The Children are Listening. Still.


untitled-image-26The children WERE listening. Heard by me during school bus duty yesterday: (from a fourth grader) “He hates Black people, we’re all gonna die.” (from a 2nd grader in place of the usual good morning greeting) “Ms. Frisella, we’re doomed!” (from another 2nd grader) “He hates Black people and women.” (from the daughter of upstanding citizens, Haitian immigrants) “My brother says they’re gonna come to the door and take my parents back to Haiti.”

All of the above: beautiful, frightened, Black children.
Teachers, parents, everyone???
We’ve got a lot of work to do. Our kids are scared.
Get it together and start talking nice.

Give our kids ways to talk about the election in ways that make them feel safe and heard. Allay the fears-maybe by asking them things like, “So, moving forward, what are things we can do to make your life (this community, this country, the world) a better, more peaceful place? What actions can we take together that will make you feel safe?” Take away the helpless feeling of fear and replace it with positive action.

There is NO excuse for the United States to have had children living in fear yesterday because of the Presidential election results. The grownups did this (no finger-pointing; people in all parties are guilty of the animosity, of crafting fear-inciting ads, of sharing mean-spirited posts and un-fact-based “facts”,  of re-posting great uncle Frank’s “share if you agree!” memes, and of the unkind kitchen table talk- and remember I teach elementary school and “S/he did it FIRST!” bounces right off teachers), and shame on us.

United States, people. Yep, for more than half of us, our candidate didn’t win. We have to move forward and do our best to make the best of an unwanted situation. That’s harder to do for little hearts and minds.

United States. How about we let our kids be kids? How about we stop scaring them? There’s something more important than anybody’s need to post or say something inflammatory.

What, you ask? What’s bigger than my need to make a point on Facebook and burn that old high school classmate who disagrees with me so I can give myself a little false validation? What’s more precious than me using my frantic little typing fingers to put someone down so I can feel superior for just one second?

Children.
They are listening. They have been all along, and they’ve been hearing some pretty scary stuff from us-from those of us whose sacred duty is to look out for them. Teachers, parents, grandparents, mentors and elected officials.

They’re afraid, and for many of them, rightfully so. What are we going to do to make them feel safe and heard?

What are YOU going to do to make them safe?

Peace, friends. untitled-image

 

give it away, give it away, give it away now.


 

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”

-Jane Addams

“Hey, I’ve got mine.”

“I’ve earned this.”

“Nobody’s taking anything away from me.

“Let them take care of themselves.”

Almost 15 years ago, I was just beginning the single mom chapter of my life. I’d just built a house for my son and myself. Not long after we moved in, my household income took a major hit and I found myself treading water, holding my kid above my head as the sharks circled.  I was thrown a lifeline by someone I’d never even met, the father of a friend.

This man is not an educated man, in the official sense of the word. But he tips the scale on wisdom.

This man worked over 40 years in what would be called an unskilled profession. But he was skilled at his job, and demonstrated a work ethic that was rewarded by his employer as if he was an executive.

This gentleman, in his blue collar custodial job, saved diligently and had put together a nice-sized nest egg for his retirement. In other words, he’d “got his” –and had earned every penny, every accolade, and had every right to enjoy his retirement by taking it easy and looking out for number one.

Instead, he put $1000.00 in a plain envelope and told my friend to give it to me.

My friend had mentioned my circumstances to this hero in passing, and he decided to help. A couple of weeks later he surprised my friend with the envelope, who then floored me by putting it in my hands.

Did I mention that I never had met this man?

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A World that Supports Everyone


will the circle be unbroken?

(graphic: UNICEF)

“Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that they are.”

-Hafsat Abiola

I love the second sentence of that quote. I keep reading it over and thinking of ways that we do, and don’t, secure space for others to contribute. Either way, it can take just a small act to do either. See if any of these ring true (and when I say ‘you’ in this essay, I don’t mean YOU, fine reader–it just makes for a smoother read than the impersonal “one”):

NOT securing space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that *  pick an -ism. Sexism, racism, age-ism, class-ism, partisan-ism. ANY sentence that begins, “I’m not prejudiced, but….”

* stealing the credit for someone else’s idea at work or school.

* allowing competitiveness to overshadow your efforts or those of others. The end doesn’t always justify the means, especially if the “end” you’re aiming for is attention/praise/accolades  for yourself.

* dominating class discussions, dinner table conversations, happy hour banter,  and meetings with your own discourse while no one else can get a word in and be heard.

* wondering why all those earthquake victims have to come to “our” country.

* name-calling and put-downs of any kind.

Looking back on what I just typed, I see that the above examples would actually be detrimental to both parts of the opening quote–anyone who’s perpetrating any of the above is sabotaging self as well as others’ abilities to contribute the best that they have.  Just goes to prove: what you do for others, you do for yourself as well. What you do TO others, same story. If you stomp on others to get to your perceived “top,” whatever that may be, being on top will be pretty bleak (and no doubt very lonely) indeed.

So. How can we contribute the best that we have toward creating a world that supports everyone? And how can we secure space for others to do the same?

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