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Feb 25, 2016

Basic Principles of Humanity

Reading the article linked above, looking at the picture of this mother walking down the courthouse steps with her son, I'm thinking what a generally terrifying prospect it is to send our kids out into the world.  

Accidents, bad decisions, stupid mistakes, wrong place/wrong time situations...these worries plague every decent parent. But how those worries must compound exponentially for parents of kids who face racism or homophobia or xenophobia on top of every other curve ball that life can throw.

Cruelty and ignorance and hate in varying degrees have always been passed off as acceptable in our world.  Collateral damage. From bullies in the schoolyards to genocide. I don't understand one bit of it, but I know that it's true.  

There is a certain level of hate that we tolerate as simply the price of doing the business of living, I guess. And while I don't think we should teach our kids to be thin-skinned whiners who can't handle rejection or adversity or consequences, much the opposite in fact, I do believe that there is a monumental difference between toughing up our kids and teaching them that hate and ignorance are tolerable.

In the case of Donald Williams from the story above, I cannot believe that there was not one person in that entire dorm who stood up to these idiots. When they saw the nazi symbols and the confederate flag and the hate speech written on walls and heard the awful name calling and taunting and saw the freaking bike lock around this kid's neck...there was not one level headed, compassionate person brave enough to do the right thing, even at the risk of becoming a target themselves? Not one?

We are all ignorant as kids. Although I don't remember a specific instance, I'm sure I saw bullies on my playground and did nothing about it. I'm sure I called names and was awful to someone in elementary school. But as adults, even in our late teens and twenties, we can no longer claim ignorance. By then most of us have experienced bullies in some form and have felt the deep wounds they leave in their wake.  

By then we know better and should do better.  Yet many of us still look away.

When Donald and his family spoke up and took the men to court, the jury decided that misdemeanor slaps on the wrist were sufficient. In hate cases like this, my mind always wanders to Matthew Shepard. How many stood by and allowed that barbarity to happen? Or on a macro level, slavery, civil abuses, the Holocaust. Those things can't happen unless people look the other way.

Silence and inaction are just as bad as doing the damn thing yourself and, any way you look at it, that's cowardice.  

It comes down to this. Bullies are aplenty and we all, our kids included, will face them at different points in our lives. We thicken our kids' skins, build them up, teach them that our worth is not hinged on how others see us but on how we see ourselves through God's eyes. But when someone attacks a person's skin color or culture or sexuality, elemental aspects of who a person is, it wounds deeply. When that hate and fear manifest physically, when the bullies graduate from spewing words to using violence, those wounds turns into fissures.  

Those fissures erode the most basic principals of humanity - the moral fibers that connect us all.  

And that is intolerable.

We are drilling this into our kids even now so that, someday, when they are inevitably bullied, see someone else being bullied, or feel the urge to bully someone themselves, they will stop and think and feel their way around the situation to make the right decision.  

That's how the fissures are healed. That's how the fabric of humanity is sewn back together. Stitch by stitch, minute by minute, one man taking a stand, one kid making a good decision, compassionate souls living every day with their eyes wide open, doing the brave work of the right thing.

Feb 18, 2016

We Got the Funk

I woke up singing Uptown Funk this morning.  It must have been in this bizarre college dream I had last night, maybe during the party scene in my old church sanctuary with a couple of movie stars and some college friends I haven't seen for years?  

Regardless, with that song in embedded in my brain, I knew it would be a good day.  I mean, you can't help but dance along to this.  It's a physical and psychological impossibility.  Even though they play it to death on the radio.  Even though there have been 147 parodies.  It's just a damn fun tune. 

Before the sun came up, as I was doing my butt lifting Barre3 exercises...

This hit, that ice cold
Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold
This one for them hood girls
Them good girls straight masterpieces

Waking up the kids with armpit tickles and ruddy cheek kisses...

Stylin, whilen, livin it up in the city
Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent
Gotta kiss myself, I'm so pretty

Packing lunches, kissing Rich in the kitchen...

I'm too hot, (hot damn)
Call the police and a fireman
I'm too hot, (hot damn)
Say my name you know who I am

Doing Sam's hair (with Sam singing the whoos)...

Girls hit your hallelujah (whoo)
Girls hit your hallelujah (whoo)
Girls hit your hallelujah (whoo)

Dancing with Lena on her bed while she got dressed...

Cause uptown funk gonna give it to you
Cause uptown funk gonna give it to you
Cause uptown funk gonna give it to you
Saturday night and we in the spot
Don't believe me just watch 

We all left with smiles on our faces (me because of the song, my family surely because I had been dancing around singing like an idiot all morning), hopeful that our days would be...

Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy

Feb 15, 2016

This Family

This family Rich and I have made...

This weird, quirky, awesome family of odd, eccentric, beautiful little individuals with their own strange ideas and hearts too big to be contained...

This family of blue-eyed mischief makers and blond haired dreamers...

This family made from a love so deep that I never even thought to dream about it, with a man who lives his truth every day with quiet kindness and selflessness...

This family who hugs and kisses, fights and tantrums, watches and listens, learns and laughs, yells and forgives, loves and loves some more...

This emotional family who is making it up as we go along, side by side, hand in hand...

This family is the air in my lungs and the pulse in my veins.  I cannot believe that I get to be part of this cool little tribe and that these amazing kids call me Mom.

Me.  Mom.  That still flabbergasts me.

So on Valentine's Day (and every day that I'm paying attention), I feel wholly undeserving of the blessing each person in this family is to me.

This family Rich and I have made.  


Feb 3, 2016

Monsters and Light

People's lives are hard.

People have serious shit happen to them.  Moments, even a single moment can change every conceivable aspect of who we become.  Awful things that others might notice, but often in a glazed unfocused way, like staring at one of those 3-D hidden picture posters.  They don't want to see what's right in front of them, so they haze it over.  That way they don't have to step out of their comfort zones and do something about it.

To them ignorance is bliss.

But to the person who is trudging through the muck, through the darkness of those moments, this ignorance is just another blow of judgement and malice and shame.  When someone who is being hurt looks into the eyes of a friend, a family member, a teacher, a passerby, there is an unspoken, maybe even an unintentional plea there.  And if we, the friends or family members or passersby are present enough, still enough in our own minds, we can see it and ask questions and be human to this person who lives among the monsters.

Then ignorance can no longer be claimed.  

Then we know, or have a good idea.  And if there is a shred of virtue and compassion in our souls, we should do something about it.  Reach out.  Make waves if necessary.  Maybe those waves will shake loose the monsters that live in the depths.  And maybe the people stuck down there with them can ride those waves toward the light, toward healing and love.

The older I get the more stories I hear about the evil that is endured by so many every day (and largely overlooked).  Friends whose parents were dangerous or neglectful or who made painfully stupid decisions that spilled over onto their kids.  Kids suffering bullies.  People of all ages withstanding abuse and humiliation.  Pain.  Poverty.  Addiction.  Heartache.  Shame.  And that's to say nothing of my recent visit to Cleveland's Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage where I stood dumbfounded in front of a map that showed the concentration of hate groups still active in the US and where I read through tear-filled eyes the unimaginable horrors of Holocaust survivors.  Or the true story the movie Spotlight tells of rampant sexual abuse and cover ups within the Catholic church.  

Jesus.  It sometimes seems like people are drowning in a sea of monsters.  

I think of these things when we sing "This Little Light of Mine" at church.  I think about how those of us who have been shielded from the monsters or survived them, how those of us who hold the light of hope and grace and mercy and compassion have an obligation to shine it, to seek out darkness with our lights and blind those @**&%!# monsters with it.  

There are endless questions this sparks regarding faith.  Like why does suffering happen?  Where is God when this is happening to people all over the world?  

But then I think he's in me.  And he's in you.  

And he's trying desperately to work through us.  Will we listen?  I need to do more, be more proactive in this light-shining business.  Because somewhere out in the world there is someone who is waiting for me to do something.  To hear their plea.  To make some waves.  To reach out and help.  To shine a light.

A simple everyday way to make this into a habit is to give people a freaking break.  Don't be so judgy.  That rude clerk at the store or the distracted waitress or that coworker who drives you don't know what monsters they have fought or are still fighting.  Sure, maybe some of them are just jerks.  But maybe if you look into their eyes and push aside your judgement, you will see a story there.  Maybe a plea.  Which is why we should offer kindness always.  Offer a closed mouth and an open ear.  Offer help if necessary.

Offer your light.  

Because if you shine your light, and I shine mine, my kids shine theirs, their friends shine theirs...soon this whole place will be so bright that the monsters won't have anywhere to hide.