Speaking, Pursuing Wisdom, & Racism in America

I have thought a lot about voices this week, about the power and danger of words. If you know me, you probably know that I am a very verbal being. I love language, I love words, and I’m a verbal processor who enjoys “gaming out” information in ongoing intellectual dialogue. So the old axiom “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, then to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt” has been a perpetual life-lesson. I have spoken words that I later regretted more often than I care to remember. I see the truth of Proverbs 10:19 “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” play out quite often.

Growing as a listener and curbing my tongue will likely be a lifelong challenge for me, if the last 33 year are any indicator. One concrete step I have tried to take is to back off using social media as a platform for declaring stances or sharing critical opinions. Maybe it’s a byproduct of witnessing the ease and impact of online bullying among my students, but I decided some time ago that posting strong opinions online often causes more damage than good. We feel safe saying things at a distance and rarely consider all those who might read what we have to say.

I also struggle with the trivializing effect that “newsfeed culture” has on serious issues. Amid the endless parade of cute kid pictures, TikTok compilations, ridiculous memes, vacation pics, at-home workout routines, baking accomplishments, haircut selfies, and clips from our favorite shows; we also find school shootings, heartbreak, and cops committing murder. The incongruence is jarring. Somehow “shares” and “reposts” have grown into a societally valid way to lend support to the causes we scroll past, but are they just a convenient Band-Aid to ease the comfort of fleeting social conviction? We see stories, we react, we scroll on. Another day, another newsfeed, another laugh, another tragedy. We are unchanged.

So, I’m a social-media-cynic trying to curb her tongue, what am I even doing here?

Well, Proverbs also says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Prov. 31: 8-9). This, too, is part of wisdom in God’s eyes.

As I read the utterly heartbreaking stories that have broken over the past weeks, the horrifying murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, I have reeled in shock and internally recoiled from this sick reality. I have worried for my friends and family who are black and wondered how best to love them through this. I have grappled to try to understand what a right response looks like, and how to avoid the hypocrisy of mouthing support without backing it by some greater action? I have wondered whether a verbal show of support is even encouraging to those struggling, or just one more example of a person living in privilege usurping talk-time by making someone else’s pain somehow about themselves?

This week’s in-person conversations and contemplations on justice, personal conviction, fear, right action, responsibility, and love have left me feeling utterly uncertain. Honestly, my “plan” was to stick to my typical social-media rule, and seek wisdom by keeping my mouth shut and trying to just listen. Maybe the last thing the world needs right now is another white person trying to talk about their “struggle” in all of this when the true struggle of life or death based on the color of my skin is the farthest thing from my experience. Maybe I will regret sharing any of this later, because silence really was the better part of wisdom. I don’t know.

However, today I have decided to write because there is clearly such evil, hatred and brokenness in the world, and I cannot shake the conviction that perhaps wisdom today means opening my mouth in support of those whose voices have gone unheeded. Though I fear that my words simply add to a cacophony of voices crying out “This is wrong!”, perhaps my voice can lend itself to the chorus I hear stemming from recent injustices and help it to ring out more clearly?

To my friends and family who are black, I love you so much. I am so sorry for the fear and heartbreak and loss and pain that you experience. I know that I do not feel the cut of racism, and I cannot know what it feels like to live in fear that stems solely from the color of my skin, but I care desperately for you. I commit myself to persistently digging into my own biases and seeking to grow in love, support, and empathy. I hear the outcry that has arisen as, time and time again; injustice in its vilest forms is given a pass by the very systems meant to eradicate it. I hear the fear that permeates your life experiences, and my heart breaks wishing that I could somehow lift that from you.

Reading Dr. Marin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Burmingham Jail” anew, I am convicted afresh by his eloquent calling-out of the white moderates. He wrote, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” I am prayerfully seeking to escape from shallow understanding, and eschew the evil that is, (as King put it) “rest[ing] content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.

From the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry for any times when I have spoken from a place of privilege and acted dismissive of hard realities that you experience firsthand. I am thankful for the grace that you extend to me when I am insensitive or act thoughtlessly, and I invite you to set me straight if you see fit.

You astound me with your strength of heart amid the turbulence. I hope that you will call on me to support you however I can, whether to hug and listen, protect and defend you in any way that I am able, or to lend my voice and actions to yours. I am sorry if my previous silence left you feeling unsupported or questioning my care for you. I am also sorry if my words here were better left unsaid.

 

Party Hard with Some Classics

A good meme is a thing of beauty.

(If you don’t know what a meme is and you happen to use the internet, you should probably go educate yourself. I’ll wait. . . )

I know I have written about memes before, but that is the beauty of the meme . . . and the reason for its existence! They just keep resurfacing. Sometimes a meme can just PERFECTLY encapsulate your feelings in a way that nothing else truly can. Case in point:

einstein meme

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Now, some memes are just tasteless. HOWEVER, my humble opinion is that, while some memes are stupid and obnoxious, a well-made meme can enhance most simple messages. Thus, I am sharing a few humble Jane Austen memes I recently made for a friend’s birthday. . .

dance like austen meme

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jane austen meme - birthday party

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marriage

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In closing, Jane Austen once said “My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.” So, be clever, be well-informed, and please join in the potentially witty conversational world of the internet with clever memes!

Go forth and meme with class.

Nostalgia and Donuts

When I was little, my family somehow wound up with this novel device . . .

daisy donuts

After enjoying the Dazey Donut Factory throughout my childhood, I figured what better day than today, of all days, to mention it and the nostalgia it brings to mind. Today, being the first Friday of June, is National Donut Day. Now, before anybody gets bummed out that this is a post about Donuts and not a post about it being the 70th anniversary of D-Day, which is quite admittedly FAR more important than any donuts, I just wanted to share a really cool piece of history.

doughnut dollies

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National Donut Day was started by Salvation Army volunteers on the battlefields of France during World War One . . . and then the tradition continued on throughout WW2 until the day was commemorated in 1938 as an official national day that would occur annually on the first Friday in June. These volunteers would go around to military bases and hospitals in the field and give free donuts out to soldiers as a way to bring them CHEER and boost sagging morale!

ww-1-wounded-soldier-and-doughnut-girls

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In fact, the Salvation Army folks believed so strongly that the soldiers needed a little piece of home that they even fried doughnuts up in soldiers’ helmets! So, if you enjoy a free donut, you should think about how awesome it is that this day was actually invented to honor and support soldiers even before D-day came around!

 

Springtime Magic: Photo Proof

Sometimes the stars collide and I manage to snap a photo at the right moment to show exactly what I am seeing and the magic of this beautiful changeable season that is Spring as it surfaces around me in New England! These are a few of those moments from the past few weeks . . . for your viewing pleasure!

the long-lasting bubble

This bubble last for whole minutes on the grass at Lynch Park!

rain rain

The rain became an impressionist painting through my windshield.

frosting sand

The sand on Wingaersheek Beach looks like frosting.

cloudburst

Even the overcast sky shines with new dimension.

a perfect day

An absolutely idyllic day at Wingaersheek Beach.

watermelon love

A surprisingly hidden and beautifully  revealed symbol of love from my watermelon.

The Privilege of Teaching: Witnessing Goodness

Today, in class, one of my students who typically is very withdrawn/antisocial did the most incredible thing. No hyperbole. It was truly the sweetest and kindest unsolicited thoughtful act I’ve ever seen someone do. 

Backstory: I have taught this student for years and he has never seemed to connect very well with other classmates, no matter the size of the group. At the school where I teach, quirky students aren’t exactly unusual and the culture is one of general acceptance, but this fellow always struck me as an outlier among a group of outliers. I mean, his classmates like him well enough and are generally nice/tolerant towards him, but his disconnection from peers was concerning. I’ve worried about him over the years I’ve had him in class, but he also is mostly in his own world and has never seemed to mind the disconnect. He’s that guy that is always staring off into the distance and distracted when we’re talking. . .

Story: So today, as we were transitioning from lunch to class-time and kids were filtering into the room, he turned to the three students that were in the room and started talking to them. Now, sometimes, when he does this, it’s kind of like you’re picking up mid-stream-of-thought. As in: he’s already had the 1st half of the conversation in his head and you have to catch up really fast in order to make any sense of what he’s talking about . . . I could tell that the three listeners were expecting that kind of conversation, but instead this happened:

“Hey, so a few days ago in one of my classes, one of my friends was really down on himself about a lot of things, and it got me thinking. I mean, none of my friends see themselves the way I see them, and I wish that they could see all the awesome qualities in themselves the way that I do . . . so I decided to tell people how I see them. So, I wrote you each something.”

He proceeded to give out POEMS to each of the three people he was speaking to . . . and I got to read one (with permission, of course) and OH MY DEAR SWEET LORD IN HEAVEN.

I cannot even begin to do justice to the magnitude of this act in my description; this would have been unbelievably thoughtful coming from ANYONE, but is rendered even more remarkable by this student’s usually-detached nature. I am trying to figure out how on earth I can make you understand the UTTER and complete sweetness of this gesture.  He wrote individualized, BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN, page-long (like 8 stanzas each!), RHYMING poems describing all the unique ways he found his classmates special and about how much they brought to his world with their personalities. He gave SPECIFIC EXAMPLES about ways that they have made his life in school better and applauded different aspects of their specific personality that he appreciates. I MEAN. I CAN’T EVEN ~ 

Suffice it to say: I very nearly cried on the spot.

The poem-recipients were equally as floored and so touched. It clearly made their day, and I was just so thankful for the reminder of how wonderful people can be, even when it is least expected.

I just wanted to share, because observing this whole scenario made me unbelievably happy in my heart.