Posted in Thankful Thursday

I Like Esther

The International Day of Women was this week and March is Women’s History Month, but it’s hard for me to write about women I admire. I think that’s because for most of my childhood I was force fed the feminist idea that women were supposed to want it all, career and family, as well as be able to do everything men could do but do it better. I loved the old movies, I loved the fairytales, I liked the damsel in distress. I like to think we all need saving from time to time.

I didn’t want to do everything. I did want to help people and do what I could to bring about world peace, end hunger and protect the environment, but I wanted to do it as part of a team, not some superwoman who never slept. For me all the emphasis on how we had to compete with men just made me sad to be a woman. Then I watched some reality TV and found what I love most about being a woman.

First I watched the historical house shows on PBS, Colonial House, 1900’s House, Manor House, Frontier House and Ranch House. In each one, a family or group of families would try to survive a number of months living as their ancestors would have during the specified time period. At the end a group of historians would grade the the participants both on how well they adhered to the time period and did they do a good enough job that they would have been successful if they continued on.

I learned the most from the one that failed the worst, the Ranch House. When the historians gave their final grade to the Ranch, they not only said it had little chance of continuing due to the Ranches owner treating the hands with disrespect and as if they were totally replaceable (good ranch hands would have been difficult to come by,) but they took the time to say that in those days it was the job of the woman of the house to sow seeds not of dissension as the wife and mother had, but of harmony. Harmony! to bring harmony to the ranch was the duty of the women. That was the first time I felt like I knew what I had been looking for in my chosen role model.

Thinking back to all the other historical house shows, I saw that they were the most successful when the women involved happily, patiently and enthusiastically accepted their challenges and therein sowed the seeds of peace and harmony among all their fellow participants of the show.

This idea was reinforced even more when my daughter and I enjoyed watching the reality show Trading Spouses. Again there was a clear difference in the results anytime the woman chose to put her personal feelings aside and focus on the needs of the family she was with, as opposed to the woman who saw her mission to change the family she was with and be a warrior for whatever cause she had made her own. At the end of the show, was a twist, the women would decide how the other families $50,000 dollars (their payment for doing the show) was spent. If she had gotten to know the family she knew how to spend it to help them and the family usually didn’t mind this twist, but if she had pursued her own agenda, the family would feel cheated because the money would not go where it was needed.

Watching one after another, true-life family, I was able to see why I had such a hard time finding a woman role model I wanted to emulate. The women I admire most are the ones that help everyone around them shine, but don’t need fanfare to feel appreciated.

That is why I like the story of Esther. She had a huge impact on her people, she saved them and she did it by doing what women (traditionally) do best. She asked the king, her husband for a favor. She was a damsel in distress, and she let him be her hero. I don’t want to be a superwoman, strong in power but alone. I want to be like Esther, strong in faith and part of a team.

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Posted in Thankful Thursday

The Blessing of Roots

I can’t watch Alex Haley’s TV miniseries without going back in time to my childhood. I loved it, because it said something I rarely heard growing up. It said family was important. Not in the family that is rich or influential way, but in the knowing who you are, where you came from as a clue to where you are going, way. Nature versus nurture is a surprisingly old debate.

Sadly the idea of viewing people as a “blank slate” goes back to 1690 and was used to justify the taking away of children from their parents, to train them to be servants and slaves. Genetics was most unpopular when purist behaviorism dominated from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. It kept my grandfather (a geneticist) from continuing his studies with dogs in the 1930’s. It encouraged psychologists and psychiatrists to recommend institutionalizing children with autism and schizophrenia, since it blamed mothers as the cause. And it allowed child protective services to take children away suddenly and permanently.

Then in 1976 Alex Haley wrote Roots: The Saga of an American Family and in 1977 it aired on television. In 1979 the sequel Roots: The Next Generations finished the amazing story.

It changed so many things. Suddenly, everybody was interested in genealogy.

Was it a coincidence that the Indian Child Welfare Act that stopped Native American children from being taken from their tribes became law in 1978? Prior to the act 25 to 35 percent of Native American children were removed and thus grew up absent their culture.

As Louis La Rose (Winnebago tribe of Nebraska) testified:

“I think the cruelest trick that the white man has ever done to Indian children is to take them into adoption court, erase all of their records and send them off to some nebulous family … residing in a white community and he goes back to the reservation and he has absolutely no idea who his relatives are, and they effectively make him a non-person and I think … they destroy him.”

In my own experiences with protective services, I was very aware every time I was visited how lucky I was that it is now seen as in the child’s best interest to remain in their family and culture.

Thank you Alex Haley and your ancestor Kunta Kinte. Though it took you 200 years to go home, you have led many more to remember that nature and roots matter. Knowing our parents, grandparents and beyond helps us to find our true paths. Would I have managed to keep my family together, would I still have my son, with out your help? I hate to imagine.

Posted in Thankful Thursday

A Circle of Hope

Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela stand in my mind together as the leaders who showed what fighting for peace really looks like. February is Black History month in the United States and when my son asked what I was going to do for it, I decided this is an opportunity to dive into both the contributions of Blacks on Thursdays and the threads of fate that connect slavery throughout history for Fridays.

I must start, however, with a little brown not black, man.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi spent twenty one years in South Africa and suffered many acts of discrimination. That was where he developed his views on justice and inequality. He used civil disobedience and nonviolent protest to free India from British rule. Tragically, religion tore the new nation apart. Gandhi’s contributions to the world did not end with his death. His form of nonviolent protest inspired an American Baptist minister.

Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by Gandhi he said,

“Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the tactics.”

One of the greatest orators in history he inspired millions with his dream of peaceful and friendly co-existence between all races, all people. In April 1959 he made a trip to India,

“Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity”.

When the march on Washington took place without violent incident, he proved that the combination of love and inspiration can bring peace and hope to a discontented populace. He was assassinated a few months before I was born. Sadly riots broke out in many US cities after his death.

Nelson Mandela struggled with nonviolence, yet his story is symbolic of the power of nonviolence. It was the nonviolent pleas of people around the world, an international campaign that freed him after twenty-seven years in prison for his political crimes. He paid the world back by working to abolish apartheid, establish multiracial elections and to promote peace and healing, he created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights abuses. Though it may not have been considered a success by all. I feel strongly it was a brave step in the right direction. He spent the remainder of his life in service to the ideals of equal human rights, and fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic and poverty. Despite the controversy of his not always non violent views, he alone died in a bed, with no riots. Ten days of mourning were observed.

As I mourned, I was struck with the sense that a full circle had been completed. From the actions of an Indian Lawyer who was thrown off a South African train in 1893 to an American Minister who stood up for a tired women refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955, back to South Africa for another lawyer, finally freed from prison and president of his newly non-apartheid nation in 1994, one hundred and one years later.

Posted in Thankful Thursday

Grateful To Gibran

When people tell me I am too easy going with my children, I remember the words of Gibran.

Your children are not your children . . . For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow . . . Life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.”

And I rejoice to let my children follow their own path.

When people tell me I am too generous, giving to those that don’t deserve it, I recall Gibran.

You give but little when you give of your possessions. . . .For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? . . . And what is fear of need but need itself? . . . And there are those that have little and give it all.

These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty. . . “

And I feel blessed to be able to give knowing whatever I give away makes me ever richer in faith.

When I fell guilty for my debts, I think of Gibran.

And you receivers – and you are all receivers –assume no weight of gratitude lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives. . . For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free hearted earth for mother, and God for father.”

And I rest easy knowing my acknowledgement of their gift is the best repayment.

When my heart is broken and bitterness would make me curse my ex-lover, I reread Gibran.

“When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
 Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
 He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you
 that you may know the secrets of your heart,
and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.”

And I kneel with tears of joy, to thank God I have the choice to let go of bitterness and when I remember my lover . . .

“To know the pain of too much tenderness.
 To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy; to return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.”

To not let go of love but to feel it ever stronger, as I let my lover go and return to my Lord’s embrace.

Thank you Khalil Gibran.

Posted in Thankful Thursday

Ever Indebted to Corrie

I became acquainted with Miss ten Boom when I was still young. About ten years old I think, the movie of her story “The Hiding Place” repeated on our paid cable channel several times. When I saw it, I needed to know more. I felt the story was only half told. Later when I came across the book by the same name, I found so much more than I expected. It is among my favorite books and I highly recommend reading it for spiritual growth.

It gave me a start to understanding that truth really is stranger than fiction, because it is a true story more poignant that any melodrama and more miraculous than any bible story. It speaks of the triumph of the human soul. And that is the one victory no gun, nor bomb, nor march of time can stain. It stands alone beautiful, elegant, immortal.

Cornelia ten Boom was a survivor of a Nazi Concentration Camp but she stands alone in that her story brought to life for me two especially beautiful and wise souls. Her father, Casper and her sister, Betsie died at the hands of the Nazis yet through her memories of them I found two teachers of faith and devotion to light my way.

When a young Corrie asked her father the meaning of the word “sexsin, “ her father set down his case of watch parts and asked her, “Would you carry it off the train, Corrie?”

She tugged at it but, “It is too heavy,” she replied.

Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

Later when Corrie feared she would not be strong enough to endure should her father die, he asked her, “Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam – when do I give you your ticket?”

Why, just before we get on the train.”

Exactly,. And our wise father in heaven knows when we are going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”

I love these stories for they taught me that not only is it not necessary for a parent to tell their children everything all at once but better still because it gave me the peace of mind to know it is not necessary as a child to have to learn everything all at once. We each carry what we are able as we are able and there is no shame in telling our Father, “This is too heavy.” He is proud to carry for us what we can not carry. We may have faith that He knows what we need and that He will supply it when we need it most.

Betsie though was the most amazing, she insisted on finding a way to be thankful for everything, even the fleas in the barracks. They kept the supervisor out . . . “ She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards . . . Because of the fleas! That’s what she said. “ That place is crawling with fleas.””

It was Betsie who urged her sister Corrie saying, “We must go everywhere. We must tell people that no pit is so deep that He is not deeper still. They will believe us, because we were here.” Betsie died in that camp with a peaceful smile on her face. She had been gifted with a vision of a better future. Her sister Corrie saw that vision come true and spent her the rest of her life sharing her sister’s message.

Thank you Corrie!

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Posted in Thankful Thursday

Thank You Harper Lee

I think for most people Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is only about racism. It is about racism, but it has an even deeper message if you look for it. It has a message that touches all of us, of every color, creed and sex. I am glad to know the book is required reading in most schools around here. My children had to read the story in school as did I when I was fourteen. I remember the my teacher explaining the title to us. She explained that to kill a mockingbird was killing something for no reason. To be honest though I had never fully realized the connecting link between Tom Robinson’s doom and the saving of Boo (Arthur) Radley could be summed up in one word. Dignity.

Tom Robinson (a black man) was doomed because he felt sorry for Mayella ( a white girl) and was pushed into saying so at the his trial, thus robbing Bob Ewell and all the white men in the area of their illusion of dignity. It was Atticus Finch’s learning that lesson that saved Boo from having to go to trial. Had Boo been forced into the public, even as a hero, it would’ve destroyed him just as certainly. He was too shy to deal with such attention. Now I understand the lesson all to well.

Every time I think about telling my life story to the world, I think about Boo. My son is severely autistic, my son doesn’t speak, my son is completely dependent on me. Social workers need to read that book and realize it’s not about racism, it’s about limits. It’s about recognizing that there need to be limits to how much you dig through a person’s private life to examine. Anyone that spends all their time searching for something to fix will surely find it. There are things that are destroyed by too much examining; privacy, freedom, security, the simple sense of relaxed contentment, and not the least of all dignity. All are certain to be shredded by the social worker that won’t stop analyzing every action and every word a parent says.

But where I live, if a parent asks for help with a special needs child, they force the parent to be analyzed over and over for months, as long as the state government is paying for help. Trust me, I have very good reasons for never asking the state government for help again. When I think back to those months and the countless visits by protective services in the years after, it is a wonder I can hear myself think anymore. All the outside voices and judgements came to invade my mind as I learned to question every thought and every action. A constant dialogue filled my head as I tried to defend every action I took from every accusation I could imagine. Trying to be ready, always, for the next onslaught.

No case was ever brought against me. I cooperated with protective services every time.

Most of them understood. My son might appear to be abused or neglected to those with no experience in autism. But for anyone with training in psychology, his body language spoke volumes of trust and security. The way he would run up to climb on my back for a piggyback ride then run off giggling. No abused child could act so happy, so full of joy and delight.

But I could never take him giggling to a court room. The very act of taking him out of his comfortable safe home environment would be a violent act to him. All the strange people, he can not stand large groups of people. So when the judgmental people come with their thoughts of intolerance forefront, he does act out . . . in reaction to them. He doesn’t need to speak to understand what their body language says.

Yes, thank you Harper Lee for writing such a beautiful, fictional book about racism that so many people can read, and thank you for slipping between the lines a timeless lesson in the irreplaceable value of human dignity.

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Posted in Thankful Thursday

The Joy of Gratitude

I am thankful for so much and to many people. Today I would like to thank four sources for reminding me not only of the importance of gratitude but of the happiness and sense of contentment that accompany the humble who thank others.

Sir Isaac Newton (January 4th 1643- March 20th 1727), who is often regarded as the most influential scientist in history and is most famous for discovering the Laws of Gravity.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of ye giants.”

This is one of my favorite quotes. I find it an excellent reminder to be both humble for “we [the Moderns] are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants [the Ancients], and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter. And this is not at all because of the acuteness of our sight or the stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of the giants.” -Bernard of Chartres (12th century) and to be grateful. (It is a fitting irony that the most famous of Sir Isaac’s quotes is attributable to yet another older source.)

Barry Neil Kaufman born March 28, 1919 (age 96) A co-founder of the Option Institute and Autism Treatment Center of America. I visited the Option Institute to learn as much as I could about Son-rise therapy for my two autistic sons.

Not only does he list being grateful as one of the six steps to happiness in his book Happiness is a Choice but I also remember reading on the back of one of his books something along the lines that if we could fully see all the gifts that God gives us all our prayers would be songs of gratitude. I didn’t know quite what to make of that idea at first but as the years passed and I began to comprehend the difference between God’s gifts and men’s corruptions, I saw that it was true.

The Color Purple (film 1985) I spent a lot of time wondering that the title line is when Shug tells Celie she thinks “it pisses God off when people pass by the color purple without noticing.” Here is a movie about racism and domestic abuse, about the lower than low status of the black woman in the 1930’s. Why oh why was it named after the color of a field of flowers? I don’t know what was in the mind of Alice Walker when she wrote it, but I found a beautiful truth in the wondering of it. I realized that no matter how oppressed a person is, they can still find happiness by appreciating even the littlest and seemly most insignificant of God’s gifts.

Madame Blueberry (1998) Veggietales cartoon.

My kids and I began watching Veggietales after my daughter brought a video home from school. It was about accepting people who are different and came with a package of popcorn and a family survey. After that, we would pick up another video at the library every week of summer. Madame Blueberry was my absolute favorite, she teaches that happiness can’t be bought at a store. Happiness comes from a thankful heart. When I find my self enjoying doing simple things , like washing dishes or scrubbing floors, I often like to sing the song . . 

I thank God for this day

For the sun in the sky

For my mom and my dad

For my piece of apple pie!

 

For our home on the ground,

For His love that’s all around

That’s why I say thanks every day!

 

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!

I’m glad for what I have

That’s an easy way to start

 

For the love that He shares,

‘Cause He listens to my prayers,

That’s why I say thanks every day!

Thank you Annie from Veggitales’ Madame Blueberry and thank you all who created and inspired you from the biggest to the smallest.

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