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Response to Madeline Clark

To the editor:

This letter is in response to Madeline Clark’s recent Guest Commentary. I know Maddie slightly as our circles intersect occasionally. I am saddened to read of her profound discouragement in her efforts to build a better world.

I am oldish, but I remember well the painful idealism of my youth. It seemed my heart bled for all the pain in the world. How could humans be so cruel? What of truth? What of justice? I grew up at a time of social change. The civil rights movement struggled between peaceful protests and riots. Great leaders were assassinated. I went through college during the final years of the war in Vietnam; friends were injured there. It was a time of famine in Africa and Bangladesh. It was the peak of the Cold War with the threat of nuclear annihilation. We became increasingly aware of the fragility of our planet. I lived not far from the industrial toxic waste of Love Canal.

There were plenty of avenues in which to become active, but progress seemed imperceptible. It became clear to me that I could not carry the emotional burden inside myself for the inequities of the world. I came to understand that the most important thing was to live my life according to my values. My ideals have not changed much over the decades, and I continue to work for various causes. But realizing that the only thing I could really control was my own choices eased the emotional burden of an idealist living in an imperfect world. One does the work because it is a just cause without knowing whether change will come.

The wisdom of two great leaders comes to mind. First is Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The second is Mother Theresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

I am also much focused on communication, particularly on the art of listening. If we cannot listen to others without judgment, strive to understand what is behind their words, accept that there are different points of view, we build barriers instead of bridges. Above all, one must have compassion — compassion for all our imperfections.

Maddie, I hope you do not give up your ideals or your energy. And I hope you find the inner peace to carry on.

Peggy Wiltberger

Saranac Lake

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