Owning Responsibility

I love this country. I value the fact that due to no effort or wisdom on my part I grew up in the United States. This country has been good to me. However, regardless of my personal experience, others claim a different reality.  Julia Craven writes, “The system continues to fail Black people.” Our country, which has treated me so kindly, has not regarded others with equal respect. No one wins when the system continues to be rigged in favor of a few.

Police bashing will never provide a sensible answer. Most police want to serve and will risk their lives to protect others. When police make mistakes, we need to own the fact that our system did not education them well. Sometimes, family lessons twist minds. Misconceptions often continue in our schools and even our churches. Finally, police academies cement misconceptions by emphasizing guns rather than communication skills. However, the injuries to Blacks represent much more than a police problem.

Our judicial system appears spineless when the issues involve race. How many times have we witnessed brutality toward Black males on television, and later felt astonished when courts determined that the perpetrators did no wrong? Julia Craven claims that although 991 Black citizens were shot and killed in 2015, jury outcomes did not result in a single guilty verdict. Doesn’t that seem astonishing? That odd imbalance of verdicts suggests that attitudes rearrange facts in the minds of jurors.

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A Father’s Day Story: Changing a Sworn Enemy to a Friend for Life

In my entire life, I only had one serious enemy. My foe, Johnny Cain, had enormous blue eyes and sandy hair. Each afternoon, while walking from school to my Grandmother Glover’s house, Johnny pretended to run me down with his little blue bicycle. In an effort to maintain some shred of dignity, I showed no fear. I stared straight ahead, kept walking at a steady pace, and refused to look at my cruel tormentor. The more I pretended bravery the more this game appealed to eight-year old Johnny.

You probably can’t imagine the horror I felt when Daddy announced that he and I would be going to a fish fry with Catherine Cain and her son, Johnny. “You can’t be serious! Johnny is the meanest person in the whole world,” I responded in a panic. Seventy years later, I know this world can be cruel. At eight, I thought surely Daddy would listen to reason. However, the following Saturday, I found myself scrunched against a back seat door staring out the window. Johnny stared with equal determination out the opposite side of the car. We refused to speak to one another.

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Salvaging At Risk Students

As a life long educator, hearing the term “school to prison pipeline” causes me to cringe. Imagining lines of young Black males walking that pipeline only intensifies feelings of grief and loss. Imagine the difference if money spent on prisons had been allotted to changes within our public school system.

News articles frequently inform us that “the school to prison pipeline” predominantly destroys lives of Black males. When I force myself to get honest about this reality, I realize that every student who drops out of school or who ends up in prison embodies an appalling personal cost as well as a disastrous loss to society. Instead of increasing my hand wringing, I want to share a few alternative ideas, which I learned from others.

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America Now Stands on the Sidelines

I heard someone claim, “You can’t lead from the sidelines.” While looking for the author of this quote, I found the following words from Shirley Chisholm, “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”

Why these quotes about sidelines? On June 1, 2017, America moved out of our place as THE leader of the free world and stepped onto the impotent sidelines. We relinquished our connections to 200 national leaders who at least claim they will work to improve the world atmosphere. In our withdrawal we joined Nicaragua and Syria. No one questions why Syria did not join. Nicaragua tells a different story.

Paul Oquist, who represents Nicaragua at the Paris meetings claims that unlike the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, no consequences currently exist if any country fails to maintain its promises. Whether or not one agrees with Nicaragua’s position, I maintain that only those at the table can make a correction concerning this issue.

Currently, Nicaragua ranks 131st in carbon emissions. Regrettably, the US ranks second in the world, which means only China emits more carbon than we do. Those who do more harm should contribute accordingly. Nothing sounds more childish than to claim unfair treatment from other nations. When I hear this complaint, I consider efforts to help high needs children.

23707858 – carbon dioxide emissions and globe, digital composite

Teachers who work with special education students often hear complaints of unfairness from other children. I always respond, “Fair means each individual gets what that person needs in order to learn and succeed.” Equal treatment ignores individual differences. On the other hand, equity provides what each individual actually needs to make progress. As we should behave with children, we must act among nations. Equity overrides equality. Nations, like children, arrive with differing needs and abilities.

Even if the Paris Agreements do not represent perfection, I believe we should be involved, striving to improve the agreements and seeking to lead other nations to care for the planet. I fear we will have little or no influence from the sidelines.

I close with a final quote from Theodore Roosevelt. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Even North Korea joined the Paris Accord. The United States now stands on the sidelines with Syria and Nicaragua. I weep with regret that we no longer lead the free world. From the sidelines, we pout and complain.

Work Cited:

Cabral, Angelica. “Why Isn’t Nicaragua Part of the Paris Agreement?” futuretense. June 1, 2017. http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/06/01/why_isn_t_nicaragua_part_of_the_paris_climate_agreement.html

 Chisholm, Shirley. “Sideline Quotes.” AZ QUOTES. https://www.ratchetandwrench.com/articles/1173-don-rsquo-t-lead-from-the-sidelineshttp.

Evans, Bryce. “Don’t Lead from the Sidelines.” RATCHET+WRENCH. . June 29, 2012.

Responding to Challenges Times

Every Sunday, the members of our church sing two important phrases. “This is the time we’ve been waiting for. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” With increasing frequency, I repeat these sentences to myself.

Nationally, we have an idea on which we all seem to agree — America faces challenging times. A national split seems to widen each day with no solutions in sight. We find divisions about climate changes, racial inequity, immigrants, Muslims, gays, women’s rights, taxes and many more issues. As long as we remain divided, no one can truly enjoy the freedom for which this republic began.

How can this be the time we have been waiting for? Division feels terrible. I can’t speak for others, but during times of challenge, I experience my most significant reflection and growth. The challenges we now face call on us to be the best we can possible be. Circumstances also prompt us to live up to the intentions of our founding fathers.

Our constitution begins, “We the people. . .” The words do not include we the people of a certain color, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. How might our nation look if we were to rise to the level of those opening words? According to Reverend Jim Rigby, “We seek a freedom that does not enslave others.” If I say, “I love you but I don’t want to pay you a living wage,” I clearly demonstrate hypocrisy. Likewise, can I claim love if I favor laws that make voting difficult for any group or individual? Am I a loving person if I live in fear of any religion or group that differs from my personal values?

Rigby suggests that if we live in captivity to our fears, we restrict the freedom of all of us. Additionally, putting money ahead of human values denies us our own liberty. The laws of the Old Testament and the laws of our own constitution exist to help us establish personal freedoms —freedoms, which must exist for everyone within the boundaries of this great country.

Apparently, these are the times we’ve been waiting for. These times require us to wake up and live out of compassion, to move beyond our fears and act with courage. Only with open hearts can we find the freedom we seek. No leader of any party can provide this for us. Nor can any religion or clergy provide us with healing. The freedom, as well as the safety we seek abides within our own beings. This is the time and we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Work Cited:

Reverend Jim Rigby. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Austin, Texas, 2017. Ideas in this writing come from a sermon delivered by Jim Rigby on Sunday, May 28, 2017.

EASTER

EASTER

Like “walking dead” zombies, we sometimes stumble around without seeing the beauty surrounding us, without caring for self or others, and without accepting hope. Existence at that level symbolizes death. The triumphant news of Easter reminds us that we can claim the life intended for us. The Easter story focuses on becoming alive. The message encourages us to rise up from being asleep — essentially dead, to fully embrace divine life.

When lived at its fullest level, life progresses beyond inhaling and exhaling. The message of Easter reminds us to be “empty, open vessels to receive the full measure of Diving blessings. I am whole. I am one with Spirit.” Easter’s message of LIFE lives on eternally.

“Rest.” Daily Word. April 15, 2017.

What Controls Us: Legitimate Fear or Paranoia?

The Man walked His talk. However, although He admonished followers to “Consider the lilies of the field,” He did not suggest that we stride stupidly into a lion’s snare. Lilies represent peace; the opposite of dread and anguish.

So, what worries do we harbor? Which fears should be honored as legitimate and which can be discarded? This morning, I read, “There is a level in every human soul which knows no conflict, competition, or contempt.” Life lived at that level frees us from miserable nightmares. Although I admit to being a practiced worrier, I now seek peace. Below, I list issues that no longer frighten me.

  1. I do not fear someone simply because that person’s skin tone differs from mine. We share similar body parts, thinking processes, and feelings.
  1. Those who refer to God by a name, which sounds foreign, do not concern me. God, by any name remains God.
  1. Sexual preferences of other consenting adults do not worry me. What other people do sexually does not have any impact on my life.

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Marching Into the Gates of Hell

Stockpiling weapons for the purpose of defending home and family may sound like a solid plan. But, is it? In an effort to consider a new perspective on personal protection, please join me on an imaginary time-travel journey to contemplate the following question:

Can the words of Jesus apply in today’s world?

Imagine for a moment that just outside the walls of Jerusalem, we mingle with devout followers of Jesus. The Last Supper has been eaten, Judas departed, and Jesus has withdrawn to pray. Although most disciples sleep, a few of us crouch around a small fire to discuss possible actions to take. All of us realize that danger lurks. Our Master’s life hangs in jeopardy.

As we linger, we hear “Jesus will be arrested. He will be tried and found guilty of blasphemy. We have to do something.” Following a hushed moment, a disciple mutters, “We must arm ourselves. In order to protect our Master and our cause, we must resist. Let every man take up arms and be ready for defense. When the soldiers arrive, we will be ready.”

How might history have unfolded if the disciples had physically fought the soldiers – soldiers, who, in fact came and arrested Jesus? Would fighting have been a “courageous” action or a futile massacre? How would recorded history be different? These questions suggest some interesting considerations about whether the teachings of Jesus can actually apply today.

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Not So Smart After All!

In a recent conversation with my husband, I jokingly declared, “I’ve lived so long and made so darn many mistakes, that in the process, I have become very smart. In fact, I might be the smartest person I know — even though no one cares what I think or wants to hear what I have to say.” With that, I self-righteously flounced off to bed.

The following morning, I began reading Eric Butterworth’s book, “The Flow Within”. Haltingly, I realized that I seemed to be missing the profound meaning from the text. I had to admit that I did not “get” the message. “Perchance I’m not as smart as I thought,” I reflected.

Almost immediately, I recalled the face of a young Black woman describing her childhood. She painfully shared attending a predominantly white school in which classmates made fun of her full lips, her wide nose, her kinky hair, and her dark skin. No, as hard as I tried, I did not relate to her experiences of life. Once again, I had to admit to what I did not know. “Not so smart, after all,” I mused.

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Deceiving and Destroying: Vouchers Versus Public Schools

I wonder how many of us realize that a handful of very wealthy families actively spend time and money toward destroying public education? Dick DeVos, husband of Betsy DeVos, once said, “When given a clear choice, voters across the U.S. have consistently opposed school vouchers.” DeVos continued by asserting that the grassroots movement must be kept quiet. He suggested using the term “school choice” and spreading the idea one person at a time. Think tanks funded by Koch, Scaife, Bradley, Olin and other mega-donors claimed, “Because we know how the government schools perpetuate themselves, we can design a plan to dismantle them.” Dick and Betsy DeVos plan to execute this plan. Please understand this effort for what it is: a movement focused on total destruction of public education. Continue reading