun to talk to, as was every other person who went by, walking their dogs. We asked each one if they knew the roommate’s family, but just about each one apologized and explained that they had only moved there 20 years ago. What a coincidence, we thought. They had all come more or less at the same time. It wasn’t until the next day that we realized what had happened those two decades ago: 9/11 happened. If one wanted to escape from a city to a safe and bucolic place, here was one such location. Perhaps that was what brought them there.

We stayed in the area, driving around, enjoying the typical New England white clapboard church with its distinctive steeple, the inn and the village common along with glorious Nature. Then, as night fell, we had dinner at the inn before returning home.

The next day, I felt as if I had been aired out.

Stock photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This message is for older people who are reading this column and may get COVID-19. The information may save your life. It may have saved mine.

Especially for older people, COVID is a deadly virus. What defines older? Let’s say, beyond 50. Now there is a medicine that dramatically reduces severity and possible death from this virus, but many Americans are not taking it. Its name is Paxlovid.

“Never really in recent history for a respiratory virus can I think of an anti-viral medication being as effective, demonstrated in scientific literature, as what Paxlovid has shown,” stated Dr. Rebecca Wang, an infectious disease specialist at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, when interviewed by The New York Times.

Both random trials and data from electronic health records have shown this medicine to be effective, particularly among older patients. The medicine works by inhibiting the virus’s replication once it invades the body. Its underuse is already associated with thousands of preventable deaths, according to Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the medicine department at the University of California, San Francisco.

“A large chunk of deaths are preventable right now with Paxlovid alone,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID response coordinator told David Leonhardt of The New York Times. He predicted that if every American 50 and above with COVID received a course of either Paxlovid or monoclonal antibodies, daily deaths might fall to about 50 per day, from about 400 per day.

So why aren’t people taking the medicine?

For one reason, Paxlovid, which is taken twice a day for five days, does leave a metallic taste in the mouth. So I found that by eating half a banana after each dose, I got rid of the unwelcome taste. I also got the benefit of a banana a day, which is a healthy and nutritious fruit containing fiber and some essential vitamins and minerals.

Another possible reason is the association of Paxlovid with “rebound,” a second session of the disease which can occur a week to a month after the end of the first round. Experts don’t know what causes the rebound. A rebound is possible even if the patient never used Paxlovid. And even if he or she did, perhaps a longer duration of the drug is necessary for some patients than the five days currently administered.

Research has shown that out of sample of 568,000 patients, 0.016% over 50 who used Paxlovid died. For a similar cohort of patients who did not use the drug, the death rate was four times higher or 0.070. But only 25% of patients eligible to receive the drug actually took it, even though it is available and free.

Thanks to my son, Daniel Dunaief, who has spoken with two infectious disease experts, we also have some local reaction to the drug. Dr. Andrew Handel, pediatric infectious disease physician at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, commented, “Hesitancy to take Paxlovid seems to fall in line with the general ‘COVID fatigue.’  COVID is clearly less lethal now than during prior surges, thanks in large part to vaccinations, but it still causes some hospitalizations. Those at highest risk of severe disease, particularly those who are unvaccinated, benefit from antiviral treatment if they are infected.”

Dr. David Galinkin, infectious disease expert at St. Charles Hospital, said, “The media has overblown this rebound experience. In the literature, about 10% of cases [have a rebound.] Like any other medication, people that could really benefit from Paxlovid [should consider it.] … We are still seeing people dying from this.”

Perhaps more doctors could be better informed about this drug. Additional information and encouragement are needed from the White House, and a lot more public announcements should be placed in the media to reach people. As has been the case throughout these last two-and-one-half COVID years, instructions have been changing, adjusted as the scientific and medical professions learn more about this pathogen. Proper treatment is still a work in progress.

Insomnia. METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Have you been waking up thinking at night? There is so much to think about, even to be deeply concerned about. There is COVID-19, of course. No one wants to get the disease, and if you already had it, you don’t want to get it again, as some people reportedly have. You also don’t want any of the long-hauler symptoms to afflict you: fatigue, brain fog, aches and pains, trouble breathing, dizziness, headache, and at least nine more on a reported list. In fact, the list is so comprehensive, it’s enough to give you anxiety, especially if you already have had the illness. Oh yes, and anxiety is also one of the symptoms.

Then there is the Ukraine. Normally a country that was somewhere in Eastern Europe, in the same general area as “Fiddler on the Roof,” now its whereabouts as Russia’s western neighbor are known around the world. We watched as Putin sent more than 100,000 soldiers to overrun its borders. Poor little Ukraine, horrid bully Russia. We are sending them an unprecedented amount of money and military aid, and we have lowered our national oil and gas supplies. Will we have enough resources if we are attacked? Even as we cheer the valiant resistance and success of the victims of naked aggression, we worry about Putin’s possible use of nuclear arms. He has over 2000 small such weapons, apparently, and it’s the Cold War all over again.

The problem of immigration was brought right to our door with the arrival of immigrants sent by southern governors of border states. They have been literally deposited here by the thousands via buses, and they have been humanely received, if we are to accept what we are told by the media. As I have written in this column before, they can represent an opportunity as well as a challenge for areas in need of Help Wanted. Indeed, I am now reading that some of the immigrants are put to work cleaning up the devastation wrought by hurricane Ian in Florida. They are even being sent back down there to help. Who knows what to believe?

If you are going into New York City, how likely are you to ride the subway? The reports of incidents underground are frightening. So are horrible, unprovoked attacks on the streets. Now, I grew up in the city, and I am used to all sorts of miserable statistics concerning crime there, but I somehow never felt fearful. With some eight million people, crime is unfortunately inevitable. And NYC isn’t even statistically the worst. New Orleans is. But somehow, these recent incidents seem more violent.

Climate change has finally penetrated national conversation. The destruction and deaths in Puerto Rico and now in Florida and the Carolinas caused by the last two hurricanes have made those of us who live on islands and along the shores more conscious of future threats. While there have always been hurricanes, some with even legendary force, the prospect of more and stronger blasts due to climate change has prompted scary instruction about emergency bags and escape routes.

Inflation and its direction are also of grave concern. Going to the supermarket now seems to net about half as many bags of groceries for the usual food budget. Restaurants have decidedly become more expensive, as they have to pay more to function. And home values seem to have stopped rising and begun to cool. The stock market, while it is not the economy, has dropped like a rock. That negates the “wealth effect” homeowners and investors feel that encourages them to spend more freely.

Heck, I even worry about the New York Yankees. Yes, they have won their division, and you might say, “handily.” That’s exactly the problem. The last time they won by a big margin, they lost their competitive edge, along with the series, remember? It even happened this year right after the All-Star break. Teams do better when they have to fight until the last minute.

Awww, forgeddaboutit! Go back to sleep.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Have you ever heard of reflective listening? While I like to think of myself as being a good listener, and really I should ask others who speak to me to make that determination, I came upon this new technique and thought I would share it with you.

Reflective listening is a communications strategy that involves two steps. The first is, if you are the listener, seeking to understand what the speaker is saying. So many times in our lives, we think we hear what the other person is saying, and it turns out we didn’t hear that person correctly at all. I think that is particularly true when on the phone or when reading a text or an email. We don’t have the benefit of seeing facial expressions or body language. And even when on Zoom, we don’t get a good look at the other person, nor do they have a good read of us.

Then the second step is to offer back the thought, and even the words of the speaker, to confirm that his or her idea was understood. Here is just a simple example between two people who sometimes quarrel that could be misunderstood.

“Do you want to go to a Yankee game with me Friday night for a change?” asks the speaker. 

The listener hears, “Do you want to go to a Yankee game with me?” as opposed to with another person Friday night, and so reflects back the question accordingly by repeating, “Do I want to go to a Yankee game with you?”

The speaker can then clarify with, “Yes, do you want to go to a Yankee game Friday night instead of going bowling?”

By repeating the words, the listener has given the speaker a second chance at making his meaning clear. The listener then answers, “Yes, I would like to go to a Yankee game with you Friday night.”

This is probably an oversimplification of how a speaker might be misunderstood, but the essence of the reflective listening is to pay respectful attention to the content and the feelings expressed by the speaker. The listener hears and then understands what is being said and lets the speaker know that she has gotten the message.

This kind of “checking out” requires responding actively while keeping focused completely on the speaker. It’s a step beyond what is normally thought of as listening. It’s reflecting back accurately on both content and feeling levels.

Reflective listening offers a number of benefits.  It lets the speaker know that they have been heard, understood, and perhaps, even cared for and supported, depending on the nature of the exchange. It gives the speaker feedback on what he or she said and how it was understood. 

It allows the listener to check his or her own accuracy in hearing what the speaker said. It avoids the illusion of understanding. It helps prevent what has been termed the “mental vacation” in which the listener is inattentive during conversation. It can give the speaker a second chance to focus on self, vent, sort out issues, express feelings and deal more effectively with emotions. 

It allows the speaker to move to deeper levels of expression at his or her own pace. It can help the speaker to articulate more clearly. It may help the speaker to arrive at a solution to a problem being voiced. It helps the listener clarify what is expected of him or her. It helps the listener to deal effectively with the issue, problem or needs the speaker raised.

In a confrontational exchange, it gives a couple of seconds pause, which might enable a cooling down.

In a social situation, it can create a climate of warmth between speaker and listener. In another situation, directions can be clarified by the listener. And as a technique in leading a group discussion, effective hearing, then repeating all points of view, is certainly required.

I hope you can see why I thought this one communication technique was worth sharing.