Sunday, May 03, 2020

Institutions that have closed their doors need our help

Last summer, the woman I'd eat bees for and I took our oldest grandson, now a junior in college, to Cooperstown, New York. He'd already been to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, but he'd never been to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

A rabid sports fan, our grandson had wanted to get to Cooperstown for years, but timing and schedules never aligned. This was to be the summer to make it happen. Of course, this was also the summer he was heading to Ft. Benning for paratrooper school as part of his U.S. Army ROTC training, so scheduling was still going to be a challenge. Nevertheless, we persisted and it happened.

My wife made sure we had a family membership to the Hall and found lodging in an old motel along the banks of Otsego Lake on the way into town. As luck would have it, it was the week leading up to induction weekend when Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez and Roy Halladay would find their plaques along other baseball legends.

The Hall itself was as magical as it was to me when I first visited as a child. I'm not nearly the sports fan my grandson is, but baseball has always been the one true sport to me. We saw the inductees milling about, as well as Pete Rose (not a Hall of Famer) and other former major leaguers signing autographs in memorabilia shops along Main Street. We ate dinner in a small Italian restaurant next to Daryl Strawberry at one table and the late Roy Halladay's family at another.

The renewal notice for our family member arrived this week. Given that the Hall of Fame buildings are closed "in accordance with pandemic precautions" it is unlikely we will be visiting again any time soon. Our decision was whether to let our membership lapse and pick it up again when the Hall's doors once again open to the public.

It's a decision that many of us face. Do we keep paying membership fees to the now shuttered art museum? Or keep up a subscription to the print edition of our local newspaper when we're trying to limit outside deliveries to the house? Do we consider subscribing to a series of musical events a year out not knowing whether they will have to be rescheduled?

For many families, such memberships are a luxury. We recognize how fortunate we are to be able to choose to belong to the Baseball Hall of Fame and a few arts organizations and to attend musical or theatrical events. But since we can't visit these places now, should we let our memberships lapse?

A family's first priority should be to make sure they use their resources to keep their families safe, housed and fed. Looking out for neighbors in need is right up there on the list.

But continuing to support those organizations that spark joy in us and others even when their doors are temporarily shuttered seems the right thing to do. Our membership to Cooperstown is renewed along with our hope to have another magical visit there. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice," is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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