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Jewish World Review Oct. 12, 2001 / 24 Tishrei, 5762

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports

A new way of looking at things -- AS much as I love corresponding with my readers, particularly via e-mail, I've decided I won't be answering all of my mail anymore.

I still value each and every reader, and each and every piece of mail I get - which I will continue to read. And where I can quickly respond or just say "thank you" I will. (Hearing from my readers is the best way I know to find out which columns strike a chord and which ones, well, let's just say which ones strike a discordant chord.)

It's just that since the attacks of September 11th, I've realized something else: Time is incredibly precious, and my priorities have changed. So as much as I enjoy answering mail, if instead of spending a half hour or more every day doing that I can play a few extra games of "Candy Land, " for instance, with my little ones, I think (and hope) my readers will understand.

I've heard people say that a diagnosis of cancer can bring a strange blessing. Every day becomes more special, the things that used to annoy so easily are forgotten, the mundane becomes precious. This was certainly true for my mother as she fought (and finally succumbed) to the cancer multiple myeloma.

And it seems the horror of September 11th has had a similar effect. Churches are more full, filings for divorce are down, and there's little question that we are all hugging our kids a little more often and a little more firmly.

The idea of a war on our shores, one that targets civilians, has always been unthinkable - but no more. And so assumptions of safety in the midst of peace and prosperity are gone.

But of course these were assumptions, which were taken for granted, were never really guarantees. What's always been the reality of the fragility of life may now just be hitting a little closer to home. In the United States in recent years that reality has often been easy to ignore. We've achieved unprecedented levels of health and longevity here. The death of a child is rare, and living to 100 isn't. Relief from pain or discomfort is often no further away than the local drug store. Yes, many still suffer but what a change from only a few generations ago when life for most was, as Thomas Hobbes so famously put it, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

Naturally, I'm thrilled and thankful to be living with what was once unimaginable comfort. And no, I refuse as a result of the September 11 attacks to suddenly start living in fear. But I am resolved to start living with a much greater appreciation of life - and with a much keener grasp of its brevity.

And I'm more thankful than ever that, as a Christian, I can rest in the knowledge that my eternal life is secure. One of the mercies of September 11th, for me, is that the promise of that eternal life is more precious, more comforting, and more real to me than ever before - and with that comfort has come a renewed desire to grow spiritually. The attacks have also impressed upon me again the truth that when it comes to my children, my priorities should not only be loving, protecting and enjoying them in this life, not just helping them properly assume their own roles as responsible citizens in the world, but more than anything else directing their little eyes and minds and hearts to their own eternal well-being.

We've been told over and over again since the attacks to assure our children that they are safe. Yet my husband and I cannot assure them that they are safe in this world.. No one can. But we can help guide their hearts towards their Heavenly Father, so that no matter what happens to them here they are truly safe forever.

Anyway, I realize it may be a big jump to get from not answering all my reader mail to my children's eternal well-being. But I also think, and I'm thankful, that a lot of things in the wake of September 11 suddenly seem much clearer.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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