Aldrich Comes After Alcott Even in a Crazy World

If you wandered around the Marina del Rey, CA docks a few years back, you might have found my husband on his hands and knees, polishing the teak on his cherished sailboat. Sun and salt water are both tough on wood, so it was a job that constantly needed doing.


Polishing wood was therapeutic. Daily life is filled with activities that only give us delayed feedback. As the rabbi of a congregation, a business-owner, a husband and a father, it was frequently difficult for my husband to know how things were actually going. A discouraging week could be followed by a productive one, a brilliant speech could be followed by one that fell flat. Did we over-react or under-react to a child’s problem? In many cases, it is a matter of weeks, months, years and even a lifetime before we can gauge our success. 

Not so with teak. One sets out to tackle a worn, tired looking patch of deck and after applying polish, time and elbow grease that same area is a shiny pleasure to behold. Of course the change won’t last, but for a short while you know that the job is well done. 

My version of wood polishing is tidying up, and one of my favorite things to tidy is bookshelves. I love seeing favorite editions lined up neatly and I delight in greeting volumes I haven’t perused for a while. Last week, as the world spun out of control, I organized many years’ accumulation of children’s books. 


While the authorities that instantaneously knew that the murderer of church members in Charleston was motivated by racism but found themselves confused as to what could possibly have motivated the murderer of five military members, I sorted books. While politicians explained that giving nuclear weapons to those who hate us would bring peace, I alphabetized fiction. While newspapers covered up stories of violent crime unless the “right” people were the victims, I labelled biographies.   


Amidst it all, I prayed. Yes, I called my political representatives telling them of my concern about the Iran debacle and I took my own private steps to add merit to the world’s balance, but most of all, I prayed. The hatred for God’s guidance, the growing anti-Semitism and anti-Christianism in the world, the betrayal of America’s foundations and the irrational blame placed on Israel demand that we resist these ‘advances’ with all our human effort. However, we will only defeat them with God’s mercy and help. So, I pray for peaceful years when my grandchildren can cuddle up with books, their imaginations venturing far afield while their families and homes provide a safe and secure oasis among a world once again running amok.


13 thoughts on “Aldrich Comes After Alcott Even in a Crazy World”

  1. If you can, find Bess’ s book, Song of Years. It is a wonderful story. One of my all time favorite books. But, any of her books were delightful! A Latern in Her Hand is probably the most well known.

  2. Thank you, Ivonne. We actually have taught a Hebrew class in the past and for many years it has been on our ‘want to do’ list. One thing after another has pushed it off, but we do pray that one day we will be able to put out a Hebrew series.

  3. What a lovely note, Lynn, While everyone knows who Alcott is, my use of the name Aldrich earned me a few emails. The men asked why I was talking about Aldrich Ames in an article about books. I was actually referring to Thomas Bailey Aldrich (Story of a Bad Boy) but it could have been Bess Streeter Aldrich as well. I think I have at least one of her books.

  4. I love yours and Shannon’s way of dealing with the stress of day to day living. Reading is how I have always escaped from stress! When I started homeschooling my children in the 80s when it was almost unheard of, I would read at night so as to not over analyze if I was a successful teacher that day or not. I made it thru my first year as my children’s teacher with Anne of Green Gables. When I was recovering from a brain hemmorahge, I knitted cotton dish clothes. I started quilting a few years ago. Now I sew quilt blocks and listen to praise music. God is good to provide for us ways to calm our fears and settle our souls to focus on Him. I love reading your blog every week as it helps me put my thoughts into perspective. You are a blessing Susan. Have you any of Bess Streeter Aldrich books in your library?

  5. Ivonne Jaramillo

    Simply put, I love you and your husband. This love is born out of my deep appreciation for your show. The generosity that pours out of you both for all us is so endearing. You are so gifted as a teacher. I would love to learn the Hebrew language from you. Would you ever consider making a series of instructional videos on learning the Hebrew language. Perhaps, for beginners who have no previous knowledge at all of the language. I will be anticipating with hope and praying that your own show or videos teaching Hebrew would come to fruition. God bless you and your entire family and loved ones!

  6. Amen Mrs. L.! Sometimes we need to go offline and pour our attention on something productive and repetitive. The pieces usually fall into place without us looking.
    When the world gets to be too much for me I knit & crochet. You can tell the severity of the problem by the size of the project. A trifle usually is a scarf or arm warmers. Once I had a great deal of money stress on my mind- three days later a rather large afghan and a very happy person purchasing it because she liked the colors. I keep a small stockpile of fancy and soft yarns, like little soldiers in the war on stress. There is also a small cache of baby afghans ready to go whenever a friend announces a new addition.
    The gift of a quiet mind in my case is a double blessing- productive repetition and a loving keepsake for the receiver.

  7. What an apt and timely musing! What we take home from it is that there are things in the world that are too big for us. These things we must leave in the hands of God. There is another lesson: that while we cannot control all the things that happen to us in this world, we can control the attitude we take toward them.
    One positive thing we can always do: we can first set our own house in order. Our own house is better within our control and that house is part of this world. So that in itself may be an encouraging thought. Hey, I have 4000 books. I’d better get cracking!

  8. Thank you, Karen. Organizing the books was a way to use up nervous energy. I constantly need to work on remembering that God is in charge and that there is nothing I can do without Him.

  9. Thank you (and the Rabbi) for what you do.
    I so look forward to the Thought Tools and Ask the Rabbi that come to my inbox
    This week, your words are especially needed..
    I do trust God, but in my flesh, I think I should do more (take over)
    Thank you for reminding me of my what I can AND pray.
    You and the Rabbi are such a blessing to me

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