Behind Closed Doors

It was overcast and rainy today.  So we stayed in like you do.  With even a couple of times venturing outside, things still got a little wacky today.  Folks were grumpy.  I might have overreacted to spilled water.  The dog barked way too much at the cat outside and anytime someone made a sudden move.  Folks couldn’t get along about what movie to watch or game to play and they couldn’t work together to get chores done.  Or respond to requests for action the first three times they were asked.  They We all got cranky.

Not our best day.

I blame it on being stir crazy.

That’s a thing, right?  When I worked in childcare, and we had days or weeks of inclement weather, we talked about the children (and others *ahem*) being stir crazy.  One summer when the temperature reached so high it was too hot for us to play outside, I remember Mama sending us outside in the dark after our baths to run around in our nightgowns just to burn some energy off.  Now I know that was as much for her as it was for us.

Last night I wrote about a man who was so thankful that because of his job he could afford to turn on the cable, so his children could stay indoors and be safe.  He lives in a neighborhood where it isn’t safe for them to be outside.  I cannot imagine what that life is like, y’all.

Today, in the middle of all of our crankiness, I sat with that for a bit.  If these children are staying inside as much as possible to protect them from violence and being susceptible to drugs and gang activity and worse, other bad things can happen.  Things that aren’t as immediately harmful, but the long-term effects could be devastating.

These children are more susceptible to obesity because they can’t get out and run around.  Sitting inside is necessary for survival, but their little feet need to run free as do their spirits.   When I think about the joy it brings me watching Cooter’s hair flying behind him as he rides his bike up and down the street, I grieve for these parents and children who cannot experience that.   For the ones in school, I cannot imagine that the limited amount of time spent in PE could completely satisfy their need to run around.  Limited physical activity combined with limited budget for purchasing healthy foods can contribute to even more health problems.  Many of these neighborhoods are food deserts as well, with few choices for shopping for foods other than snacks or highly processed foods.

My front porch is a “laboratory.”  Many of the children on our street come and pick leaves and grass and flower blossoms and concoct all sorts of things.  Later they might be running around with pool noodles, using them for goodness only knows, and running around between yards, laughing and chasing and teasing and hiding, and doing all the wonderful things their imaginations come up with.  (They also have disagreements, which they have to resolve among themselves for the most part, and that is really good for them too.)

This little neighborhood is where my children are learning about community.  About sharing each other’s ups and downs and sitting with each other when they are hurting…..physically and emotionally.  I am not saying that these children who are inside all day aren’t learning about community, but I worry about what they are learning about it.  I hope there is a community center or somewhere they can get out and learn that people really do care and that there is joy to be found in caring about others and sharing the journey.

Because, if today is any indication, what happens behind closed doors can escalate fast.  I cannot imagine what it is like for these parents who are working multiple jobs, fighting to pay bills and stay afloat, worrying over keeping their littles–and their teens–safe and in school.  I can only imagine the pressure they must feel.  Perhaps they are fighting monsters of their own.  And then they are stuck in this place with few choices, where their community is not safe.

Without community to support them or options to explore, things can turn for the worse.  People who feel that they have no options or anyone to turn to–I get how frustrating and devastating that can be.  All of that has to go somewhere.  All too often it goes to substance abuse or abuse to others.

I’m not saying these families are doomed.  What I am saying is that I am starting to realize how far-reaching the impact of growing up in unsafe neighborhoods can be.  It can affect everything from nutrition and health to social skills to self-esteem, focus, and the ability to dream about the future.  Imaginations can suffer, as can relationships.  Parents who are struggling and have no support can succumb to the darkness.  The youth without anywhere to go might look for any way out–even the one they know is not the wisest choice.  Many might find themselves in situations outside the law–our Youth Detention Centers and prisons are filled with people who made poor choices in desperate situations.  My own friend grew up in a home without many choices, which contributed to his addiction problems as he tried to numb the pain.  He has been in and out of jails and rehab facilities.  All because at one point as a young person, he felt he was out of choices.

I am broken because tonight, as I wrote this, I was waiting to hear about the appeals that were in the U.S. Supreme Court to save the life of Joshua Bishop by giving him a stay of execution.  He was abused and neglected as a child, and when he was barely a legal adult, he and an older man murdered a friend with whom they’d been drinking and doing drugs.  The older man was sentenced to life in prison.  This young man was given the death sentence.  He is reformed and has been a good role model for others while in prison.  The families of the victims have asked that his sentence be commuted.  Seven out of the twelve jurors who sentenced him to death have asked for the sentence to be changed to life in prison.  Yet the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has said no, as did the Georgia Supreme Court.  And then, so did SCOTUS.  And so, tonight at 9:27 p.m. he was executed.

It’s all so broken.  I want to scream and yell–WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?!

I am left to wonder, as I ask for Grace and Mercy, what part his community or lack thereof played in all of this?

Tonight I’m holding all of this in my heart, and I ask what we–because it will take all of us as a COMMUNITY–can do to change things for these families, for these neighborhoods?  What are we missing out on because one of these children–and there are so many of them–didn’t reach his or her full potential because of the broken community they were raised in?   Because their community was unable to circle close around and provide guidance and safety and encouragement and rules and advice and resources and options…..

all the things I was raised with but took for granted every single day.

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Y’all we need to grab these children and families up and wrap them in a big hug and then ask them how we can help them change their world as best as we are able in whatever way looks best for them. Because here’s the deal–their world is our world and our world is theirs.  There’s no us and them–it’s all we and us.  In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer:  “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

I’ll meet y’all outside.  Let’s make it safe for all, so no one has to be afraid behind a locked door.  And miss out when the good things come knocking at that door.

Love to all.

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You can read more about Joshua Bishop’s case here.

This video is a powerful one, a message from a local Superior Court judge to young people.  YES.  I am thankful for her words and the fact that she cares.

http://www.13wmaz.com/news/local/macon/watch-bibb-county-judge-lays-in-on-wayward-teens/112000603

 

 

 

 

When Cable is a Necessity

I happened upon a Steve Harvey video on YouTube that was more serious than most I’d seen of his.  (Yes, watching those have become a sanity-feeding thing.  I don’t question it if it works.) I watched it, and the title said it all–“You Can’t Watch This Without Getting Emotional.”

Absolutely right.  I got emotional.

And I stood corrected.

Over the years I’ve worked with people from many different socioeconomic statuses.  I’ve heard all kinds of opinions expressed and judgments made.  To be perfectly honest, I’ve made some myself over the years, and while I try to keep them to myself, I’m still guilty.  And I’m sorry for that.

Over the years I’ve heard folks who have enough judge folks who maybe don’t for the choices they make in how they spend their money.  Interesting that having enough keeps folks from doing that about you, but when you don’t, suddenly it’s everyone’s business how you spend the little you have.

In this video, the Dad, who had recently finished his prison term and was trying to turn his life around, talked about having a job, and how now he could afford to turn the cable on.  Now he and his children could sit together and watch TV so they’d stay inside, instead of wanting to play outside.  Outside, where their lives could be at risk.

See, this man and his family live in a rough neighborhood, and they can’t afford to get out.

So they watch TV together.  As a family.  And they stay inside, trying to be safe.

Y’all.

All these years, I’ve told my children that watching TV is a privilege, and I dole it out sparingly.  I’ll send them outside in a heartbeat.  “Y’all put that down and go outside.  Now!”  I’ve said that more times than I care to count.

After watching this video, I’m humbled.  I’m humbled about all the times I’ve wondered about people’s choices and what their priorities are.  I HAVE NO IDEA what life is like for folks who live in fear of their children being outside.  None at all.

All these years, I thought satellite TV or cable was a huge privilege, since we grew up without it (or a color TV, but that’s another story).  Turns out, that for far too many families in our very own country, in our very own communities, the thing I grew up taking for granted, the thing my children get to do almost any time they want, is a HUGE privilege.  Something almost unattainable.

So cable becomes a necessity of sorts.

Oh my stars, how have we let our world get to this point?

Tonight my heart is heavy and filled with awe and thanks.  There but for the Grace…..go I.

And with that heaviness comes the realization that I can’t sit back and let this be okay.

Our children shouldn’t have to sit inside and be captives in their own homes, in their own neighborhoods.

And make no mistake, these are OUR children.  They will grow up to be in community with the ones we are raising in our own homes, and they will need to work together to fix so many messes.  Isn’t it up to us to give them a leg up by starting to do what we can now?

I have no answers.  But if you do, please share.

Thanks for thinking on this with me.  In the meantime, please join me in holding these families and neighborhoods where violence is the norm in your heart and in the Light.

Love to all.

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This is the video I watched on YouTube.

don’t let them

don’t let them
tell you the stars aren’t really
diamonds
twinkling just for you
waiting to adorn your dreams
while you slumber
where you live out all your heart’s desires

don’t let them
tell you it’s silly to
guard your heart so carefully
or to love him so completely

don’t let them
convince you life isn’t hard
and that the world
isn’t broken

it is

but you in your diamonds
bringing life to your big dreams
holding the hand of the one
your heart calls home
giving from the beauty and kindness
that flows through your soul

you
will
change
it
all

 

Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography

“Big Dipper Ursa Major over Old Faithful geyser Yellowstone National Park Wyoming Astrophotography” by Astroval1 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography.jpg#/media/File:Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography.jpg

Answering the Hard Question

This evening I sat with two young people and a retired friend as we listened to an amazing woman share about the hard work–the good work–she is doing to help women and men who are in the human trafficking industry.  It was a very eye opening and hard discussion.  It is heart breaking, and despite what we might have previously thought, it is very much happening right here in our community.  Not just Atlanta, or even Macon. Right here.

All the brokenness.

As we listened, the young man who sat next to the speaker looked at her with his eyes wide.  He asked, fumbling at first to find the right words, in a quiet voice, “Is there, I mean, is anyone–I mean surely–is anyone doing anything to stop this from happening at all?  How can we stop it?  What are people doing to make this better?”

Bless him.

He is not even a legal adult yet.  He is hearing about heartbreak and brokenness and darkness that has been going on since before he was born, and it was as though for the first time, he felt the weight of what is before him–and all of his generation–that needs to be fixed and made better.

Bless him.  Bless all of them.

They are looking at those of us who are of my generation, most likely, wondering why we let it get this bad.  Why the human trafficking industry is the fastest growing one, right behind drug trafficking.  They are asking us, “What have you done to make this better?”

Many will say they didn’t know. They weren’t aware. That they didn’t realize it was happening here in our country, our community.  Many see it as a foreign issue, happening only in countries far, far away.

As I heard the stories tonight, any misconceptions like that were shattered and blown away.

I can never say again I didn’t know.  And now that I know, I have a duty to answer this young man’s question–

What am I doing to stop this?

I have a lot of thinking to do about what I heard tonight.  And about the look on that sweet soul’s face, his puzzled pain over what he was hearing.  It’s wrong, and if we stand by and do nothing, it will continue to grow.  That one thing is certain.

Will you join me in thinking on this, and working on the answer to “What are people doing to make this better?”

For more information, you can visit http://outofdarkness.org

Love, much love, to all.

foundation-stone-08-healing-by-the-laying-on-of-hands-35-638

via slideshare.net

The Change

“But, if I change it…..it could be upsetting to some people.  I don’t want to be remembered as the one who changed everything and messed it all up.”

Oh my heart.  When I heard this bright and vibrant, creative, and smart young woman say these words a few days ago, it hurt my heart.

Which probably is surprising to those who know me well.

I’m all about traditions.  It’s kind of my thing.

Change not so much.

My Daddy used to say be careful of doing something around me–if I liked it, it would become tradition, and then there was no getting out of it.

He was pretty much right.  I love the traditions of watching the Macy’s parade all the way through Santa waving, our Easter Egg and Turkey Egg Hunts each year, and doing things the same year after year in honor of the way it’s always been done.

However, and I’m pretty sure I can remember my Mama saying this, “Just because it’s always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it always should be done that way.”

In other words, the world needs change.

From time to time anyway.

I think about how things would be very, very different in our world if no one ever looked at changing anything.  I mean, all of the best inventions and ideas came from folks thinking of how to change something…..for the better.

Yes.  I just said that.

I love traditions.  I love the old ways of doing things sometimes.  But you also won’t see me out washing our clothes “by the crick” or on a washboard.  Neither will you see me sit down and longhand all of the stories I want to leave behind.  Or do my own butchering or bathe just on Saturday nights.

Some changes are really, really good.  Like cars and airplanes and cancer research centers and museums and new ways to eat healthy.  Or learning how to educate children with learning barriers.  Or how to help people who have lost limbs walk again.  Or opening doors to people which have always been closed before.  Or loving others who were thought unlovable.

Change can do wonderful things.

And yes, I said that too.

So, my young friend, think it through and make your changes.  Some will be well received, some not so much.  Some will work well, and some might not.  But the thinking and dreaming and trying to change things–those are so important for us all to grow and learn and become better and better.

May we all be able to open our hearts to dreaming and changing what we can.  What do you feel like changing?  May you find the courage and strength to make it so.

Love to all.

gravity

Looking down at my feet, I ponder about how truly amazing gravity is.
It’s like this force, pulling us close, holding us there, much like one in love with another–
that feeling where you never want to let go.

The earth is in love with us. Yes.
The birds and the waves sing her love songs.
The sun, moon, and stars light up her delighted countenance.
She gives us flowers and gifts and feeds us all.
She gives us her everything, down to her very core.
Never wanting to let us go, she holds on tight to all of creation…..

we are loved.

But I worry about what will happen when she figures out what we’ve been doing,
how we’ve really been treating her behind her back,

and when, like a lover scorned, will she fling us far and wide
wanting nothing more than to be rid of us

the ones who have taken her heart, mistreated her, and
walked away, leaving a path of destruction in our wake…..

I think it’s time we give her flowers or trees
and the love and attention she deserves,
saying “I’m sorry”
as she continues to keep us safe and hold us close
despite ourselves

another day, another trip around the sun
she’s still holding on, hoping…..knowing we can do better by her

she’s right

IMG_9041

the discernible path

of all the things
I want to be remembered for
as the stories of who I was
and how I lived
and what I cooked
and how I raised my people
are told long after I am gone

the one thing I don’t want to be
remembered as
is a silent witness

I come from
people who lived
and loved
and cooked
and farmed
and built
and wrote
and painted
and created
and noticed
and told stories
and played
and worked
and laughed
and comforted
and left footsteps worthy of following

but not a one of them
was a silent witness
of what they saw and heard

they stood up for what was right
and refused to be a part of what was not

and now as I whirl and spin
sometimes lost
seeking the way I should go

though it has been years
and the wind has come
and storms have ravaged
and the sun has beat down unmercifully
upon their dusty path

the imprint they left
is still discernible

and so I go forth
trying to live as they did
not silent
never silent

speaking
out
standing
strong
bending
but not breaking
as I continue
along the way

Michael Dibb [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Michael Dibb [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons