Compassion, In Quarantine

Faith SandlerCommunity, Giving, Immigration, Words of Faith

Martha, at left, and her late mother Evelyn Goldberg, longtime Scholarship Foundation volunteer and ardent supporter.

Today, July 18, is a landmark birthday for the only Scholarship Foundation team member whose seniority outranks mine, Martha Aronson. Suffice it to say that Martha qualifies on the basis of age for special shopping hours at the grocery and for precautionary quarantine in the age of COVID-19. In 40 or so years of commitment to the people and the purpose of The Scholarship Foundation, Martha has been staff member, donor, contractor, volunteer, and now co-chairs our centennial events committee. And in the 31 years that I have known her, Martha has continuously taught me by her constant example a practice of compassion. I consider her my colleague, dear friend, family.

Even in the midst of quarantine and all the anxieties of the times, a partial list of Martha’s contributions to the cause (of my wellbeing and of the organization we both work to strengthen) will tire even a much younger reader. In recent weeks, she has:

  • Delivered a peck of fresh peaches from the orchard to my door;
  • Called former board members to check-in and to update them;
  • Made sure to comment on every blogpost I publish;
  • Attended several online committee meetings and events; and,
  • Facilitated an unrestricted and completely unexpected gift of $330,000 to support students.

Over the years, we have shared births and deaths, accomplishments and disappointments, personal challenges, and vision for the future of the Foundation. I am afraid I will never repay her for all the ways she has fed me and the staff of the Foundation, from a steady supply of peanut M&Ms on her desk to suppers delivered in times of crisis to matzoh meal brownies at Passover. If you haven’t had Martha’s blintzes you have not truly lived.

It is just like Martha to give us a gift on her birthday. Unwrap it and you will find a lifesaving element: compassion. For Martha, it is second nature to be compassionate, a family trait that certainly spans the generations before and after her, and one which I have no doubt she has shared with every individual she has ever encountered.

Click this link to find a robust publication and an approachable academic definition of compassion. Scientists have found that compassion functions among us, teaching us “to suffer together.” Compassion arises when we are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. I’ve heard the word’s etymology is “walking together”, and that is exactly how Martha does it. She’s on the journey beside you, much as we accompany our students at The Scholarship Foundation.

Here is what Martha would like from you on her birthday: compassion in your relationships; compassion for your neighbors who struggle in the face of the diseases of COVID-19 and rampant racism; compassion for those who are without food or shelter or healthcare; compassion for the person you pass on the street who is lonely or in distress; compassion for those in pain of any kind. The beauty of this gift is that we can use it immediately; we are each able to begin now. Happy Birthday, Martha Aronson!

– Faith Sandler