Caryl Donnelly Plunkett

Caryl Donnelly Plunkett

 An Appreciation by

 William O’Shaughnessy

 September 11, 2015


I once received by U.S. postal service a letter from a William Plunkett, Esquire. As I usually do not open letters from practitioners or solicitors of the Law, I did not rush to retrieve said missive from Plunkett, Esquire. “You’d better open it,” said Cindy Hall Gallagher, amanuensis without whom my life would resemble a seven car pile-up.

Mercifully lacking any of the usual bad news conveyed by your typical lawyer’s letter, I found instead a very nice note from this Mr. Plunkett, Esquire complimenting us on a tribute we had broadcast over the radio airwaves. He called it a “eulogy.”

Now as I do not like to do eulogies or even think about them, I quickly deposited the compliment in our very thin “nice letters” file which in bulk, depth and volume, pales in comparison to our “not so nice letters” file which after some 50 years is fairly bursting out of the file cabinets.

When he wrote his gracious note some years ago, I’m quite certain William Plunkett never anticipated that I would one day take pen in clumsy hand and sit over a pad with lines across it onto which I must now write words and later speak them into a radio microphone about the passing of one Caryl Donnelly Plunkett who died earlier this week after some 70 years as the matriarch of a powerful and influential New York and Connecticut family. She was his wife, this Caryl Donnelly Plunkett.

All of this must be told on this particular radio station because Caryl and her husband Bill Plunkett, barrister, lived together for many years in Tarrytown, in Sleepy Hollow country, where they were neighbors of the Rockefellers and patrons of Historic Hudson Valley and Phelps Hospital.

Our colleagues in the public press and especially our friends at Page Six always refer to Caryl Donnelly’s surviving husband Bill as a “power broker” and “king-maker.” On the morning after the worst night of his life when Mario Cuomo lost to George Pataki, Mario Cuomo was on the phone “Do you know the Plunketts?”

Plunkett, you see, took a law firm once called Plunkett & Jaffe and built it into a legal and lobbying powerhouse with lines into the Executive Mansion and the New York State Legislature in Albany. This occurred when one of his junior partners George Elmer Pataki became governor and another partner – the estimable John Cahill – started thinking about running for attorney general. It was also at this time that a daughter of Caryl Donnelly and William Plunkett advised governors of Connecticut on judgeships. One of the firm’s clients owns a big chunk of Ground Zero real estate and their children are making their mark in law enforcement, real estate and high finance. And a son-in-law who practically ran the Justice Department in Washington, may one day be a governor of Connecticut. But this is about Caryl Donnelly Plunkett who left us just before the current, sad September weekend.

And if you lay the appellation “power broker” on her famous husband you have to also acknowledge that Miss Donnelly was very much The Power behind the kingmaker. They especially know of her standing and stature up in the Litchfield hills of Connecticut where this amazing Caryl Plunkett was identified as one of the fabled Donnelly girls of Bantam Lake where the Plunketts summered each year before life turned sad and difficult as she battled the cancer that took her a few days ago.

A man named Jim Lamond walked out of Murphy’s Pharmacy this morning with his fancy dog and the daily newspapers with tears in his eyes after being told of Caryl Donnelly’s passing. And Mark Murphy, an affable, gregarious townie who, with his sister Marla runs this old-fashioned family drug store, went suddenly silent. And Father Robert Tucker, the charismatic, most colorful pastor of Saint Anthony’s, the Roman church in the little town, was on the phone requesting prayers for Mrs. Plunkett. In his most direct manner and completely typical way, the priest Tucker even directed an Irish broadcaster to weigh in with prayers.

“Look … I’m desperate … I’ve even got to ask you, O’Shaughnessy. This was a special person. Start praying.” As Tucker is a “Three Hail Mary’s for a homicide” priest and known in these parts as “The God-Father,” I quickly mumbled some prayers for all the good they will do.

Timothy Dolan, the Cardinal archbishop of New York will have more to say and do it much more artfully and gracefully than I am able at 1:30 Monday in the Cathedral of Saint Patrick in New York City.

It is almost certain he will speak of her influence “behind the scenes.” I know, I know preachers have spoken for years about women who were “powers behind the throne.” They struggle to find a way to exalt and memorialize a woman’s standing and stature in marriages and in our midst. They do this with many words and elegant paragraphs. I don’t struggle with this refrain. I have just two words to sum up the category: Caryl Plunkett.

Dolan will speak to those assembled of the clout of the Plunkett family and of Caryl’s personal dynamism, energy and effervescence. And Timothy Dolan will then look out in the great cathedral on Fifth Avenue and acknowledge her generosity of purse and spirit and recite how much she did for Catholic charities, hospitals, religious orders and high schools in his care and keeping. This will take some time.

One can expect His Eminence will also speak of Miss Donnelly-Plunkett’s bravery and courage as she checked in and out of hospitals all up and down the East Coast as she refused to yield to the killer that pursued her for almost 10 years. At the Sloan-Kettering hospital where they daily battle this lethal stuff, she was known as “Lazarus.” The priest Dolan, who slipped into Sloan-Kettering earlier this week without staff and miter or the trappings of his high Roman office to whisper prayers into Caryl Plunkett’s ear won’t have to work too hard to get this particular dame into Heaven.

And then, on Tuesday, up in Litchfield, the aforementioned old country priest Robert Tucker will say final prayers over the woman as she is laid to rest.

She was a high church lady who presided over a family that rivaled the Maras and Rooneys and she was a Dame of Malta, the fabled international Catholic charitable organization.

Mrs. Plunkett had homes in Westchester, Connecticut, the Carolinas and Florida and she was known on the Sleepy Hollow fairway overlooking the Hudson River. Such disparate types as Paul Tagliabue and Senator Lamar Alexander would take a Plunkett call in every season.

Caryl Donnelly Plunkett leaves two daughters, many sons, a whole posse of grandchildren.    And that one husband.

The goodness and marvelous spirit of the woman will inspire them – and all of us – for a good long time.

I hate eulogies …

“Those People”

Donald Trump’s unfortunate remarks about Mexicans took us back a few months to a very unsettling piece in the Westchester daily newspaper about some dedicated, hard-working employees of the American Yacht Club in Rye who were let go following a surprise visit to the club by Homeland Security.  Most of them were Mexicans who have been in this country for a good, long time.

I know many of these foreign born and their sad story really set me to thinking about all the essential contributions immigrants – “legal” or otherwise – make in our lives.

But it must first be here noted that Barack H. Obama, the particular individual who is the current president of the United States of America has deported more aliens than any previous inhabitant of the White House.  And be advised as well that in certain rarified parts of Westchester and in our better neighborhoods they are referred to as “those people.” 

Here is what “those people” do for us just to earn a living.  They cook our meals,  set our tables, wash our dishes, scrub our floors, haul away our trash and garbage, weed our gardens, plant our flowers, cut our grass in the spring, rake our leaves in the fall, shovel our sidewalks and plow our driveways in the winter, iron our shirts, wash our laundry, clean our toilets, style our hair, cut our toenails and buff our fingernails, baby-sit and pick up after our kids (and our pets), walk our dogs, fumigate our houses, tote our bales, shine our shoes, sell us Lottery tickets, drive our school buses, sow and harvest our fields, grow our vegetables, muck our stalls, cobble our shoes, tend our vineyards, sweep our streets, paint our fences, pick up our litter, gas up, wash and fix our cars, repair our roofs, shoe our horses, carry our heavy, leather golf bags across hot Westchester fairways, manicure the greens at our fancy country clubs, haul boats at our yacht clubs, hoist our banners and club burgees, move our furniture, play in our orchestras, mend our clothes, sew our buttons, empty our bedpans, push our wheelchairs,  dig our graves, flip our pizzas, butter and schmear our bagels, stir our cocktails and pour our drinks, make our beds, park our cars, stack our plates and bus our tables …

In addition to the above-mentioned “services” which they daily provide, “those people” also enrich our culture and our lives.

All of which brings a stunning flash of Déjà vu. 

Because we’ve been there.

And done that … when it was the Irish and Italians who attended to all these most necessary things. 

It was not … too … long … ago.

This is a WVOX and WVIP commentary. 

This is Bill O’Shaughnessy.


The Contender

A WVOX and WVIP Commentary
by William O’Shaughnessy
March 26, 2015

The brilliant Vanity Fair contributor Michael Shnayerson has written a much heralded book The Contender about Andrew Cuomo which comes out next week.

Everyone awaits Mr. Snayerson’s findings re:  the Governor.  Meanwhile, here are some lovely recent descriptions of New York State’s chief executive compliments of the local media:

Andrew Mark Cuomo is tough, blunt, obsessive, intense, driven, ambitious, dour, controlled, controlling, impatient, abrupt, cantankerous, inscrutable, difficult, brittle, sensitive, formidable, aggressive, self-confident, pragmatic, competitive, tense, distant, acerbic, fixated, reclusive, private, combative, workmanlike, prodigious, relentless, goal-oriented, tactically astute, strategically brilliant, mechanical, adept at stagecraft, sharp-elbowed, parochial, not cosmic, centrist, business-like, strong, does whatever it takes, makes it happen, disdains rhetoric, prizes results, honest (per Mario himself) and straight as they come (also per Mario), bright, powerful, effective, taut, dynamic, suspicious, guarded and shrewd.

As you may have noticed, Andrew Cuomo has been called All of The Above by our colleagues in the public press.

But to all of these descriptions and appellations must fairly be added:  brave and courageous (as witness his fracking ban … tough gun control laws … same sex marriage … reining in the teachers unions … property tax freeze … estate tax reduction).

And one thing more.  He is a son of Mario Cuomo.  And in his best moments, Andrew resembles Mario Cuomo and can inspire, motivate  and encourage … as he did so memorably,  gracefully and beautifully at his late father’s funeral             Mass in New York City.

No one knows the levers of government like Andrew. He’s a brilliant tactician.  And he’s had to be a tough guy to clean up the detritus left over from the Spitzer-Paterson era. 

But now … now he’s got to start to “reveal” more of himself as he did praying over his father in that Jesuit Church on Park Avenue on January 6th, 2015.

He’s come this far by being a no-nonsense, eminently practical, Clintonesque, mechanic.

But if he’s going to go beyond the sturm und drang and minutiae of governance here in New York State … he’s got to once more be Mario Cuomo’s son and heir.  He has that ability.

And like his father of sainted memory … Andrew can inspire.

He hears the music.  He’s got the stature, the cadence, the rhythm, the passion, the genes … if he will but give more of himself.

Andrew is great at the prose.

Now it’s time for some poetry.

And music …

He could yet be a president.  And a great one.



William O’Shaughnessy

WO Statement re: Hon. Ernie Davis Sentencing

“I know that – in the heat of the moment – he may have called our colleagues in the public press ‘gangsters’ …

But I remain convinced that Ernie Davis is a good, kind and decent man and that rare political figure who really cares about people.

Although the year of Probation will be a burden on this 76-year old man … it’s nothing at all compared to locking him up for the omissions and mistakes to which he pled. 

Judge Davison has rendered his decision with great wisdom and compassion.  And Mayor Davis’ friends and admirers – and I am among them – thank His Honor for his empathy and understanding in a very difficult case concerning, as the Judge found, ‘a first offender on two misdemeanor counts.’

Having observed Westchester and New York State public officials for over 50 years – I remain convinced that Ernie Davis is possessed of a great and good heart and a deep and abiding love for the people of his beloved Mount Vernon.

As I previously indicated to Judge Davison:  ‘I’ve constantly observed, with great sadness, that men and women of real quality will not submit to the rigors of public service. But there are exceptions like Ernie Davis’.”         



William O’Shaughnessy

914-235-3279     914-980-7003

Interview With Mario M. Cuomo re: Pope Benedict … the Catholic Church … his own life … Ed Koch … Mariano Rivera

Originally posted on The O'Shaughnessy Files...:

William O’Shaughnessy

Interview With

Mario M. Cuomo


Re: Pope Benedict … the Catholic Church …

his own life … Ed Koch … Mariano Rivera


February 11, 2013

WVOX and WVIP Worldwide


“It would be wonderful if we could all get one more shot at it…to be given the opportunity to go back and do it over.”


No Pope has given up the miter or the keys to the kingdom in 600 years … but it happened this week.  Governor Mario Cuomo, you’re a great student of things theological and you’re a son of the Church … what do you think about the Pope walking away from it and hanging it up?



What the Pope did, it appears to me, was a practical, selfless, intelligent decision.  He is a man who has worked very hard for a long time.  He’s now concluded that…

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Interview with Governor Mario M. Cuomo

Originally posted on The O'Shaughnessy Files...:

The Morning After

The 2012 Presidential Election

William O’Shaughnessy

Interview with 

Governor Mario M. Cuomo

November 7, 2012

WVOX & WVIP Worldwide


We’ve broadcast many interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo which have also appeared in my four previous books for FordhamUniversity Press.  On the morning after Barack Obama was elected to a second term (which surprised the hell out of my Republican friends!) we again summoned up Mr. Cuomo’s wisdom.  Now in his 80th year, the Governor retains a keen interest in the great issues of the day.  In this delightful – and insightful – conversation, the man the Boston Globe calls “the great philosopher-statesman of the American nation” has some sage advice for the President as he begins his second term.  And as usual, it’s accompanied as well by Mario Cuomo’s great wit and charm.  Once again I didn’t lay a glove on him and I…

View original 2,329 more words

Gov. Mario M. Cuomo remarks at The Omega Society

Governor Mario M. Cuomo
The Omega Society
Sheraton New York
April, 2005
New York City


A Meditation on Ultimate Values

When I was asked by a representative of Omega to give the closing remarks following the galaxy of distinguished individuals you have already heard, I said I probably could not add much to the intelligent, subtle and splendid articulations that they were sure to deliver.

The representative said “You probably can’t, but as a former three-term governor and still active political voice, you may be able to tell us something about how politics and government might affect our search for meaning, truth and a sustainable future.” 

“That input” – he said – “could be especially relevant given the frightening implications of 9/11 and other current calamities.”

# # #

I agreed to try.

Actually, I attempted to do something similar some years ago when we were in the midst of another troubling period that created greater than usual uncertainty, agitation and anxiety.  Another period when people’s search for meaningfulness intensified.

On that occasion the title of the conference was “Who (or What) is God?” with “God” being the undefined and undefinable label given to ultimate meaning and direction.

# # #

I addressed the question then, as I do now, certainly not as a scholar, or a theologian, or an apologist, but as an ordinary New Yorker—from Queens, from asphalt streets and stickball, from a poor and middle-class neighborhood—who made a living, helped raise a family, and found his way, somewhat improbably, into the difficult world of politics.

I do it as a person who struggles to keep a belief in God that he inherited; a Catholic raised in a religion closer to the peasant roots of the simple Sunday mass practitioners than to the high intellectual traditions of the Talmudic scholars, elegant Episcopalian homilists, or abstruse Jesuit teachers.

The simple folk of South Jamaica, Queens, who came from the tenements and attached houses on Liverpool Street, perceived the world then as a sort of cosmic basic training course, filled by God with obstacles and traps to weed out the recruits unfit for eventual service in the heavenly host.

The obstacles were everywhere.  The prevailing moral standard was almost impossibly high:  if you liked it, it was probably a sin, if you liked it a lot it was probably a mortal sin.

Their fate on earth was to be “the poor, banished children of Eve, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears,” until by some combination of grace and good works—and luck—they escaped final damnation.

For many, if not most of them, their sense of who or what God is was reflected in the collective experience of people who through most of their history had little capacity to learn from the exquisite musings of philosophers and theologians, and little chance to concern themselves with helping the poor or healing the world’s wounds.

They were the poor, the wounded.

It was a cold voice these people heard from God on Beaver Road, next to a cemetery across the street from St. Monica’s Catholic Church, where a famous ex-jockey, one of the homeless winos, froze to death sleeping in a large wooden crate. 

No doubt there were others in America – millions indeed – who felt content with the world as they found it.

But for most of the people in my old neighborhood, it was hard to see God’s goodness in the pathetic faces of the customers in our small grocery store who pleaded with my father for bread, and maybe some cold cuts—till the next relief check came in.

It got harder still, during and after the Second World War, when the best we could say about victory was that the new terror was put down… for a while.

And a gold star in a window announced that someone’s son had been killed, his mother’s prayers at St. Monica’s never answered.

It was hard for them to believe God spoke at Hiroshima either.

Who could blame these people for feeling that if God was not dead, he must surely be looking in another direction?

Others reveled in what they believed was the cultural liberation and enlightenment of the sixties, but for most of the people of Saint Monica’s the sixties were remembered for Vietnam and the sadness memorialized by Simon and Garfunkel: “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio—our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.  What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?  Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away.”

No more John F. Kennedy, no more Martin Luther King.  No more Bobby Kennedy.  Nothing to believe in.  Nothing to grab hold of.  Nothing to uplift us.

# # #

People weren’t asking “Who is God?”  They were asking… “Is there a God?”

The same question many were asking after 9/11 and after a preemptive war in Iraq in the name of liberation, that killed more than 40,000 human beings, most of them innocent civilians; and after Rwanda and the grotesquely lethal tsunami.

The same question many ask today when a child dies in a crib—inexplicably.

Many of us find a way to go forward resigned to a world that has no answers to the biggest questions.

# # #

For some of us however the burden becomes intolerable; the absurdity of a world without explanation is almost too much to live with.

Our intellects push to find a rationale, an excuse… anything to take the place of despair… some fundamental belief or belief system, some dominant purpose in life—an absorbing activity, a benign crusade, a consuming passion for romantic sex, or music or art, something larger than ourselves to believe in.

If the answer cannot be compelled by our intellect, we plead for an answer that, at least we could choose to believe without contradicting that intellect.

We yearn for more than just a God of prohibition.  More than just a God of guilt and punishment.

More than John Calvin’s chilling conclusion that God loves Jacob but hates Esau. 

For us, it must be a God like the one that was promised in the New Testament: a God of mercy, a God of peace, a God of hope.

In the end, to make any sense, it must be a God of love!

# # #

Mostly, we want a God because we sense that the accumulating of material goods and the constant seeking to satisfy our petty appetites – for a flash of ecstasy or popularity or even temporary fame – is nothing more than a desperate, frantic attempt just to fill the shrinking interval between birth and eternity with something!

# # #

In my old neighborhood, despite the doubts, the simple and sincere preachments of the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, and the prodding of uneducated parents whose moral pleadings and punishments were as blunt and tough as the calluses on their hands, were still given a degree of apparent respect.  Probably this was only because there seemed to be nothing more intellectually satisfying to put in their place.

# # #

In the fifties, some of us were suddenly gifted:  we were presented with the enlightened vision and profound wisdom of an extraordinary man.

A scientist, a paleontologist.  A person who understood evolution.  A soldier who knew the inexplicable evil of the battlefield.  A scholar who studied the ages.  A philosopher, a theologian, a believer.  And a great priest.

Teilhard de Chardin heard our lament, and he answered us.  He reoriented our theology and rewrote its language and linked it, inseparably with science.  His wonderful book “The Divine Milieu,” dedicated to “those who love the world,” made negativism a sin.

Teilhard glorified the world and everything in it.  He taught us to love and respect ourselves as the pinnacle of God’s creation to this point in evolution.  He taught us how the whole universe – even the pain and imperfection we see – is sacred.  He taught us in powerful, cogent and persuasive prose, and in soaring poetry.

He integrated his profound understanding of evolution with his religious understanding of the “Divine Milieu.”  He envisioned a viable and vibrant human future:  “We are all foot soldiers in the struggle to unify the human spirit despite all the disruptions of conflict, war and natural calamities.”

“Faith,” he said, “is not a call to escape the world, but to embrace it.”  Creation is not an elaborate testing ground with nothing but moral obstacles to surmount, but an invitation to join in the work of restoration; a voice urging us to be involved in actively working to improve the world we were born to—by our individual and collective efforts making it kinder, safer and more loving.  Repairing the wounded world, helping it move further and further upward to the “Pleroma,” St. Paul’s word for the consummation of human life.  The Omega point, when the level of consciousness and civility would eventually converge, having infiltrated the whole universe, elevated to the highest level of morality.  A new universe a peerless one; one we could help create by our own civilizing behavior.

# # #

Teilhard’s vision challenges the imagination but it has achieved sufficient scientific plausibility to be given cautious but respectful attention by celebrated intellectuals like Robert Wright a scientist and a declared agnostic.  (See his book “Nonzero:  The Logic of Human Destiny.”)

# # #

Actually, I would have been less influenced by Teilhard’s exquisite and moving enlightenment if I thought it was reserved for people like Robert Wright who are equipped to understand the scientific complexities and nuances that he weaves through his theology.

In fact, if one looks closely, some of the most fundamental of Teilhard’s principles are equally available to me and to all rational human beings whatever their level of formal education.

They are instructions of what has come to be called “natural theology” or the “natural law,” which is to say they can be ascertained by using evidence that is there for all of us to see and feel with nothing more than the gift of consciousness and exposure to the world around us. 

Without books or history, without saints or sermons, without instruction or revelation, three things about our place in the world should occur to us as human beings.

The first is that the greatest gift we have been given is our existence, our life and the power to help procreate.

The second is because as humans with the gift of consciousness we are unique parts of creation – sharing the same principal needs, desires and threats against us – our intelligence inclines us to treat one another with respect and dignity.

The third is the inclination to work together to protect and enhance the life we share. 

The Hebrews, who gave us probably the first of our monotheistic religions, made these ideas the foundation of their beliefs.  Tzedakah is the principal that we should treat one another as brother and sister, children of the same great source of life.  And Tikkun Olam is the principal that instructs us to join together in repairing the world.

Rabbi Hillel pointed out that these two radiantly logical principals together make up the whole law.  “All the rest,” he said, “is commentary.”

Jesus confirmed it was also the whole law for Christians.  “The whole law is that you should love one another as you love yourself for the love of truth and the truth is God made the world but did not complete it; you are to be collaborators in creation.”

I know of no religion recognized in this country—God-oriented or not—that rejects these ideas.

# # #

If then, as seems to be the case, politicians today are looking for guidance from religions in learning how to create a sustainable future or looking for the best wisdom to govern by, day-to-day, the answer is apparent:  To deal effectively with our problems and to make the most of all our opportunities, we must understand, accept, and apply one fundamental, indispensable proposition.  It is the ancient truth that drove primitive people together to ward off their enemies and wild beasts, to find food and shelter, to raise their children in safety, and eventually to raise up a civilization.

Now, in this ever more complex world, we need to accept and apply the reality that we’re all in this together, like a family, interconnected and interdependent, and that we cannot afford to revert to a world of us against them.

It is the one great idea that is indispensable to realizing our full potential as a people.

This is true whether we are considering the sharing of the wealth in the economy of the richest nation on earth; deciding what we must do to relieve the economic and political oppression of people all over the world, or deliberating over how to join in protecting millions of Africans against the ravages of AIDS or the barbarism of war lords.

# # #

Each of us is presented with a choice to act or not to act in a way that will move the world in a different and better direction.  A brilliant agnostic Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes echoed Teilhard’s call for the vigorous involvement of all of us in the management of the world around us and added a warning.  He said:  “As life is action and passion we are required to share the passion and action of our time at the peril of being judged not to have lived.”

Teilhard would have augmented Holmes’ remarks with his promise of glorious attainment.  “The day will come when after harnessing the wind, the mind, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love and on that day for the second time in the history of man we will have discovered fire.” 

I wish I had a recording right now of a lot of people’s one favorite piece of music.

Reflecting on Teilhard’s vision and importunings, it’s easy to hear in the background Beethoven’s wonderful message to humanity which was his 9th Symphony.

With it’s unforgettable ending….

The single moral principle he wanted to share was the need to see the world as a family.  Listen to it again.  It begins dark and threatening; disaster and confusion loom because of clashes of will, misunderstanding and alienation.  It moves into the frenetic hunt for resolution seeking an answer that will comfort and reassure humanity.

Then in the final movement it swiftly presents again the initial picture of disunity and discord, only to dissolve into the Ode to Joy, using the words of Friedrich Von Schiller’s poem, ending in ecstatic jubilation – the chorus rejoicing at the convergence of the world’s people through maturity, brotherhood … and love!

Simple, and simply wonderful!


So, “Who or What is God?”

I have grown old enough to understand the vanity of trying to define fully the infinite and eternal.

But I also understand that I’m not required to eliminate any possibilities just because my intellect is not acute enough to make them irresistible.

In the end, I can choose to believe – and call it “faith” if I must – if that promises me meaningfulness.

So, it may not be easy to understand Teilhard or believe that God commits us to the endless task of seeking improvement of the world around us, knowing that fulfillment is an eternity away.

But it’s better than the anguish of fearing futility.

Better than the emptiness of despair.

And capable of bringing meaning to our most modest and clumsy efforts.

That’s a useful consolation for any of us still struggling to believe.