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activism

Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

What I Can Add to the Public Discussion

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, or maybe months, in our nation. The news reports tie my stomach in knots most evenings, but its hard to turn them off and take a break since I don’t want to miss anything important.  Some mornings I wake up with anxiety over what might be happening in Washington. I’ve gone in and out of positions of not wanting to know and wanting to know, over not wanting to care and wanting to speak out and get involved. It’s been perplexing and curious, interesting and disturbing as I’ve watched the leadership change and evolve, and listened to the public discussion in response.

“What can I do?” “What difference can I make?” seem to be the questions I hear most often from friends and neighbors, as well as the ones I ask myself.

One of my favorite authors is  Robert Fulghum who wrote All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I have been reminded of this lately as I’ve heard folk wondering about who the adults are and where they are since the discussion has displayed some pretty childish rhetoric at times. In fact, I don’t think I really ever heard people talking about “who’s the adult in the room” until recently. Maybe there has been in the past an assumption that adult aged people automatically display adult behavior, meaning mature, rational behavior as opposed to emotional, childish behavior, i.e. wanting my own way, wanting to be first, wanting attention, throwing tantrums, outbursts of frustration, etc.

But, it’s never good to make assumptions and though somewhat threatening, it is a good question that can short-circuit irrational and emotional behavior between adults. It’s a question that reminds me I need to put into practice all I learned in kindergarten, especially since I am usually the most adult person in the room…according to age anyway, and even when I am the only one in the room listening to the nightly news, it doesn’t hurt to practice being a grown up.

So, Ive taken some time to review those lessons from kindergarten:*

  • Share Everything
  • Play fair
  • Don’t hit people or call them rude names
  • Clean up your own mess
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
  • When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together
  • It doesn’t matter who’s first in line, we’re all going to the same place
  • Wait your turn and don’t interrupt
  • Use your words and your inside-voice
  • Take a nap everyday

And, of course, there’s more. (like warm cookies and cold milk are good!) I learned so much in kindergarten!

But I forget…

I raise my voice when I disagree. I call people mean names when they do something I don’t like. I don’t want to apologize when I think you hurt me too. I don’t want to hold your hand when you don’t agree with me and I don’t want to listen to you when I think you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if we are going to the same place, I still want to be first. And I really don’t want to take a nap and miss out on something!

This, in my view, is what the public discussion has looked like lately: a room full of out of control kindergarten kids.

So where’s the adult?

I’m the adult.

I will be the adult. I will use my inside-voice and will listen to you and wait my turn. I will clean up my own mess and not try to clean up yours as well. I will add to our conversation by behaving like the adult in the room, in whatever room I find myself, public or not so public.

And if I do this, maybe you will too. And if you do this, maybe your friends will too. And maybe my Grandkids will notice and will one day be the adult in the room too, and yours will too.  Maybe if I add kindness and respect to the public conversations I have, and you do too, we will be able to “watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together”.

What do you think? What can you add to the public discussion today that will help answer the question “where is the adult in the room”?

 

*Mostly taken from Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, page 6-7, with some additions and omissions by me.

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

His Name is Philando Castile

I just want to say his name. I want to acknowledge that a family and whole community are hurting. I want the rhythm of my life to be interrupted because of the pain of my community. I want to feel our connection. I want to care.

MY RECAP:

This past week-end in my hometown a court decision was handed down by a jury that stunned what seemed like the majority of our citizens. A young man was killed over a year ago when he, his girlfriend and her 5 year old daughter was stopped by a patrolman because of a broken tail light. The young man happened to have brown skin, as did his girlfriend and her daughter. This shouldn’t have any consequence on anything, but it seems to be included in the first sentence every time this incidence is spoken of, reviewed or reported.

Philando Castile was killed by the patrolman, shot multiple times through the opened window of his car while still strapped under his seat belt. His 5 year old was in the back seat watching and listening while her mother sat next to him…

The patrolman declared that he “felt his life was being threatened” when Philando told him he was licensed to carry and had a gun in the car, exactly the procedure required of anyone whenever one has a licensed gun and is stopped by law enforcement for any reason. The rules, Philando was playing by the rules.

Philando Castile was a young man and a participating member of our community. He had worked at the local school, in the lunchroom, for  years. The children loved Philando. Their parents loved Philando. He was a giver and an asset.

Our community has been waiting, one year, for the verdict: was this killing justified? Did this man deserve to be shot multiple times for driving with a broken tail light?

Finally a verdict. The jury acquitted…”reasonable doubt”. The patrolman was justified. Philando Castile was so threatening sitting behind that wheel, strapped in his seat belt, beside his long-time girlfriend with her 5 year old daughter in the back seat, that he deserved 7 life- taking bullets.

Family, friends, community leaders knew that the only threatening thing about Philando was the color of his skin. “Brown skinned men are scary”.

So What? Why blog about this on a site for Vibrant Old Women? What does it have to do with us at this stage of our lives? 

My “so what?” is this:

  • Because I care about myself. I have lived more than 70 years and I am still alive today. I want to be vibrantly alive. Vibrancy depends on the condition of my Spirit (see ebook chapter on “Be a Giver”*) and my Spirit thrives when my heart is openly giving to those around me and caring about the lives of others in my world. Seclusion or isolation is self protective and selfish, and will cause me to lose vibrancy and  “rot from within”**. I have to care when others hurt…or choose not to and dry up myself.
  • Because I care about my grandchildren and their grandchildren. I have lived more than 70 years and know what makes a good community. I know we need good laws that give everyone a fair chance and give everyone protection from harm.  I want the future to be good for all our children. When our system fails one citizen it fails to be good. I owe it to the next generation to help expose the failure and help correct the system.
  • Because there are a LOT of us Vibrant Old Women and we can leverage change. If we give what we have, i.e. our wisdom, experience, and insights to broker understanding, our prayers, our time to write letters, make calls and show up at marches and demonstrations, our vote and community engagement, and our dollars, we could change some laws and procedures that serve our community unjustly.

I don’t want to keep the rhythm of my small life when one of my neighbors  is suffering injustice and sorrow and when we all have to live in fear for the lives of our sons because of the color of their skin.

So! that’s why I’m remembering Philandro Castile today and saying his name. I don’t want to forget.

 

*https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=vibrant+old+woman

**Line from poem, Pumpkin, by Connie Wanek

 

 

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