08/28/2014 12:12 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2014

This Messy World

We read the morning paper and are, at least momentarily, distressed at all the upheavals throughout the world. Syria, ISIS, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, ebola, a reporter decapitated on YouTube, murder in Brooklyn.

"Seems like things are getting out of hand," Megan remarks as she takes another sip of coffee. Well, yes, Megan, but you and I are in our eighties. In our childhood in the '30s we lived through a worldwide depression. In the '40s, we lived through World War 11 and the Holocaust. In the '50s, the iron curtain fell over eastern Europe. The Berlin Wall. Mutual destruction. Children learned to hide under their desks.

And to fight our fears, tens of thousands died in Korea and several million in Vietnam. At home, ferocious German Shepherds leapt on terrified brave marchers for civil rights. A president was assassinated.

Sure there were a few years among the mayhem when we could focus on Lindberg making it to Paris, on a lovesick Prince of Wales, on Joe Louis flattening Max Schmeling, on a confused Wrong Way Corrigan landing in Ireland instead of Long Beach. Years of innocence, lulls between the storms.

More important, what of those whose struggle to get by occupies the mind to the exclusion of Syria, Gaza and the rest? Will food stamps get us through the month does not allow for distress over ISIS. And $8 an hour at McDonalds or Walmart doesn't make for concern over Afghanistan.

Megan and I and our friends are damn lucky to be financially secure and to live in a great city in a great country. We are safe; our children are safe: we play golf; we play bridge; we try new restaurants; we go to the movies and the theater. We travel to other peaceful havens.

Should we feel guilty? Are we sufficiently empathetic? Should we do acts of kindness and generosity? They may make no difference to the whole but they can make a difference to the part. And probably, that is all we can do.

A messy world? Oh, yes. But do some good and enjoy. Nothing wrong with that.