Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘hope’

IMG_3620

That’s not his name but that’s what he represents. This is one of my littlest cousins, Aiden. His favorite color is red … or at least it used to be. He wrote me a letter (with some loving assistance) asking me about my favorite color. I wrote him back and told him orange … or at least it used to be. When I watch, read and listen to the news, because I have to do that, it can be quite dispiriting to think about the future. But then I can think of this little person with his hands clasped, ready to take on the world. With loving assistance …

Read Full Post »

dscn6720

Not too far from my home there is a man. This is his book on the ground in his part-time residence by the Mystic River. I found the book while hiking and venturing into areas I normally don’t go. But it is winter and there are paths revealed I had not seen before. One of those paths led me to a little camp where lay the odds and ends you’d find in a home. Like books. I’d seen such places before around the region’s urban rivers. Temporary shelters. As winter approaches and the foliage thins the resident moves on from a now too visible place. But with spring’s return and with it the leaves on the trees, and the thick grasses that obscure paths from curious eyes, he resumes residence or someone else will take his place. This man, a bibliophile based on his pile of books, lives near me. Is that person my neighbor? And if I do consider him so, how does that affect how I treat him, how I regard him, what I might do for him even if we were never to exchange words? It is a weird question for a weird and complicated situation but we are living in the weirdest and most complicated of times.

dscn6732

The concept of neighbors is on my mind because I read a Washington Post Q&A with Jerry Falwell Jr, President of Liberty University, and the son of the televangelist Reverend Jerry Falwell. He’s a major financial backer of Trump and from his pulpit of sorts he espouses conservative right-wing ideology. In the interview, Falwell states, “It’s such a distortion of the teachings of Jesus to say that what he taught us to do personally — to love our neighbors as ourselves, help the poor — can somehow be imputed on a nation. ”

When I read that comment (and actually the whole interview) to a friend expecting his blood to boil as much as mine, he said quite calmly, “You might ask him who is his neighbor? Is it the people next door to his house? The students who attend his school? Is Trump his neighbor? How about the children at the border? Does he even care who his neighbors are?”

Now people more well-versed than I in theology and biblical text and all that good stuff have commented quite widely on the web about Falwell’s words so I don’t need to go there and I can let my blood pressure drop but the concept of neighbors is sticking with me. How do we get to know people? How do we come to love them? I said love not like. There are plenty of people I love but don’t necessarily like. You see I’m assuming if we love someone we may treat them differently than if we were to hate someone or perhaps even worse yet to “not see” someone because they are a non-entity. They are invisible like the man in the woods.

dscn6712

My mom comes to mind. She could be very good to her neighbors even the ones she didn’t like, and my mom didn’t like a whole lot of people. She was feisty that way. My dad helped neighbors all the time too but you could see the struggle on my mom’s face. Once she invited the elderly next door neighbor over for a plate of food and the gentleman sat in the living room and sat and sat and sat and … finally my mom left my dad in the room with him and sat on her bed resting her head in her hand. My younger brother and I kept peeking into the living room and finally we said to her, “Ma, when’s he going to leave?!” She shushed us right away. “You two be quiet. You know better than that. Be kind to your neighbors.” And then she sighed and put her head back in her hand. The man eventually left well-sated and with a smile on his face. My brother and I learned that we need to be kind to our neighbors but first we have to see them and recognize them as such. As our neighbors.

Who is your neighbor?

Read Full Post »

DSCN6628

I guess if I had to sum it up the year 2018 is ending as a year of color. I cannot sit down at the kitchen table without the winter morning light illuminating something and making it a new discovery. Who knows what the new year holds but I do hope it continues to be one of discovery and learning and growth. Happy New Year, folks! 🙂

DSCN6635

Read Full Post »

IMG_20180718_150102607

a calm spot before a later storm

It always happens at this particular intersection in Somerville. It’s where I  cross the street to make the final leg of my journey home. It is a one way street with two lanes of traffic, a dedicated bike lane, and a complicated long walk signal. Great for me as a pedestrian. Tough on drivers. I have become used to impatient drivers inching into the crosswalk, hoping they can catch a gap in traffic, so they can make a quick right on red. With an exaggerated sigh, I usually walk behind those cars because at least I know the drivers behind them can see me. Hopefully I can cross the street before the light turns green and everybody hits their gas pedals. A familiar sequence of events. That’s almost what happened yesterday.

There were two cars to the left of me blocking the crosswalk. I stepped behind them. But something was odd. There was a gap in traffic. One of the drivers blocking my path could have taken a right on red. Except she was too busy yelling obscenities at the driver of the car next to her. Now, I’m used to the obscenities flung around by Boston area drivers but this woman’s words were different. They stopped me in the middle of the street.

Time slowed. I scanned the front of the screaming woman’s car. There was no body damage. If the person in the other car had tried to go around her to make a right on red (which happens in that intersection), a simple “F*** you!” would have sufficed, and often does at that intersection. But this woman, a brown woman, chose to shout into the other person’s car, and I’m editing just a bit, “You, wetback, go back to your own country!”

And she kept repeating it, with such vociferous pounding anger that was so out of context to whatever fender bender may have happened, that she had silenced the drivers around her. An unusual feat in Boston. Not a car behind her honked. It was just her voice ringing in the air. I could see the muscles of her jaw as she strained to shout these ugly words at a stranger over and over and over again. That African American was no different than the young white men in Charlottesville carrying the tiki torches. No different. Hate is hate.

Then I became angry.

Sad, too, but mostly angry, and I mean really angry.

I wanted to rush up to that woman and say, “What the hell are you doing? What are you, a black Trump? Do you realize if white supremacist leaders could see you now they’d just sit back with a big smile as you display your stupidity? How dare you give into racism. Don’t you know your own history? Have you no respect for yourself? Why put down another human being that you don’t even know?”

In the end, common sense won out. I remembered that I am not 6’5,” simply 5’3″ and I could tell that the woman was a bit bigger than me. And while I remember just enough of my karate training to probably take her down, to what end? Getting physical would not have ended her ignorance or increased her empathy. Both drivers remained in their cars. No children were in danger that I could see. I had to acknowledge that I was standing in the middle of a street, the light about to turn green, with two cars to the left of me and two cars to the right of me. It would not have deescalated the situation for me to move forward … though clearly my first reaction was not to deescalate anything. The only weapon the woman brandished were words, though she did have that car. She could have backed over me. She was that irrationally enraged.

Time resumed its normal course. The light turned green. The two cars sped off. I finished crossing the street, continued my walk home, my thoughts full of disparagement. Phone calls with family and friends calmed me down. They all brought up “ignorance.” Ignorance is no excuse for such behavior. Just as there is no excuse for racism by anyone toward anyone.

Read Full Post »

I was walking through Copley Square recently, past the homeless folk, and I thought of Trump and his seemingly extra million dollars he has in-hand. And I wondered would that be enough money to create a transitional housing center with an edible garden … I could see the nasturtium trailing over walls … with maybe a greenhouse and lending library and clean bathrooms with showers and staff who could help people get on a path for finding employment, health care, insurance, etc. But I stopped daydreaming. I don’t have a million dollars. Nor do I need to. Each day I learn, re-learn, and hold tight to the knowledge that anyone can promote positive, immediate change. How?

Give. Learn. Act.

Give: How many times have I written of the importance of teachers in my life. They shaped who I am and what I do. They are often poorly paid and under-resourced and that’s why I love donorschoose.org. Through this site, you can help individual teachers as they are making change one classroom at a time. It does make a difference. The site is easy to navigate. You can select classrooms near you or you can select a classroom where you grew up or you can pick a region that you know is economically distressed, e.g. a Detroit, and select a classroom there. It is a well vetted program. A little bit of money goes a long way for some of these classrooms. It is not a solution to our national education problems but it is an avenue for change on the ground level.

Learn: I’m human. I know I am  fully capable of stereotyping and judging people and places as well as anybody else. So that’s why I appreciate, as someone living on the East Coast in a major metropolitan city, chancing upon Daily Yonder, a multi-media news source about rural America. I think one of things that became clear during this past presidential election is that the U.S. is a big country. While I would love to pull a Charles Kuralt and travel around this nation, visit all of its states and territories, to learn firsthand about the people and cultures that make up America, that’s not going to happen. So a publication like Daily Yonder is essential reading to simply glimpse people and places I know little about, to learn both of their struggles and what they celebrate, as part of the American fabric.

Act: Don’t wait for someone to make change. Be the change. That’s the philosophy that came across to me when I first learned of The Philanthropy Connection. Its mission is to inspire, teach, and enable women of all generations to engage in collective philanthropy. Through extremely engaged philanthropy, members provide grants to charitable organizations that improve the quality of life for low-resource individuals and families living in Massachusetts. It’s Boston-based but similar models can be found in other communities. Or created.

And act some more: Well if you weren’t sure of my liberal biases before you will be now … buy Penzey’s Spices. Give a little Love, nurture somebody’s Soul, show a bit of Kindness at the table even if you sit with someone you disagree with. In fact what better way to get to know people then through a shared meal. And if you sign up for the Penzey’s newsletter you’ll get a sense of how founder Bill Penzey is putting his money where his mouth is, putting his business on the line by vehemently and vigorously calling out this administration and all who are trying to sow seeds of hate in this nation.

This is my short list of the moment. Good stuff is happening. We just have to seek it out. Do our parts as it makes sense. If you have a million to give, wonderful. If you have one-hour to volunteer, wonderful. It all makes a difference.

Read Full Post »

SNCCHomePageScreenShot

It was very heartening for me to learn of the creation of the SNCC Digital Gateway (snccdigital.org), a multimedia website and repository created jointly by the SNCC Legacy Project, Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, and the Duke University Libraries. The site shares the stories of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a student-led, southern-based, civil rights group founded in 1960 at Shaw University. They provided strategic leadership on the ground mobilizing people of all ages and races in the face of violence and threat of death. One of the SNCC staff members profiled is Fannie Lou Hamer. Please do read her full profile (link below) but I will share this excerpt which moved me deeply.

“Whether calming people with her singing or speaking truth to power, Mrs. Hamer’s voice could not be ignored. … Mrs. Hamer did not shy away from the dangers of challenging segregation and the denial of voting rights in Mississippi. “I’m gonna be standing up, I’m gonna be moving forward, and if they shoot me, I’m not going to fall back, I’m going to fall 5 feet 4 inches forward.”

Fannie_Lou_Hamer_1964-08-22.jpg

Fannie Lou Hamer 1917-1977

P.S. If you’re looking for further inspiration about the power of resistance in the face of tyranny, please revisit the excellent documentary, Freedom Riders, which aired on PBS in 2011.

Source

https://snccdigital.org/

http://dukemagazine.duke.edu/article/a-gateway-to-the-wisdom-of-civil-rights-activists

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fannie_Lou_Hamer

https://snccdigital.org/people/fannie-lou-hamer/

Read Full Post »

DSCN1950

I must say it was a bit depressing to read headlines from around the world today. From gang violence across U.S. cities, a new ‘trail of tears” as parents are being separated from children, resources for those most in need increasingly being eroded, and at the same time big business wielding its lobbying might to change policies that would have helped hold them accountable to the many for their actions as they work to increase wealth for a few. And then if I look outside my own borders to the rest of the world … well, goodness gracious. It is an avalanche or perhaps a mudslide of just damn bad news without clear sight of where hope lies on a grand scale. It clearly will not be coming from the White House anytime soon as that’s all that needs to be said for the moment about that sad mess and those sad people who do not represent me as an American. At the same time I know that there is lots of good work being done on the ground but where is the sweeping change to come? Is there a groundswell somewhere out there that I have yet to see? Time will tell … anyway, meanwhile, I choose to share these images of beauty, of prickly cactus crowned by flowers filled with light.

DSCN1954

DSCN1955

DSCN1964

DSCN1972

DSCN1981

DSCN2003

DSCN1985

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »