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 Play With Your Food

Big goings on happening this weekend.  A family hootenanny.  Great fun.

And so, in preparation for the gathering, I’m making Granny’s coconut cake.

And potato salad.

As I pulled out the potatoes to peel and put in the pot, a memory came to mind from when I was in fourth grade.  About potatoes.

Potatoes getting ready to go in my potato salad for the big family Hootenanny.

Potatoes getting ready to go in my potato salad for the big family Hootenanny.

Each Monday I spent all day in a classroom with a group of students from fourth and fifth grades, different from my classes Tuesday through Friday.  That was the classroom I first heard about the concept of nuclear war, learned the word “nefarious,” and worked with manipulatives meant to foster creativity.   In the middle of the school year, sometime after Christmas, my teacher requested that we all bring in a bag of potatoes.  She wanted us to learn to make potato prints from them.

So yeah.  Art.  With food.

Huh.

My Daddy was not impressed.  He not only did not send a bag of potatoes but he took time to write a rather lengthy letter about the cost of potatoes, the potato famine, and spoke out against “playing with our food.”

Naturally, at the time, I was mortified.

But today?

I get it.

I didn’t grow up knowing or even thinking about whether we were poor or not.  We had food on the table three times a day, a roof over our heads, and clothes to wear. Our clothes more than likely were not name brand, and Mama shopped the clearance racks at Sears and waited for items to be put on the 75% off rack many times before she’d even think about buying a shirt or pair of pants.  My shoes never had a swoosh on the side until I was grown, had a job, and was buying my own shoes.  And they were on sale.  We didn’t hurt for anything, not that my parents ever let on anyway. It was because Mama and Daddy were frugal people with simple, reasonable tastes, and they didn’t waste things.  Still, I’m thinking that a bag of potatoes was not an expense they could have easily afforded at the time for something that seemed as frivolous as print making.

Daddy used to tell me that every generation wants the one after it to do a little better, to have a little better life than they did.  And I really believe he wanted that for each one of his four children.

Just as I think his parents wanted that for him and his siblings.

But there’s a fine line between “better life” and excessive lifestyle.

For Daddy that line was crossed with potato art–playing with one’s food.  Using a bag of potatoes to be cut up, painted, and then thrown out–when that bag could have fed his family for at least two meals?  No.  It was beyond what he would call better–it was wasteful.

I think about that sometimes, about how my Daddy went against the grain and stood up for what he believed in.  No matter how embarrassed I was at the time, it made an impression on me, and I try to be as strong in my own convictions and as willing to say what I think when I perceive a line being crossed.

I want a better life for my three children.  I want them to succeed and reach their goals and not have to struggle for everything.

But, forgive me, I do want them to have to struggle for something.  I want them to have to make an effort and to work hard.  And to learn what I learned from my Daddy and Mama–figure out what you believe in and stand strong upon it.

Things that come too easily are not as easily appreciated as those things we work hard for.  And wanting for something rarely if ever really hurt someone.

They’ll survive.  Just as I did.  It didn’t hurt me that I was 16 when we got our first color TV and 17 when we got our VCR.  I grew up sharing a room and so much more with Sister, and things were never just handed to me.

Today I’m thankful for all of those things.  I’m thankful for parents who tried to teach me to be a good steward of what I have and don’t have.  I give thanks for a Daddy who wasn’t too embarrassed to say what he thought.  (And a Mama who was even more so that way.)  Most of all, I appreciate being told all those years, “You’re under (12, 18, 25, 42…..) and your wants won’t hurt ya.”

Yeah.  That.

And you know what?

They were right.

Love to all.  Hope your weekend is full of fun and maybe even a hootenanny or two.  😉

 

 

What do you think I should do?

There is one question I do not know how to answer.

What would you do?

Or its variation:

What do you think I should do?

Don’t get me wrong.  I ask these questions myself.  Just this afternoon I asked the vet tech what I should do about scheduling Miss Sophie’s spaying.  “What would you do?”  She didn’t pause for a second.  “Well, if she were my puppy…..”

All’s I’m asking.  Thank you.

But I’m not so great when the tables are turned.

When someone talks about how her child is doing in school and asks me about homeschooling, I can tell them what I did and why, but when it comes to what I think they should do, I struggle.  I don’t know.  What has worked for me might not work for them.

When someone asks about how to care for a sick loved one and starts talking about Hospice options, I can share what I know, but no way can I tell them if it is the right choice or not.

If a parent of a high school junior or senior wants to know what I think about his or her daughter going to Wesleyan, I can surefire tell them all that I love about the experience of being a part of the sisterhood there.  What do I think they should do–sure, send your daughter there.  But the truth of the matter is, I really don’t know what they should do.

When my daughter calls and wants to know how she should handle some drama at school, I can make suggestions, but I don’t really know exactly what she should do.  I’m not there, and I’m not her.  We are all different.

And then there’s the really hard questions–

like when a friend is thinking about quitting her job and going back to school, but she isn’t sure she can afford to–what do I think she should do?

or someone I love is having relationship problems and is considering making a huge life change, what do I think she should do?  Oh my, sweet girl, I have no idea.

I know how difficult this question of “what should I do” is to answer.  And still I ask it of others.

Why is that?

What am I asking for when I ask that question?  Advice?  Wisdom?  Or validation for what I already think I should do?

I don’t know.  Maybe yes, yes, and yes?

My heart breaks for the friends who have asked me this very question over the past few days.  Not so much because I couldn’t answer but because they are in a place where they felt the need to ask.

That place of feeling lost.  Of being unsure.  Of wobbling on the path they are on.  Wondering if another would be any better.

And there’s nothing I can do to help.  But listen.  And love them as I tell them I just don’t know the answer to their questions.  I don’t know what they should do.  Most of the time I’m not even sure what I should do.  Every fiber of my being wants to wrap them in a hug and, to quote from “Hey Jude” which Paul McCartney wrote for Julian Lennon to comfort him during his parents’ divorce, I just want to “take a sad song and make it better.”  Always wanting to make it better.  Whatever that would look like.

But I can’t.

And yet I find comfort in these words from an interesting 19th century English clergyman:

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Tonight I give thanks that there is something I can do.  I can’t fix it, I can’t make it better, I can’t even tell those whom I love what I think they should do.  But I can do two little things.  I can sit with them in the darkness* and walk alongside them.  And I can love them.  I can definitely do that.  I was taught by one of the best.

We may not have all of the answers or the magic to make things better for each other, but we do not journey alone.  And tonight I am the most grateful for that.

*from a quote by Hugh Hollowell, founder of Love Wins Ministry