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Being White. Being Human.

The world needs us to understand what it means to be human. To be different types of people sharing a planet/country/community with one another. To live together in ways that are respectful, collaborative, fair and nourish life.

And for my skinfolk… The world needs us to understand what it is to be White. To embrace our ancestry and identity. To face the roles that our people have played historically and are playing in this current moment. To see how we have created societies that are plagued with systems of dominance that oppress other people (and the Earth). To understand how we perpetuate those systems. And to recognize the types of power and goodness that are within us. To use it fiercely to create societies that are healing from oppressive systems and living vibrantly as diverse, interconnected places of peace, justice and compassion.

I believe we are capable of this. Both us White people and us humans. And it will take work to get there.

From the article, White People: I Don’t Want You to Understand Me Better, I Want You to Understand Yourselves by Ijeoma Oluo.

“None of this — not a single word I’ve written in this essay or in my entire career — is new. People of color have been begging you to see what you are doing and why. We’ve been begging you to see what you came from and the true legacy you have inherited…

Find yourselves white people. Find yourselves so that you can know what whiteness is. Find yourselves so that you can determine what you want whiteness to be.”

 

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2017 Reflections and an Invitation

humanityMy sense is that 2017 will (continue to) test our humanity and our devotion to freedom for all on this planet. Here in the United States, a question seems to be around how much do we truly believe in a democracy, in some version of this radical experiment of a government for and by the people? What are we willing to do do make it happen? How do we make it happen when the people are so diverse?

I feel the core challenge of this year will be to our sense of humanity. How far are we willing to go to support the health and well-being of other people and this living planet? How much violence targeted at specific people or groups of people will we tolerate? When is enough enough? When will enough of us unite to create realities that are more compassionate and considerate of the well-being of all living on this planet? What will motivate us to organize in ways that are effective at protecting people who are being violated and harmed? How creative can we be in this process?

I believe that we are actively controlling how long it will be before the human race is extinct. And some races are at threat of becoming extinct faster than others. I think we have some critical choices to make this year that will have broad future implications… that will influence the kind of suffering that our future generations will have to endure or not. Your children, grandchildren, and the children and grandchildren of people you don’t know.

Some Miriam-Webster definitions:

humanity
1: the quality or state of being humane
2: the quality or state of being human

humane
1: marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals
2: characterized by or tending to broad humanistic culture

As I was sensing into 2017, three phrases spoke to me.

Spiritually Guided - As I see it, we are in way over our heads. The challenges that we face are immense and the complexities are so intricate. While our logic will be pivotal for wise action, I believe that we need to be sourcing our guidance from that which is beyond logic. For me, that is a spiritual source. I believe that my actions and those who I am acting with will best serve if we are being spiritually guided.

Wiser Together - The wisdom of lone leaders does not get us to a place of collective liberation. Nor does the wisdom of lone cultures. Now is the time for groups of diverse people who are able to be wise together. Groups of people that can listen deeply, learn from each other, and act together. Groups that are stronger and wiser because of their differences and are able to work and learn from and with one another.

Fluid Communication - The more effective we are at communicating with each other, at passing important information and fine-tuning our interactions so that we can work well, live well, and speak well to each other… the more we will be capable of collectively achieving. This also helps us to be informed about what is really needed and what is and isn’t working.

An Invitation

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This year is going to require all of us to be taking the best care of ourselves as we are able and to be supporting one another and the neighbors that we don’t yet know in taking care of themselves as well. It will also require, as in the definition of humane above, that we tend to the broad humanistic culture.

If there is kindness in your heart that is able to feel compassion, sympathy and consideration for humans and animals, please don’t look away this year. Please see the other humans on the planet with you, as much as is possible. And when your heart feels moved, step towards them. Stand up for their right to a quality life, the right for their culture to exist, the right for them to experience freedoms or support that you experience. Let’s flow together with whatever 2017 brings us, with love, courage, creativity and compassion.

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We Are All Needed in Community

Please keep praying for these dear souls… in North Dakota and in your hometown. Severe weather. Extremely complex conditions. As you pray, recognize that we who are in warm, safe-ish homes with our basic needs taken care of… our prayers are strength and grounding for others who know we are connected to them when they need to draw on the strength of that which is larger than themselves. This is part of what we must learn to do… to be extensions of one another… both in prayer AND IN ACTION. Winter is here across this country, people are facing extreme weather conditions and the threat of oppressive forces that are not concerned about their well-being.

My whole life I have been told that in urgent times, in times of crisis, people will step up to act in courageous ways that decenter themselves and allow the greater good to become the center of their focus. I have spent my life work praying and acting in hopes that we could get to that place without crisis. It hasn’t worked. Perhaps we are close now? What is your role, what is your part to contribute in helping this world transition from the destructive habits that perpetuate a system that keeps so many suppressed and suffering and Mother Earth spiraling out of balance while others have access to the resources that provide a ‘comfortable state of living’? May we each listen deeply and find the centeredness, strength, love and courage to do our part in this moment of life. <3

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A Baby’s Unconditional Trust and Love

photo by Alyssa L. Miller (no relation to people in the story)

A Baby’s Unconditional Trust and Love — A Kindness Story
–written by rettak at HelpOthers.org

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, ‘Hi.’ He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.

His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. ‘Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,’ the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, ‘What do we do?’ Erik continued to laugh and answer, ‘Hi.’

Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, ‘Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo.’ Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk.

My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. ‘Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,’ I prayed.

As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s ‘pick-me-up’ position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time.

I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, ‘You take care of this baby.’ Somehow I managed, ‘I will,’ from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, ‘God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me my Christmas gift.’ I said nothing more than a muttered thanks.

With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, ‘My God, my God, forgive me.’

I had just witnessed real love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was blind, holding a child who was not.

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Children Keeping it Simple, Teaching Simplicity


A few inspiring comments from my teachers in simplicity, children.

  • I was participating in Seattle’s Martin Luther King, Jr., March and Rally this year with some of the faculty, students and parents from the school I work at. During the march one of our first graders looked up at me and said, “Oh, I know why you’re here today, Ashley.” “Why?” I asked. “Because this is all about friendship… and you’re the friendship teacher.”

    (fyi: I host Friendship Groups, a class that all the students in the class participate in just like math or reading. The aim is to help students deepen their ability to connect with and understand themselves and others. It’s all about friendship… with ourselves, others and the world around us!)

  • During Obama’s presidential inauguration Rev. Joseph Lowery was talking about love,
    “And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.”

    I looked in front of me as a Kindergartner was staring down at his little hands, shaping them into a heart. That image summed up where my hope for our future lies… in love.

  • After the inauguration we hosted an Open Space with the 3rd graders. One child’s closing remarks, “I learned that when everyone pitches in just a little bit, it can make a giant difference.”
  • Words of wisdom that a 2nd grader told me over lunch one day that I am practicing and trying to better embody, “Just listen until your mind gets deeper and then you’ll understand.”

I am so grateful for all the gifts that are bestowed upon me by these wise humans who are so willing to share their world.

heart photo by samantha celera

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Do You Like Me? (sigh and smirk!)

I had a great conversation with a friend last night about the energy I spend (people spend) worrying about whether or not people like me (us). I’ve also been swinging the tree-tops of my monkey mind wondering (worrying) if the heart of my intentions is felt by others. Oh the places I go when following the flow of insecurities!

I’ve been following a new blog, Dhrumil (thanks to CharityFocus) and this post has me smiling:

“You may be spending a lot of time thinking about what others think about you. But the truth is people are too busy thinking about themselves to be bothered. Even when they make comments or pass judgement, they’re just reacting to their own insecurities. Take comments or energy, that are other than love, as simply the byproduct of conditioning and nothing more. Most people are a pile of past conditions. Which means the real them is deeper waiting to surface. The less you react to their conditioning, the greater the likely hood their true nature will show.”

May we continue to support and encourage one another, inviting our true natures to shine. May we also find fun and creative ways to practice random acts of contact in the name of kindness and friendship.

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The World I Want to Live In

A sunny morning reflecting, writing and creating. This poem and post catches my attention and leaves me with tears in my eyes. It’s possible. Keep dreaming your dreams. Let’s celebrate our connections and bring these visions to life… together.

This is the whole post from CharityFocus Blog

The wonderfully inspiring Arab-American poet, Naomi Shihab Nye wrapped a poem around an unexpected experience of kindness she encountered at an airport in Albuquerque and sent it off to exactly two friends … who passed it on to friends, who passed it on to friends who … and so the ripple of poetry and goodness went, and courtesy of Daily Good reader, Cynthia Loebig, here it is in front of all of you. At a recent reading of the poem, Nye ended the evening remarking, that this spontaneous series of people passing the poem on had probably resulted in more people reading it than would have had it appeared in a print magazine …

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal
by Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well — one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew — however poorly used -
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her — southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
Questions.

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — out of her bag –
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers –
Non-alcoholic — and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American — ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands –
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate — once the crying of confusion stopped
– has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

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