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.

#bringbackourpeace

When I entered college, some pretty scary things happened.  At the hands of the class ahead of us, all in the name of fun and welcoming us to the sisterhood, we had the bejeebies scared out of us.  And I loved every minute of it.

But today, one of the very scary ones from back then, who is really a sweetheart, shared an article that put real fear in my heart.

And frustration in my mind.

Where have I been?  Why wasn’t I aware of this before?  Have I really had my head buried in the sand, or has this story been tucked away between the pages of stories of political rants and celebrity breakups?

The story she shared was this one.  “Waves of immigrant minors present crisis for Obama, Congress.”  Oh my stars.  They are expecting an estimated 60,000 children to cross over the US border unaccompanied by an adult, based on the numbers so far.  Some as young as three years old.

Y’all.  What?!

Some of these children have a parent who is already in this country.  Some are leaving an abusive home situation behind.  Some are trying to avoid the drugs and gangs that are a huge problem in their communities.

Babies.  They’re just babies.  They haven’t had time to dream, let alone figure out how to make it on their own.

They are being put in military installations for “keeping” for now.  I have no idea what comes next.  Deportation?  Tracking down family in the US?  Adoption?  I don’t know.  But I know my heart is breaking for these children, some of whom are abused during their journey here or maybe after as well–there were 809 abuse complaints against the border patrol between 2009 and 2012.  Again, I cannot wrap my brain around this fully.  All of these children.  Homeless.  Parentless.  Without anyone to love them and hug them and encourage them.  And to listen.  Oh.  I have nothing.

Really.  Nothing.

And I wish I could fix this.  I wish I could change it.  I wish there were a fix to this that I could be a part of.   I am so lucky.  As are my children.  And it only becomes more obvious to me each day.  They, on the other hand, seem to be oblivious.  And you know what?  I’m thankful for that too.  I want them to have a childhood without all the worries of this world pressing down on them.

Well, Aub, my 18 year old college sophomore isn’t oblivious.  Most of the time she gets how fortunate she is.  Like the fact that she’s learning at a college that has been around since 1836.  In a country where higher learning for females is quite normal and accepted.  And in a lot of cases expected.

Unlike in Nigeria.

This came across my screen today.

A little over a month after 272 schoolgirls were kidnapped by gunmen in the dark of night, last Thursday twenty women were kidnapped from their settlement in Nigeria.  Three men were also taken after they tried to stop the gunmen.

#bringbackourgirls

Yes, my heart cries out.

But I’d also like to start this.

#bringbackourpeace

In the wake of yet another school shooting and women being taken as though they have no rights to lives of their own and little ones traveling on a journey they have no idea how it will end–all by themselves–

please.  Bring back peace.

What breaks my heart the most in all of this is a selfish thing.  It’s that I can’t change it.  I can’t fix it.  I can’t make it stop or make things better.

Oh if I only could.

And so I ask, what can we do?  To take care of these motherless children coming to this country looking for a better way of living?  To protect those half a world away from being taken from their homes by people with guns, and therefore power, and made to submit to a life not of their own choosing?  To protect our own children and friends and family whose lives are being taken away by people with intent and weapons and no respect for human life?

 

I don’t know.  But I am encouraged and thankful for the thoughts of my blogger friend at “My So Called Glamorous Life: The Adventures of a Domestic Engineer:”

  I don’t know what we can do, what anyone can do, but I refuse to believe that this is a lost cause.

Here’s to hanging on to hope, keeping our heads out of the sand, refusing to let fear take us over, and reaching for peace.  Always.

Love to all.

Such a Pretty Plate

pic of pretty plate

So I made myself a stir fry of sorts for lunch yesterday.  And when I was done, I thought to myself, “It’s such a pretty plate!”

Over twenty years ago (how did that even happen?) I was director of a child-care center for low-income families whose parent(s) were working or in school.  I was still wet behind the ears, but I loved what it was about, so I got in there and let the dear ladies who had been there for many years teach me what I needed to know.

Two of the ladies I worked with were over retirement age–Miss Dot and Miss Aileen.  At one point Miss Dot had been director of the Center, and while she no longer worked full-time, she loved it too much to let it go completely.  She was a wonderful resource and a spunky, sweet lady.  She lived with her 90-something year old mother.  Who credited her advanced age and good health with eating an apple a day.  They both had lived through loss and dark times, but instead of being sad, they were bearers of light and laughter.  Oh the stories Miss Dot could tell!

Miss Aileen worked as the Administrative Assistant, and she oversaw the food program sponsored by a government program.  Certain criteria had to be met in the meal planning–breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack.  The two year olds got a snack mid-morning as well.   Miss Aileen planned the menus, did the grocery shopping, and kept up with the paperwork that had to be submitted.  She was a busy person, and when it came to feeding our little ones healthy meals, she didn’t play.  We had food vendors who tried to sell her on more of the already prepped things like chicken nuggets, fish sticks, reheatable casseroles.  She was having none of that.  I think she was ahead of her time in a way, as she believed it was important for the children to have home-cooked meals.  As a matter of fact, I quit calling it lunch.  Whenever I went out speaking about our non-profit agency, I referred to the noon meal as dinner–because most days it was so much more than a lunch.  For three and half years, I was lucky enough to get to eat these meals planned out by her and prepared by the loving hands of our two cooks.  Some of my favorites were tallerine, salad, and rolls.  (I had no idea what tallerine was before I started at the center.)  I loved the ham, potato salad (made from scratch), and snap beans.  We had chicken pie (again from scratch, including the crust–ooooh, especially the crust), baked chicken, barbecue chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese.  Our menus tended to go on a five week rotation, but she was not above switching something up if she found something on sale.  One of my special memories is the pancake breakfasts that cycled through a few times a month–delicious and again homemade.  When I was pregnant with my oldest, our sweet cook would save me a small plate of them and I would enjoy them with a glass of very cold milk when I arrived.  Mmmmm.  Our meal we particularly liked to invite guests in for was the chicken tetrazinni, cooked carrots, and butterbeans meal.  Delicious.  I had the privilege of sitting at a table with both of these women many a day.   At certain meals, one of them would inevitably look at her plate after the blessing was said, before taking the first bite, and say appreciatively, “Isn’t this such a pretty plate?”  I learned to appreciate the beauty as well as the tastes in planning and serving a meal.  Whenever I make an especially colorful meal, I think of them and smile, knowing they’d really be pleased with this one.

The thing that I loved and respected about both of these women is that neither took the easy way out.  Both well beyond retirement, they chose to be a part of these precious little ones’ lives.  They sure weren’t doing it for the money–I know, I signed their paychecks.  They did it for the hugs, and, I think, because they took it seriously when they read in the Good Book those things about taking care of the little children.

Miss Aileen didn’t take the easy way out when it came to the meals either.  How much time and resources would it have saved to serve more pre-made items?  But she had heard the stories.  She knew from other staff who had seen it firsthand–for many of the children, this was the only home-cooked meal they would get that day, maybe even the only meal.  She worried over their nutrition when the littles ones talked about walking to the store with an older sibling to buy a bag of chips and a drink.  Easy never entered her mind–she worked hard to plan food that looked good and smelled good in the hopes that they would learn to try and love new healthy foods.  (She even had me trying beets–no, we won’t talk about that tonight.)

These women definitely didn’t take the easy way out when it came to what was socially acceptable among many of their friends.  As our center served almost 100% African American children and their families, they both had friends who didn’t understand why they, both Caucasian, even bothered.  Surely they could be spending their time some other way, at the teas and luncheons and charity auctions that helped care for others.  It made me sad when one of them shared that she had lost a friend or two who could not grasp why she was spending her time with our children.  She looked sad for a moment, and then one of our sweet ones walked by the office and popped in for a hug and a chat.  She smiled and I knew where her heart was.  They both were much older than I am now when integration occurred.  Both born and raised in a culture that was reluctant to let go of its past.  No, they did not take the easy path.  These two amazing women paved the way and inspired women like me to say no to easy and to stand up for others, especially those who may not have been heard before.

They were truly special…..they taught me to love all, no matter what those around me might say, and to appreciate beauty everywhere–even on a dinner plate.  Tonight I am thankful for a colorful stir fry that stirred up memories of these colorful ladies, whose lives inspire me to do what is right, no matter how hard it may seem.  Such a pretty plate, such a beautiful example.