Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Hope for Today

Tonight is our Town Meeting on gun violence at Quail Ridge Books and Music.  The above picture is what I'm trying to get my mind to look like:  Peaceful.

As I said at the end of last year, I want to make a difference with respect to violence in society.  One of the things I wanted to do was organize this gathering for tonight.

"You stirred it up," my husband told me the other day when I expressed misgivings about having done it, "and now you have to deal with it."

And he's right. I'm dealing with it and it hasn't been without its challenges.  There have been days--today is one of them--when I wish I hadn't gotten it going. I wish that instead of heading to the bookstore tonight that I could sit and watch the elimination show on The Voice.

I woke up nervous about the program, so I decided to do a ten-minute meditation.  The music was voices, all somewhat discordant that came together to make a very ethereal sound.  Appropriate, I thought at the end of the session.

I'm going to put forth here what I'd like to see happen in the next twelve hours:

1.  During the day, I will continue to affirm that the meeting will be productive, peaceful, and informative.

2.  When I do my introduction, I will set a tone of cooperation, expertise, and empowerment.  

3.  During the questioning of the panelists, they will give the audience food for thought and helpful information.

4.  During the question and answer period, the audience will ask questions that come from their hearts, that they will be resolute but not angry, that they will feel that their voices have been heard.

5.  As people leave the meeting, they will feel satisfied about the information they gave and received and be inspired to take action according to their beliefs.

6.  When I get home tonight, I will feel that I have done something that brought me out of my comfort zone but was very satisfactory.  I will feel confident about putting together another such town meeting that will make a difference in the lives of the people who attend.

7.  The bookstore will be satisfied with the results of the meeting and will want to support my efforts to do it again.

Please give these seven things some attention as you go through your day.  If you can attend, please do.  7:30 tonight at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Sense of Safety

I remember calling my dad one day and in the middle of the conversation he got quiet.  I heard him take in a breath and realized he was crying.

"What is it?" I asked.

"It's that child, Jessica.  The thought of her buried alive," he said between sobs.

Since the December shootings at Sandy Hook, I've shed a few tears for children I didn't know too. The tornado this week, which killed nine school children, brings back the same image of children huddling in their classrooms and hallways in fear. Also in the recent news is the child who along with her mother and two other women lived a "Room"-like existence.  And the man on trial for the rape and murder of the five-year-old child whose mother sold her to him.

Except for the times I worried about my dad's temper (and snakes and Cuban missiles), I felt safe as a child. I cannot imagine, unless they are completely sheltered from the news, how children today can feel such a sense of things being okay. And as much as I'd like it to be different, events and circumstances that are scary for children aren't going away.

So what can we do?

We can't change the weather, but we can be grateful for compassionate, quick-thinking teachers who saved many children during both the Sandy Hook shooting and the Moore tornado.  We can't be aware of every abusive situation a child finds him- or herself in but we can, as a community, provide and financially support mental health services for families in crisis.  We can thank school counselors, who talk to children and find ways to get them outside assistance and help them help themselves.  We can if at all possible shelter children from the news and violence that is in the media.  When we can't shelter them, we can educate ourselves about how to talk with them about their fears.

Several months of work are coming to fruition this Tuesday, May 28, at Quail Ridge Books and Music.  We have assembled a panel of experts - David Crabtree from WRAL-TV representing the media, Representative David Price, and Dr. Assad Meymandi who will speak for the mental health community, to address some of the causes of violence and how we the public can bring about change. I hope you will join us. Clay Stalnaker and I will moderate.

The impetus for putting this program together was the Sandy Hook incident. But I also want to help re-create a time and place when children felt safe in their schools, in their communities, in their homes.  They deserve this, and those of us with power - the adults - owe it to them to find ways to provide it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Where I'm From

As I mentioned in an earlier post,  Carol Henderson did a workshop a few weeks ago on "Those Who Shape Us."   We wrote for ten minutes using as a prompt a poem by George Ella Lyon entitled, "Where I'm From."  

I'd like to share what I wrote and invite you to write a few lines in the comment section about where you're from.

            I am from the neighborhood that had the bomb shelter.  It was concrete with shelves full of cardboard pictures of food.  It was a place where the family who bought it would go when the rest of us got nuked by the Cubans and their missiles.  Our crisis.
            I am from the warehouse family where there were cardboard figures—the Jolly Green Giant and Tony the Tiger—figures that we would beg to take home when my dad took us to his office on Saturdays so my mom wouldn’t end up in “Dix Hill.” 
            I am from wood: wooden boats that my great-grandfather gave his fingers for; frames with dogwoods carved by my grandfather; the woods too—way back in the filtered sunlight where we crossed over dead wood, careful of snakes.  Stepped on the log not over it. I still do that today.
            I am from women, three generations of women with only a man or two thrown in for good measure.  I am from mother and aunts and sisters and daughters. Weak women who died early and strong women who could take me out with a look.  Granny.  That look.
            I am from cities with an innate longing for country, for woods and for food not in cardboard boxes and for porches that overlook ponds black as ink where frogs belch into the night and birds make their morning song. I am from a time when I lived in the country and missed the city conveniences.
            I am from walking to school with friends, riding the bus with sixteen-year-old bus drivers, drinking and smoking on the country club golf course, home-made prom dresses, and the Sears Employee Store.
            I am from Christmases with five children who woke up at dawn, from tiny bedrooms and a big basement, from 6:00 dinner and 11:00 curfews. Our house was “Grand Central Station” my mom would say, which meant nothing to me then.
            I am from a time when we all felt safe except from Cubans and their missiles and snakes.