You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

Lyrics from ‘South Pacific’

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught from year to year,

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

I must admit I didn’t get the underlying social messages when I watched this wonderful movie as a youngster. I was more interested in the beaches, and later as a teen – in the beefcake – to give much thought to a little bit of a song in the midst of all that glorious technicolor – sun, sand, the United States Navy, and the US Marine Corps.
That little throwaway number has become an earworm for me over the last few weeks, as I try to make sense of the senseless. I did a bit of research about the song, which actually had a pretty powerful message for 1949; and again in 1958 when the movie was released. Apparently Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein felt so strongly about the importance of that message they insisted it remain in the performances, even if it meant that the production failed. In essence, this song was the lynchpin of the entire play/movie to them, and could not be removed. And it was not, despite considerable political pressure to do so.

Humans are not born racists, homophobes, bullies, misogynists, thugs, or criminals. We are taught, and as the song goes – by “six or seven or eight” – taught to hate. It’s pretty easy actually. You just have to point your finger at someone who looks or acts different than you and blame them for your misfortunes. It’s easier than blaming yourself, after all. You just have to be afraid of the different. It’s kind of genetically programmed into us – right? Biology and survival of the fittest ; we cull out the mutations. We make snapshot judgements about others and we pass on what we think we “know” to our little ones. With our words, and with our actions, we teach our children to mistrust and/or hate people who aren’t exactly like us. Chips off the old block, as it were. We’re becoming increasingly polarized, intolerant, violent, and murderous. It’s almost impossible to even agree to disagree these days. The uber liberals and uber conservatives belittle and scoff at one another in their quest to be “right” and get the last word. Centrists don’t seem to have a voice – and a loud centrist voice is sorely needed. I had hopes at one point that our POTUS would be that voice, hopes that have been dashed by the realization he can’t even get out of his own way, much less facilitate an environment where all can come together to work towards solutions.

So I guess it’s up to us folks, and not the politicians. And maybe that’s as it should be. If change is not coming from our government, we must bring it to our government. Rightly, righteously, respectfully. We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We need a different lesson plan for People; for Families. We start with self respect; we set a standard for behavior at home and in public and we hold everyone accountable. We talk TO our children rather than AT them. We do not tolerate bullying or demeaning behavior and we support our children to speak out if they are targeted; and to stand up for others who are being harassed. We stop making excuses for offenders and we expect consequences for offenses. It’s based on the Golden Rule. Do unto Others…. We have the talk with our sons about respecting our daughters. We have the talk with our daughters about respecting our sons. We encourage learning – more books and less TV. We work at making our adult relationships work so that our children can see that these commitments are neither convenient or disposable. We admit when we are wrong, and we apologize. We can reeducate, but it will take some hard work. . I feel sometimes like I am screaming at the top of my lungs to what at best is echoing silence. These truths I have outlined, this lesson plan for humanity is SELF-EVIDENT. A no-brainer. A return to that Golden Rule and the Core Values our society is based on (see above).

Above all we need to get mad, in the proactive sense. We have to stand up and scream “No More!” No more hate speech, no more name calling, no more profiling, no more beatings, no more rapes. No more feeding a beast that deems softcore porn appropriate entertainment matter for a globally televised awards show. No more judicial system that says a 14 year old girl bears responsibility for consenting to sexual activity with a man more than twice her age… Just exactly how does one become “older than their chronological years” anyway? She is not an emancipated minor – just so that’s clear. 14 is not capable of legally consenting to ANYTHING. Coercion is implicit when a much older person gets a minor to perform sex acts. Apparently this is something the judge chose to ignore in his statement of ruling. No more mothers who sit bored and yawning in a Georgia courtroom where their son is on trial for cold bloodedly shooting an 18 month old toddler. Society’s Moral Compass is severely misaligned at present, quite obviously.

It bears repeating – This is what we need to be CAREFULLY TEACHING:

Respect yourself.

Treat others with Respect and Kindness, even if you do not receive Kindness in return. Remember that a difference of opinion is not a personal attack. If you can’t say something nice(ly); don’t say anything at all. (“You Stay Classy San Diego!”)

Play by the Rules.

Help your Neighbor.

Speak out about Injustice and Inequality. Be that shining light in dark places when all other lights go out.

Own your mistakes and strive to do better.

Get – and stay – Educated. Learn to read, speak publicly, write well, and most importantly LISTEN. You’ll find out much more when you are silent and observant.

Above all – Love one Another.

That’s not really so hard to do. The government isn’t going to legislate that for us. We have to do it ourselves. It starts with an individual commitment to change, and a commitment to raise our children to be better people than we are. How many of you reading this are willing to make that commitment, take that step, and for example perform an act of kindness for a total stranger? Give up getting a few extra presents under the Christmas tree and instead donate that money – or some of your time, to a food pantry or homeless shelter? Set limits with your children and enforce them? This includes curfews, and dare I say it again – some form of dress code? We can carefully teach our children by our loving example. They pay far more attention to what we do. What we say – not so much. (Ask any mother of a teenager about that – we’ll tell ya!) Hold the door open for an elderly person, offer to help someone struggling with grocery bags. Show our kids that we have respect for one another and I’m pretty sure our kids will start showing respect too.

I do not want these people, and countless others I can’t name, to have died or suffered for nothing – please remember them:

Delbert Belton. Christopher Lane. Antonio Santiago. Trayvon Martin. Matthew Shepherd. Islan Nettles. Cheryl Green. Jyoti Singh. Brandon Teena. James Earl Chaney. Andrew Goodman. Mickey Schwerner. Martin Luther King. Phoebe Prince. Jamey Rodemeyer. Reginald Denny. Paramjit Kaur. Satwant Singh Kaleka. Prakash Singh. Sita Singh. Ranjit Singh. Suveg Singh. Francois Chenu. Ginger Slepski. James Byrd. Jennifer Daugherty. The Victims and Families of 9/11. The Victims of the Manson Family Murders – included because it was Manson’s stated intention to incite a race war. The 11 million + Victims of The Holocaust. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………

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Stream of Consciousness and Relationships

Greetings All!  I have been away for awhile here, attending to things at Hacienda Del Chaos. (aka My Life) July was insanely busy with amazing social events, including but not limited to 2 weddings and a family reunion. Then I also managed to get sick; which as my British friends might say, took the starch right out of my knickers.  The amount of tired I have been is unmeasurable.  We also have several extended family members who are quite ill at the moment.  Last summer was much worse in terms of stress and  family illness  – but I could certainly do with  less of that this year – and all the years to come. Sadly, I am also sure that will not prove to be the case…..

I have been too busy or worn out to feed my muse lately and she has begun screaming at me so I think it past time to unlock her from the padded cell again,  😉  I do feel better – connected and grounded somehow, when I write or work on my photography.  So this  post is going to be about whatever pops into my head – just so I can get back into the swing of things.    The girls have been busy this summer spending less time at home and giving us a dress rehearsal for the empty nest looming on the horizon.  Not sure I’m liking this, but it definitely serves as a prod for me to develop and nurture my hobbies and interests. Hello!  I will need something to do when they move, right?   I may be entering some photography contests or local exhibitions during fair season this fall – not sure yet.

Back side of the Sunset August 2013

Back side of the Sunset August 2013

So what keeps us going when life gets so busy?  I find myself more and more just moving through my daily routine without much active thought. My goal is getting through the day so I can collapse on my couch or in my bed at the end of it – thankful to have a place to lay my head down.  If I have to guess in a word, I would say the answer is “Relationships”  That connection to others.  And relationships are hard work.  Like gardening, we need to water and feed – develop, maintain, and enhance. Sometimes, we also weed and prune; reassess , re-categorize, or just move on.

Most always, the process of staying connected takes relatively little time –  a shout out text or email; a quick note or phone call;  a sit down dinner, a sofa or pillow conversation is  generally all that’s needed to maintain the status quo.  ‘Whats up with you? Hows it going?’ and then listening. Generally, the person on the receiving end of your communique will be delighted that you thought of them and glad to hear from you. I do try to stay connected to my friends and family regularly.  Most often, this involves a phone call, but texts and emails  work as well.  My immediate family ( The Viking and The Girls – we are all pretty good with the communication dept for the most part) So what happens when things break?  When you send those texts/emails and make phone calls/leave voicemails and hear nothing back for weeks at at time (if ever)? This is especially hurtful if you value that relationship considerably.  Or, you drift so far away from someone you don’t know how to  reconnect – or even if you should?

Let me tell you a true story.  I had a dear friend at one point a few years ago.  A long time friend.  The type of friend you speak with every morning before work, and generally chatted with several other times during the week as well. The kind of friend you were matron of honour for at her wedding. Whose daughter is your goddaughter and who was flower girl at your own wedding. We had our arguments, but patched things up fairly quickly all in all.  Her dad got sick with that long slow journey into darkness (the dreaded A- word) and she moved in with him to take care of him. I had issues with my family, including the death of my father in 2007 as well. She and her husband came to the wake.  Our daily conversations became weekly, then sporadic, then practically non-existent.  I’d periodically think  “I really have to call her and catch up”, but something always came up that needed my attention immediately, and by the time I thought about it again it was well past an acceptable time to pick up the phone. At the time, mornings with a high schooler and a middle schooler were (and probably still are) not conducive to telephone conversations  – so our former pattern was not an option.   Then, I ran into her daughter and granddaughter at the Christmas Tree Lighting at the Town Square a few years back. I asked her how her mom was, and how her grandfather was doing.  She looked at me funny, and then told me Pop had died the previous year.  I was dumbfounded. No one had told me, and I don’t get the paper or read obituaries online.  Of course, karma being what she is , I turn around after mumbling some very embarrassed and extremely belated condolences, and my friend was standing right behind me…. I offered my condolences again, saying I’d no idea he’d passed away. They were accepted quite frostily – and that, as they say,  was that. Can’t say I blame her on that one.  I run into her daughter occasionally and we chat.  I do miss my friend, but I have absolutely no idea how to fix this one – or at this point if it is beyond a fix and I should just continue moving on….  The whole situation saddens me immensely.

In other relationships, for example – the actions of my toxic monster in law; and the sister in law I’ve never met in the 29 years I’ve been with my husband; have made the choice to stay away from them  super easy- breezy.  I guess there’s always at least a few in every family. And conversely – in every family I’m sure there are members we would love to stay in closer touch with – but for whatever reason(s) we are not.   I would be interested to see how you all address these issues, particularly with a view to reestablishing and reaffirming broken connections with valued others. So please feel free to comment, and take my poll!

After the Storm Comes the Sunshine - and the Rainbows

After the Storm Comes the Sunshine – and the Rainbows

The Head Table

Head Table Place Settings

Head Table Place Settings (Photo credit: VancityAllie)

Remember when you were a kid, and you couldn’t wait to sit at the grown up table on holidays?  No more mismatched chairs, paper plates and plastic cups at the rickety old card table. No sirree bub – you got the formal dining room and the good china at the adults table.  You were where it was happening. Definitely a mini rite-of-passage, at least for this chick.  As the oldest child and oldest grandchild I got to go first. Woo Hoo! Welcome to the Party, Pal!

But I want to talk about a different table.  The Head Table.  I don’t mean where Bride and Groom sit during their reception, or where the Silver and Gold Anniversary Couples get to sit. Those are cool places to be.   The happy place – center of attention and hub of the party wheel.  I want to talk about the table you get move up to – and sit at – when your parents pass away.  Its not an actual table, but its a real thing nonetheless.  And its emotional, and scary.  If all goes as hoped, you’re bound for the cemetery next. Not that anyone hopes to die, but if The Fates are kind, they take you before your children.

When you step up to take your seat at the table (if those Fates have once again smiled upon you) you’re usually middle aged – and usually with children and grandchildren by that point.  Sitting down, you get to take stock of your life to date.  You evaluate your goals, reevaluate them and maybe even change career direction. Or divorce. Or remarry. Have a full blown nuclear mid life crisis. Make a menopausally fueled Hit List. Or none of those things. But –  underlying whatever is going on is the stark reality that there’s no human buffer zone between you and the Great Beyond anymore. No safety net below you as you stand on the platform at the ceiling of the Center Ring.  Tag. You’re it.

I was chatting with my Aunt Jean the other day.  She lives near Chicago, but we try to connect with one another as much as possible. She was 17 when I was born, and she’s my Godmother.  We were discussing careers and work. She mentioned that at my age- I’m at the apex career wise.  If I’ve reached for the brass ring already – great. If not, I’d better do it soon. She didn’t say so, but I thought –  I’m approaching the Head Table, dammit.   I haven’t sat down yet because my Mom is still with us; but  I’m halfway up there as of 2007 when my Dad left us terribly, suddenly. Two of my best friends in the world – Cheryl and Martha – have a seat saved for me. Cheryl’s been sitting up there since 1999.  Martha, since last year.

I’ll be in great company, but I’m really not ready to move up to the Head Table yet. Those Fates though, they don’t deign to ask whether or not you’re ready to sit up there. And if I had to guess, I would say that NO ONE is ever ready for a seat at this particular table.  The view is probably lovely up there – friends, family etc. The love, palpable. But it seems a lonely place, regardless of the company you’re in. And, taking your seat up there acknowledges that you are, in point of fact, now an orphan.

So, as I meander towards my new assigned seating (which I FERVENTLY hope I will not have to sit in for a few years yet) I find myself asking the questions:  Am I happy? What makes me happy? Do I matter? Selfish questions, but at my age I’ve paid enough dues in life to ask such selfish questions. I also ask unselfish ones:  Have I made a difference to someone, helped someone, been a good parent?  (Don’t ask my girls that until I’ve had a chance to bribe them) Hahaha! ;). And finally: What do I want to do with the next 30+ years of my life?  I’ve certainly discovered a passion for writing and photography in the last year or so. I would like to build on that if I can.

What questions will you be asking yourself as you approach The Head Table? Or, what are you thinking about as you sit there?  Inquiring Minds…. etc.

Questioning My Faith

I in no way want this article to be interpreted as Catholic-bashing, or putting down any friends or family who are practicing Catholics. I respect that they believe as they do.  These are MY issues with the Faith I was brought up in, but in truth cannot say I practice with any sort of fervor.  I guess you could say they are long standing issues – starting when I was little. There is much I don’t understand –  or can’t agree with – about the why’s and wherefores of Church doctrine and practice.

I remember as a kid being bored in church.  Same thing every Sunday – same words, same songs, same everything. I liked the ceremony, the candles, the incense, the pageantry. But come on – same script EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK.  As a kid, I was not interested – just didn’t get why we had to sit there and listen to the same things every week. “Because I said so.” just didn’t cut it – not that I would backtalk my parents, mind you. So I mostly “suffered” in silence. Catholicism by rote and recitation.  UGH!   Then we had to go to CCD every week.  Again, same stuff every week. Whats Mortal Sin vs Venial Sin?  OK, got that…. but we never, ever moved past that in any of the CCD classes I attended. Nobody ever explained anything else, and we honestly didn’t know what to ask – we just wanted to get the heck out of there. And, when my dad’s mom passed away, we kept getting her tithing envelopes from her/our parish/church – where her funeral was performed – for quite awhile after she was dead.   Weird.

Then I did something I should not have done.  In seventh grade we had to walk to the elementary school on Saturdays and take a school bus to the next town over for CCD classes.  So, I would walk to the school, scoot behind it to the playground and stay there until I saw the bus return a few hours later. Then I’d walk home.  Really Really REALLY a STUPID thing to do in hindsight. My parents certainly thought so when they found out 2 days before Confirmation that I had not been going to the classes.  Needless to say, I did not get confirmed – nor could I sit  down comfortably for several days – and I missed out on a months worth of TV and socializing on the phone. And justifiably so. (in retrospect and speaking as a parent now)

In high school, one of our long time family friends’ son (and a good friend of mine)  would come up on weekends occasionally to help out my dad with some of the heavier chores – and help me work on my car.  Tom’s mother (Aunt Lucille)  insisted he go to church so we’d go together on Saturday afternoon – but we’d always sit in the back and take off after the gospel was read – having heard that that was the most important part of the Mass and one could technically leave afterward. So we did.

As an adult,  I do find a soothing comfort in that sameness, and pageantry of the Mass.  I understand now why the structure is pretty much the same week to week. Also, a  co worker/ friend who once aspired to the priesthood finally explained the rosary prayers and the mysteries to me when I was in my thirties.   But there is much I do not understand.

The bible says it is ” better” for priests to not be married. But it does not expressly forbid it. One of the most committed, caring pastors I know (Lutheran) is married with several children and his entire family assists with his wonderful ministry.   Could not the Catholic Church attract many more faithful and committed people to the calling if they were in fact allowed to marry and have families?  A ministry life does not preclude having a family life and in fact may lend a deeper understanding of problems families run into. Which would provide better insight and an ability to counsel.   Hmmmm.

And then there’s the whole  “lets not let the women in” thing….. Just don’t get that AT ALL.  I know several women, my friend Kelly and my Aunt Jean in particular  – who would make Super Stupendous and Amazing Priests/Pastors.  Yet they are not allowed to do so.   I think they are pushed into lesser roles in the Church simply because of their gender.  Speaking for myself:  My female-ness does not make me less of a person, nor am I responsible for the sins of Eve. I wasn’t there and had nothing to do with any apple eating.   And this is the message I get from the church when I see that women are not allowed aspire to full ministry if they want to. Its sort of like saying that I’m responsible for the death and persecution of colonists during the Salem Witch Trials because I had an ancestor who lived in Salem at the time.  I’m not responsible for that, either.  Wasn’t there, had nothing to do with it. So I guess you could say I’m not on board with the concept of original sin either.  Don’t see why I should pay a price for something I did not do. With all the sin that we humans manage to create for ourselves, why must we start out burdened with someone else’s?

The Church is anti-gay.  OK I understand that the bible says its an abomination.  Truly 2000 years ago, it was. There was zero chance of the  relationship being fertile so you were wasting your genetic material in a same sex relationship.  Lifespans were so short back then that a person really did have an obligation to procreate – literally for the survival of the species.    Times have changed, but the Church has not evolved. Surrogacy, IVF, IUI and other fertility procedures can assist any family in having children if they so choose. (Adoption is also fine, but should not be the only option a couple has if they cannot conceive “naturally”) What a wonderful thing for any stable, committed couple who otherwise would have no chance of having a family of their own.  And if ANYONE tells me that children conceived in these methods have no souls I will reach through my computer monitor and punch them in the face…. jussayin.  So if that’s what you think, please keep that to yourself. Thanks.   I also had the honour of working on the AIDS quilt patch for Father Robert Arpin.  He wrote a book everyone should read: “Wonderfully, Fearfully Made”.  “Father Bob” was an openly gay priest. I worked with his Aunt for many years which is how I came to have the privilege of working on his quilt patch. His book raises much food for thought. I highly recommend it.

The Churches position on same sex marriage: UGH!  Marriage is not just a sacrament in the church nor is it solely the reason for procreation anymore.  The Catholic Church – to my current understanding -recognizes no reason for marriage other than for the procreation of children.  But – Marriage is a social institution also.  People marry today that want to have companionship and a legal standing with and for another person that they love.  This does not negatively impact any religious institution. (Any church has the right to decide what practices they will allow It has nothing to do with the state or society at large).  I do have the right not to subscribe to that,  however. Of course, I highly recommend marriage if one wants children.  A two parent family is best – raising children is quite difficult for a single parent. Not to mention costly to taxpayers. Why can’t the church recognize the duality of marriage as a sacrament AND as a social institution?.  If I am recalling my sociology and ancient history correctly the concept of marriage and family was initially set up to provide  a method of protection for children and companionship for adults. Set up to define roles and responsibilities, and make it easier to provide for those who could not yet provide for themselves.  Not really a religious element there as far as I can see, but definitely a social one.  In my opinion, nothing wrong with a dual definition of marriage.  And, it manages to be all inclusive.

Abortion:  Truth be told, I agree with the Church regarding its stand on abortion – up to a point.  The line is drawn for me when the Church says the issue is Black and White/All or Nothing.  I cannot support  policy that states an abortion cannot be performed for a woman who’s health is threatened by her pregnancy AND she wishes to terminate it. Women should not have to wait until their pregnancy imminently threatens their life to be able to get an abortion. (Fortunately Roe v Wade opened the door that says they don’t have to) I cannot support policy that states a woman must carry her rapist’s baby to term. Its not her fault she’s pregnant, why should she pay the price for someone else’s sin?.  Does the church realize the psychological damage they are forcing a woman to endure beyond the trauma of the rape itself?  There are always exceptions to any rule and these things should be decided on a case by case basis – if the woman chooses to discuss it with her priest- not by blanket, all or nothing medieval doctrine. In my mind, this completely anti abortion policy translates to  just another way for the Church to keep women out of power.

The Church should be a vibrant entity that evolves to support the needs of its flock whilst providing a moral compass for them.  That the Church refuses to step forward into the 21st century, acknowledge and institute true reform is a real stumbling block for me. They’re still shuffling abusive priests around to other parishes instead of dealing with them appropriately – or letting the law do so. The American Catholic Church is withering on the vine, unfortunately. Fewer and fewer young men called to the priesthood.  Wouldn’t it be great to open it up so that these men could marry – or even better allow women of faith to get on board too? I’d bet a whole slew of awesome people would aspire to the calling AND be great at it; reinvigorating the Church with new blood. (no pun intended)  I’m not saying throw the baby out with the bathwater; but I do think that an update needs to be done – and its long overdue.

As another example, years ago a family member gave birth to a stillborn daughter at 22 weeks gestation in a Catholic Hospital. The priest there refused to baptise the baby.  OK, I understand that the baby was born dead. But if the Church thinks that life begins at conception does not also “original sin”? So the Catholic Church essentially told this family that there is no chance of reuniting in the afterlife with their daughter because she was condemned to limbo simply by being born lifeless and not in a state of grace? Medieval thinking,and another example of Catholicism by rote. Is not the priests job also to minister to the comfort of the grieving parents?  Providing the comfort of a baptism -even a “meaningless” one – should have been the first priority of that priest, not dogmatically following a policy that provided no relief to the family left behind.  As Captain Kirk pondered in the Star Trek episode  “Who Mourns for Adonis”  – ” Would it have hurt us, I wonder, to have gathered a few laurel leaves?” I think not. My family priest at the time actually agreed with me on this one – at least on providing a baptism for the baby in order to comfort and support the family. And why can’t a baptism be performed in utero if life begins at conception and “original sin” needs to be gotten rid of?

So yeah, I guess you can call me a Cafeteria Catholic. It fits. Has a  “Catholicism for Dummies” been published? If so, I might need to read it.  I believe in much of what the Church says – the Trinity, Heaven and Hell, The Ten Commandments, The Resurrection. Don’t subscribe to the concept of “original sin”.  Don’t really get the whole  intercession thing – why can’t I confess any sins I might have directly to God?  Not sure that a virgin birth status is necessary for Jesus to be both human and Divine/The Son of God. Which hey –  if you think about it – if Mary did not have sexual intercourse to conceive Jesus then he had to have been conceived “unnaturally”.  Which negates the opinion that children conceived via non- sexual methods have no souls.  Because of course I believe Jesus had/has a soul.  Life, no matter how created, is imbued with that divine spark we call a soul. But mostly,  I do believe that whole  LOVE ONE ANOTHER thing.  Because if we truly do that – everything else falls into place, and falls into grace. Thanks for listening while I thought out loud.  Peace, out.

I Think it’s Gonna Be Alright

As you all know, I’ve been more than a bit concerned about the direction this country seems to be taking. Very worried about the mess we seem to be leaving, that we might not be able to clean up. And, what that means for future generations. I’m not sure those currently in power have the right ideas to move us ahead responsibly.

Last night something strange happened. I stopped at Dunkin to pick up some K-cups for my Keurig. (You all also know I can’t function well without my caffeine IV…) On my way out of the coffee shop and back to the car, I was stopped by a tall man in his mid to late 60’s. He was slightly unkempt, but polite and well-spoken. He asked me if I would like to have a poem, and held a sheet of paper out towards me. I said sure, and took the paper – which indeed had some poetry printed on it. I thanked him, he said his name was “Henry” and said “God Bless, Be Well.” I turned away wishing him the same; and began walking the 20 or so steps back to the car. I got in and handed the paper to my oldest. She asked me what it was. I told her I just got a poem from the guy at the entrance to Dunkin, turned around to point him out. He was gone. The girls, who had been waiting in the car for me, had not noticed him.

Feeling slightly creeped out, I began to read the poem. It was rambling, had a disconnected feel to it – congruent with someone experiencing mental health issues. (There’s quite a few homeless, MH folks in my city). However, 3 lines leapt from the paper – “God shed his grace on us, on all of us! For America will see good days of invention again. We will be crowned with the fruits of kindness and fidelity.” My goosebumps got goosebumps, and the girls were affected as well. We looked down the side streets near the coffee shop, but were not able to find “Henry” anywhere. Normally, I wouldn’t give something like this a second thought. But I found myself profoundly shaken.  I got a message, and I think maybe – just maybe – we’re gonna be alright.

Le’Andria Johnson – It’s Gonna Be Alright

Changes

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We are born, we live, we die. A simple sentence. Yet what occurs between those two commas is everything. In order to truly do this, sometimes we must embrace change as eagerly as a new lover. Sometimes, we must accept it, matter of factly – as we accept that the earth is round and the sun rises in the east. It serves no good purpose to fight it. We are human, it is our nature to adapt.

We must also recognize that our time here is finite. The Fates, capricious bitches that they are, snip the threads of life too soon for some of us. Which, in my feeble mind, makes it all the more important for me to do something with my life.

There’s an expression going around these days: YOLO (you only live once). Truth. Yet all too often I see it used as an excuse for ridiculously self indulgent, immature behavior. It’s the “Gimme Generation”s self-entitled slogan du jour. But it doesn’t have to be.

We live. Once. I would like to be part of the changes I want to see in the world. I hope I already am. I want to look in the mirror when I wake up and see someone who made a difference to someone else. Some days that’s difficult. Anyone who knows me knows I’m absolutely not -ever- at my best in the morning, so gazing into a reflective surface is going to be a terrifying experience, at least until I’m caffeinated.

Anyway, all humor aside, I just want to point out we don’t have much time, on the grander universal scale at least. We can adapt to change, learn from each other, and grow during the time we have. Rejoicing in our differences, and remembering that we are stronger together BECAUSE of them. Or, we can squander ourselves and extinguish our precious inner light with futile, utterly senseless violence, prejudice, hatred and intolerance. I know what I choose. We are born, we live, we die. Lets make those two words between those commas count for something.