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Inner City Memories

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted; blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth; blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied; blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy; blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God; blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God and blessed are they who persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3-10)

I spent the first twelve years of my life growing up in a predominantly white community. I had one neighbor, a little girl a few years’ younger than me, who was biracial…and, in the first grade, one Asian classmate. That was it. Then, in December of 1978, my family moved to downtown St. Louis, Missouri.

To say I had a bit of a culture shock would be an understatement. However, the culture “shock” quickly proved to be a positive one.

I remember walking into that 7th grade classroom at Clay Elementary School shaking in my shoes. More because I was an inherently shy kid and being assertive, or outgoing, while being singled out as the “new kid” yet again, was not something I was looking forward to. But, yes, there was likely a dialogue of racist rhetoric running in the background, too. Though I loved all of my grandparents very, very much, one of my grandfathers loved to say that “we don’t mix colors.” He would’ve had a coronary to find out he had Hispanic and Portuguese blood in his veins (an aunt of mine only recently found this out).

But, you know what?

The moment I walked into that classroom, my classmates put me at ease.

Okay…maybe not the first moment. I will confess, for a split second, the culture-shocked introvert started hyperventilating just a little as several black students popped up out of their seats and came over to me: Who are you? Are you a new student? Where are you from? Welcome! Though this was not my first time being a “new” kid, this was the first time anyone had ever made any immediate overtures to talk with me and get to know me. Most of the time I just got stared at like maybe I was a python thrown into a cage of rabbits…or, being as I was the shy one, maybe I was the rabbit thrown into a den of pythons. However, it was Chandra and Rita and Janice who found me an empty desk (our teacher was out on sick leave and they were waiting for the substitute for that day), and then plied me with all of the necessary textbooks and school supplies I would need for this next phase of my academic life. Though my initial reaction was to draw inward (again, introvert!), there was so much warmth and kindness coming from each of my new classmates, both black and white, that I quickly relaxed. That same day I also started rejecting the notion of “not mixing colors” or seeing people whose skin tone may be different than mine as being different as people. I’ve realized that the only difference is our experiences.

Over the next 6 years, I shared classrooms with both black and white students, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, Indian (both from India and Native American), as well as being taught by men and women of each of these. My life has been the richer for it. And, when my immediate family moved back East a year after high school graduation, I came back with a very different attitude about life, about people. I’ve become something of an anomaly to my extended family. It makes for some heated discussions sometimes but, while I’ve shied away from too much political or social discussions here on this blog, I don’t usually shy away from it in a setting where I know everyone and feel relatively safe. The only thing I may be guilty of is silently telling myself to back off at times when the conversation becomes too heated and continuing to argue will only make matters worse. I have to remind myself that not everyone has had the experiences that I have had. Not everyone has had the chance to get to know people from all walks of life, from diverse neighborhoods and school districts, from diverse cultures, religions, and backgrounds.

In light of everything that has happened in the last month or so, I can’t help thinking that we need to cross those cultural barriers. We need to pop up out of our collective seats, no matter where those seats are, and extend the hand of friendship to everyone we meet. We need to have those difficult conversations and expect that from time to time they may become heated. The only way that we will ever end the systemic racism that plagues this country is to listen to the voices of those protesting it. What are they saying? What is it really like to be black or brown in America? And, on the flip side, are there any negative experiences that white friends and relatives may have had that have brought them to a place of fear and distrust? That last may be hard to swallow but we all have something to bring to this discussion. The only way to put an end to this plague once and for all is to be honest with ourselves, and with each other, and to openly share what’s in our hearts and minds. We can do this without name-calling, or judgement, and respect each other’s truths.

I have been blessed. From the moment I walked into Mrs. Borden’s 7th grade classroom, to each and every time that I have met someone who is “different” and found, as I got to know them, that we weren’t so very different after all. We all want love and acceptance and the right to live as free and equal citizens of this nation. We all want to walk down the street, or browse in a store, without being molested…or worse. We all want to feel safe in our schools, our places of worship, and in our homes. When one of us hurts, we all hurt.

It didn’t offend my God to paint such a vivid palette of people…and how boring would it be if we were all exactly alike, carbon copies of each other? Instead, each of us brings something beautiful and special to this tapestry of life. Just as we all hurt when even one of us hurts, we also all have something to rejoice about when we allow love and compassion and respect for each other win out.

May God bless you & keep you!

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White History

“One of the teachers of religion who was standing there listening to the discussion realized that Jesus had answered well. So he asked, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ Jesus replied, ‘The one that says, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only God. And you must love Him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. The second is: You must love others as much as yourself.’ No other commandments are greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

I have hemmed and hawed enough. And, by doing so, I am part of the problem here in America.

I’ve often answered the discrimination against the impoverished, how our society automatically assumes that someone who is poor brought it on themselves, that they are lazy and do not want to work. However, I seldom answer our society’s systemic racism…even though I have been aware of it since I was a very young girl.

An aunt of mine recently did the swab test with Ancestry and, through some further research, discovered that the ancestor we were always taught had sailed into Canada out of France, actually was Spanish and sailed out of the Azores. We have some Spanish and Portuguese blood running through our veins, along with the French, but the French came later as those Spanish and/or Portuguese ancestors married French-Canadians. They also married into the Mohawk tribe along the way. Once they get to New England, we find some Narragansett as well. However, that French blood, along with some Polish, Russian, Scots-Irish, English, and German won out in the gene pool: I am as close to fish-belly white as it is possible to be.

I tell this because, as someone of fair skin and eyes and hair, I am not subject to the level of discrimination that my black and brown brothers and sisters deal with on a regular basis. I don’t have anyone redlining me when I apply for a loan/mortgage. I don’t have store clerks watching me too closely when I shop. I don’t have outraged people assuming when I apply for and/or receive government assistance that I’m here illegally. I typically don’t have a lot of generalizations lobbed at me either. Sure, I am a woman. Traditionally, I do not earn the same wage as my male counterparts, even when doing the same job with the same qualifications. I may hear the occasional old-timer saying how I should find a “nice” man to take care of me. However, despite some parallels that tend to smart at times, I don’t presume to know what life is like here in America for my black and brown brothers and sisters. To say that I do would be the biggest slap in the face that anyone could offer.

But I can witness to something that has been bandied about a lot here in the media since the murder of George Floyd last week: the history of America as told in our schools through the eyes of white historians.

I have an old history book on the shelf. It’s not a Board of Education approved copy. I doubt it was ever used in a classroom here in the U.S., but it is a good reference source. I wanted something that I could refer to about various points in our written history that typically don’t get taught in our schools…or even as a point of common knowledge.

Why is this important?

Because our history books typically prop up “heroes” such as Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, for example, without telling the full story. How did they get to be “heroes”? What did they do? And, as with any story, debate, etc. there is always another side. Still using Custer as an example, what was it like for the Native Americans who were, at best, displaced by him? Do our Native American brothers and sisters view him as a “hero”? And have we ever asked our Native American brothers and sisters why?

The history book I have is The Oxford History of the American People. It was written by an Englishman named Samuel Eliot Morison in 1965. It is older than I am. However, as we have a long history of purely “white” history, I’m thinking it still has some relevancy in showing how our history lessons are often slanted in one perpetual direction.

According to Mr. Morison, Custer “liked and respected” the Native American people (Morison 751-752) yet his book says nothing about the Washita Massacre, for example. It says nothing about how Custer’s 7th U.S. Calvary attacked Black Kettle’s Southern Cheyenne camp on the morning of November 27, 1868 in what is now Oklahoma. And it wasn’t all “braves” that were massacred. It was women and children and the elderly. Does that sound like someone who “liked” and “respected” our Native American brothers and sisters? I didn’t learn about this through any history class. Ironically, it was through an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, which got me curious enough to do some independent research into this little-known episode in our history.

It was a Danielle Steel novel, Silent Honor, that brought attention to the Japanese Internment camps here in America during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that led to the FBI first rounding up 1291 Japanese community and religious leaders, “arresting them without evidence” and freezing their assets (Wikipedia). Later, some 117,000 people were relocated to facilities in Montana, New Mexico and North Dakota. Japanese Americans–and most of them were American citizens–were detained in overcrowded barracks without proper plumbing or cooking facilities, and there were armed guards making sure they did not leave without permission. And, yes, I know Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable source of information but it is a good jumping off point for learning more.

Ironically, the American frontier image of ranchers, cowboys, etc. lassoing cattle comes directly from Spanish landowners in Mexico who taught local Indians how to herd cattle and ride horses (Livingston 1). They called them vaqueros, after the Spanish word for “cow”. A good portion of our Southwestern states were part of the spoils of armed conflict with Mexico. While I found a mention of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which promised Spanish and/or Californio landowners in this newly acquired territory (present-day Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and some parts of Colorado and Wyoming) the same “full enjoyment and protection of their property as if they were citizens of the U.S.” (Wikipedia), it does not teach about how most of these former citizens of Mexico lost their land claims in lawsuits before U.S. state and federal courts. In short, we swindled most of the ranchers of their lands.

While I do remember reading about such legendary black leaders as Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks in my high school history classes, this particular book does not mention them at all. And most history books tend to gloss over the very real struggles that black leaders have had to make for each new freedom gained. For how many decades did black Americans have to use a separate bathroom, water fountain and/or library, etc. than white Americans? Before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on that bus in Alabama, how many black Americans, no matter how tired, sick or aged, gave up their seats rather than face certain consequences? And how often do we hear how “they” are different than us somehow, as if we don’t all bleed the same, throughout our conscious dialogue each day?

Again, it would be a slap in the face for me to say that I understand or can comprehend. I cannot. However, I cannot be silent anymore either to the disparities that I have seen between one group of Americans versus another group of Americans. There is only one race. And that is the human race.

If we’re going to teach our students about American history, shouldn’t it reflect the wide tapestry of humanity that is America in the first place? Shouldn’t that history impartially teach us how it was for each and every culture that has, and does, grace these shores?

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Livingston, Phil. “The History of the Vaquero.” American Cowboy.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Oxford History of the American People. Oxford University Press, 1965.

Steel, Danielle. Silent Honor. Dell Publishing, Inc., 2007.

“Washita: Part I.” Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. The Sullivan Company, CBS Entertainment Production, 29 April 1995.

Wikipedia. Internment of Japanese Americans, n/d.

Wikipedia. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, n.d.

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Wednesday’s Weed Walk – Zingiberis officinalis

“And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed to which it shall be for meat’.” (Genesis 1:29)

I use ginger (Zingiberis officinalis) for everything! It’s in the asthma tincture I shared about recently; it’s in my digest tea (see recipe below); it’s in the golden milk I drink to control my Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I put it in a winter tonic. I also make and eat gingerbread and ginger snap cookies (or small cakes, as we used to say in the 19th century). I mean, it is so versatile and I’ll bet most of the people reading this have it in their spice cabinet right now.

Ginger has many healing properties. It is said to be a “stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, emmenagogue, expectorant, antiemetic, analgesic, antispasmodic, stomachic, antipyretic, and antimicrobial (Tierra, 2003, p. 87). It has been used to treat motion sickness. It’s great for any lung complaint, such as asthma, bronchitis, and even pneumonia. It’s a stimulant for people with poor circulation. It has been used in poultices to ease the pain of arthritis. It’s capable of soothing sore throats and easing menstrual cramps. It’s also good for indigestion, nausea and flatulence. In fact, if you’ve ever had candied ginger, this was one of the earliest “treats” found in the local “country” or “general” store, along with horehound and lemon drops. Candying these “medicines” was a way to get children to take them. Think of Mary Poppins and her “spoonful of sugar” to help the “medicine go down”.

The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

Despite being a Christian, I have spent years studying Wicca and have a lot of respect for this religion. According to their traditions, ginger is said to “lend power” when “performing spells” as ginger is warming by nature and is particularly effective for “love spells” (Cunningham, 2006, p. 125). Supposedly, if you plant the whole root, you will attract money into your life, too. It is also recommended that you sprinkle some powdered ginger into your pockets, which could be interesting, to say the least ;).

Though we had ginger growing in the herb garden at the living history museum I used to work at, I have never tried growing it at home. My garden is still in the landscaping stages owing to when I have the necessary resources, such as time or money, to finish…or I dig down into that Yankee ingenuity to re-purpose something for the job. However, it seems to grow just fine in New England and overwinters with a healthy layer of mulch covering it. The only issues we had at the museum was that the groundhogs liked it a little spicy; we could never keep either the ginger root (it’s the root we use, not the leaves or other aerial parts) or the horseradish completely free of their nibbling. Surrounding it with chicken wire might do the trick. It’s worth a shot.

Whether you’re healing a bout of indigestion, casting a love spell, or baking some gingerbread to enjoy with family and friends, planting some ginger root in the garden, or simply buying some powdered organic, I’m confident you’ll find some new and effective uses for this little powerhouse.

May God bless you & keep you!

Digest Tea

1 tablespoon chamomile
½ tablespoon fennel
1/8 teaspoon of ginger
1 pinch of cardamom (with both the ginger and the cardamom, this is more to taste rather than science)

Heat water in a stainless steel kettle or sauce pan (water should be hot but not boiling; I often bring it to a boil and then let it sit for a few minutes so as not to damage the healing properties in each plant). Pour over the measured herbs/spices. Cover with a lid and allow it to steep for 20 minutes. Strain (or you may use a tea ball) and, if desired, add some honey to sweeten.

This is great about ½ hour before a meal…or as a soothing treat before bed.

REFERENCES

Cunningham, Scott (2006). Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, 2nd edition. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

Tierra, Lesley (2003). Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.

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Stay tuned…

…our regularly scheduled program will be back as soon as I’ve finished my final exam this week! =)

Stay safe, stay healthy…May God bless you & keep you!

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Racism in America and Demonizing Poverty

“Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.” (Proverbs 14:31)

Kudos! to Tulsi Gabbard and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for introducing legislation that would put money into the hands of the American people during this pandemic that has our economy floundering, at best. And, in these very frightening and trying times, I’m going to surprise a lot of Democrat friends by giving President Trump some credit. He is running with it, trying to get money into the hands of the American people who are struggling right now. He even went so far as to reach out to former Democratic candidate, Andrew Yang, to learn more about Yang’s signature platform, Universal Basic Income, or as Yang called it, The Freedom Dividend.

Now, before my Democratic friends think I’ve turned coat, or lost my marbles, no, one good deed does not override countless bad ones. He’s still calling it the “Chinese” virus and, sadly, many Asian Americans have been physically attacked because of it. CNN reports on it here: https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/20/us/coronavirus-racist-attacks-against-asian-americans/index.html. (And before all the accusations of “fake” news circulate, I also have an Asian acquaintance who has experienced this herself first hand) Racism wears many faces and fear-mongering blows it out of the ballpark. We are all in this together. And many of our Asian neighbors have, or will, contract Covid-19 the same as Caucasians, Native Americans/Alaskans, Latinos, Hispanics, African Americans, LGBTQ, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Wiccan, athiest, etc. In short, while we may still be spouting racist dialogue here in America, Covid-19 does not discriminate. If you are calling this the Chinese virus and are reading this, please STOP…NOW! Our fellow Americans are not the cause of this virus. The first case may have been diagnosed in China; it does not make every Asian in the world responsible for a whole pandemic.

I am sensible enough to know that President Trump’s main motivation may simply be to gain approval from everyone and garner some more votes in November. However, it’s the right thing to do. And it doesn’t really matter how he got to this point. He simply did. Whether you agree with me or not, nobody is all bad. We each have dark and light moving for dominance in us at all times. It’s the choices we make that define us. And, again, most of the choices President Trump has made thus far have been bad ones…very bad. But that’s not the point of this post. I am giving kudos! to President Trump for reaching across the proverbial aisle, for putting partisan interests aside and being willing to work with others to help this country.

Sadly, I can’t say the same for members of Congress, on both sides of the political aisle, who want to drag their asses about passing said legislature to test means and decide who should be eligible. While I agree someone making 6 figures per year probably doesn’t need an extra $1000 a month to weather this pandemic, there’s also been some talk on various news’ programs that some of the discussion/hold up is to decide if people making less than $25K a year should receive assistance??!!?

The rationale behind this cruelty is that those in extreme poverty aren’t contributing enough to society under normal circumstances. They’re people who don’t want to work. They’re lazy; why should they benefit? All of the many EXCUSES that so many in our society dream up to justify cold-hearted cruelty to our fellow man.

First of all, the media lies. Our president does, too. Our economy is NOT booming…nor was it before Covid-19 reared its ugly head. GDP and Unemployment Insurance (UI) numbers do not reflect the true state of our economic affairs. Lower UI numbers simply mean less people are collecting UI benefits.

Period.

Are they truly back to work? Or did they simply exhaust those benefits without actually finding employment? Did they give up and simply not file another claim, having become despondent and depressed owing to the true state of our current job market?

I can relate. I’ve been in this job market. And it’s not pretty. The majority of the jobs out there are part-time, seasonal, temporary and/or minimum wage. The full-time, decent-paying positions are few and far between…and usually go to younger workers, i.e. under 50. A lot of industries are disappearing, too. Those of us with a career history in administration and tech support are no longer needed. Those jobs, thanks to modern technology, went overseas where companies can save on the cost of wages and medical benefits. The same is true for customer service. Automation is stealing retail positions, cashiers–how many of you have gone through self-checkout at the local grocery or department store?

Minimum wage in Connecticut recently went up to $11.00 an hour; it is expected to rise again to $13.00 in September. If you’re fortunate enough to be earning considerably more than this per hour, think about how much you might be struggling at $11.00 based upon your current monthly expenses. I know I’m being redundant from an earlier post, but let’s do the math again. $11.00 X 40 hours per week (if you’re lucky) = $440.00 before taxes, etc. are removed. If you’re full-time, you’re also fortunate enough to receive medical insurance through your company. So, to make this easy, let’s say you’re taking home $330.00 a week. It might be more, it might be less, but you get the idea. That comes to $1320.00 per month and, in Connecticut at least, the average rental is around $1000 per month. Again, it might be more, it might be less but, unless Auntie Mimi is renting you the in-law apartment she has dirt-cheap, there’s probably not much left over once the rent is paid. Or mortgage, depending upon your situation. Some of us once had better paying positions that made us eligible to purchase our own home…positions that The Great Recession took away.

I did this redundant exercise to prove a point: there are many, many Americans earning less than $25K per year, who will not receive a stimulus, if those Congressional “leaders” have their way. They are not earning less than $25K because they don’t want to work. They are earning less than $25K because the work isn’t there. Or, at the very least, the wages. They are earning less than $25K because our country has NOT fully recovered from The Great Recession of 2008. It is all too easy to envision, not another recession, but a depression that makes The Great Depression of the 1930’s look like a walk in the park.

This is a pandemic, folks. This is human life we’re talking about here. And an economy that needs sustaining while businesses shutdown to help preserve our lives. People, regardless of their income, need fresh food, clean water, medicine, etc to weather this medical storm. They need to pay their bills. They need to keep the roof overhead. It shouldn’t be conditional based upon the impaired vision of those who continue to look down their nose at those less fortunate than they.

Yes, looking down the nose.

We have such a stigma against poverty. Our society is guilty, even during a pandemic, of judging others based upon how much they earn. So many never stop to consider why that person may not earn that much.

America is supposed to be the land of opportunity. Yes, we have awesome colleges. Ditto for trade schools. Yet, sadly, many high school students are often dissuaded against going to a trade school rather than university. I guess the idea of getting your hands dirty is equated the same as poverty: it’s somehow beneath us. However, even in economic strife, we may still need the brakes fixed on our cars, or the furnace tinkered with to make sure we have heat this winter. These positions often start at $20.00 per hour, sometimes more. Had we encouraged that high school student to pursue a career as a tradesman, maybe they wouldn’t be hurting so bad in a tough economy. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor or a lawyer…or even a school teacher.

There’s also a lot behind poverty that has everything to do with extenuating circumstances rather than personal ambition (or the perceived lack thereof). I once received a video in an email…and I wish I knew who filmed it so I could give credit where it’s due…that placed a couple of dozen young people in a line. It was supposed to be like a starting line to a race. The young people came from all walks of life, varying socio-economic backgrounds, male and female, African American, Asian, etc. At this “starting line”, if all things remained equal, they would each have a good chance of winning that race. However, the person hosting this short film asked every person in that line, if any of them came from families where their parents had divorced, to take a step back. The ladies were also asked to take a step back. They went on to ask every non-Caucasian person to take a step back. Every family who had been affected by alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, physical, mental, and/or sexual abuse, etc. You get the picture. And, suddenly, that starting line was pretty uneven.

Many of us are like that. Though my western European ancestors won out in the gene pool, I can claim Native American heritage. That’s a step back. I am female. I could take a step back for alcoholism, mental and sexual abuse, divorce, suicide (aunt; father attempted a few times). We were low-income. I spent a number of years living in the inner-city (Yes, neighborhood/community was one of the steps back, too).

None of these factors were the fault of these young people. Yet we point the fingers and judge others for making what we, in our biased and narrow visions, consider poor “choices”.

If you grew up being told how stupid you were, do you think you’d think highly enough about yourself to shoot for a full scholarship to a university? If you were laughed at and bullied (another step back) in school, are you going to extend yourself and risk further ridicule? Not everyone rises to the occasion in an expression of defiance against the box they’ve been initially placed in. Or, if you were perpetually put down at home, abused in some way, etc. would you have that sense of self-worth that keeps you from entering into another abusive relationship? Oftentimes, when you’ve grown up with abuse, another abuser is what I call a comfortable-familiar. You have instant rapport because they’re just like the parent/sibling, etc who abused you and that gives you a false sense of security that the abuser will feed on perpetually to keep you with them.

In truth, if you’re poor in America, our society is going to continue to abuse you. This debate about whether or not extremely low-income families should receive this stimulus is proof of that.

I don’t remember the video talking about physical or mental limitations but it’s been awhile. We could also ask those who are blind, deaf, in a wheelchair, stricken with asthma or diabetes, etc. to take a step back. If you sustained an injury somewhere along life’s course, or have developed an autoimmune disease, if you’re older and have developed one or more of those conditions that come with age (macular degeneration, arthritis, etc.), you can probably take a step back, too. Because a stimulus that refuses to help those below a certain economic level will look at your SSI check and find you wanting.

And what about the value of that stay-at-home parent or caregiver? Or the person who chose life and has grown a rather large family? Apparently, you’re not worthy of a stimulus either.

And that’s just wrong…on every level imaginable.

In the hour or so it has taken me to write this, things may have changed. More compassionate hearts may have prevailed and, maybe, just maybe, even low-income families will receive the help they need to survive while we all stay quarantined in our homes to prevent the spread of this Covid-19.

I hope so. I hope that in this unprecedented pandemic reaction that families do not have to further compromise their immunity by stressing over how they’re going to pay the rent, or mortgage. I hope that families will not have to choose between food and medicine, but be able to choose both. In short, I hope that lawmakers, and those who have more, will make a good choice this time: a choice to save lives everywhere…rather than continue the abuse against those less fortunate. I hope, instead of looking down the narrow curve of one’s nose, we look the face of poverty straight in the eye, place a bowl of homemade soup in front of it, a warm, cozy quilt about the shoulders, and say, I believe in you. You are worthy of His love…and mine. You are worthy of consideration. Now let’s finish this race together.

May God bless you & keep you!

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I Don’t Care…

“Don’t plot against your neighbor; he is trusting you. Don’t get into needless fights. Don’t envy violent men. Don’t copy their ways. For such men are abomination to the Lord, but He gives His friendship to the godly.” (Proverbs 3:29-32)

I don’t care what color your skin is. As an artist, while monochromes and sepia may have their uses, a steady diet of such a restricted palette gets pretty monotonous. I much prefer the diverse plan of the Master Artist, that for me is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who created all colors and hues that the world might be a more beautiful place to live.

I don’t care where you originally came from. We’ve been saying there’s not enough room for centuries; and yet, there’s always just one more place at the dinner table and a pillow to rest one’s head. We’ve been worrying for centuries about job scarcity, too. There’s some legitimacy to that. But it’s not because of who you are or that you came here in the first place. Automation, technology, and cheaper labor in other lands–perhaps even your own–are robbing us of our livelihoods. I’d rather bid you welcome, learn about your life in the Old Country, and why this land became the dream for you as it has for every generation before…unless you’re 100% Cheyenne or Cherokee, that is.

I don’t care who you love. The fact that you love someone at all tells me you have a heart…and I rejoice with you in having found that special someone who can know all about you and love you, too. Your gender/identity does not matter to me. I consider you a kind and courageous soul for being true to yourself…and for having the guts to reach out for love in the first place. Many people wander this world lonely and alone, broken by past trauma, or too afraid of rejection, to reach out for the greatest gifts we humans have to give to each other: our love, our compassion, companionship, and a sense of belonging.

I don’t care what your socioeconomic status is. A bigger house means more time and effort to clean…and more junk to fill it; a fancier car means a higher insurance premium each month. I rejoice with you if you can afford such luxuries today…and if you’re content in the having of them. Empty cupboards and drafty floors push many to despair. They do not mean that someone has been lazy and shiftless…or even that they’ve made a bad choice somewhere along the way. Sometimes we’re just victims of circumstance…such as an accident, or a company outsourcing one’s position. Until we’ve walked that proverbial mile in someone else’s shoes, judge not, lest ye be judged. The size of your wallet does not reflect the size of your heart. How you treat your fellow man, and even the other creatures who share this earth with us, tells me volumes about how truly wealthy, or impoverished, you are.

I don’t care if you call the Source of life Jesus, God, Allah, Goddess, or Buddha, etc., or if you don’t believe in such an existence at all. Regardless of your beliefs, we are all part of the same community of life on this third rock from the sun. Arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong only divides us, sets us to hating each other…when all of our holy texts tell us to love one another. Instead, I’d rather sit down and have the sort of conversation that brings about a new understanding and peace, a conversation where we both learn and respect each other’s beliefs…and the culture that founded them.

I don’t care who you vote for. As long as you vote with integrity, allowing the love you have in your heart for your fellow man and good reason to guide you, then your vote counts…even if your choice doesn’t win. It should not matter what someone looks like, who they love, how much–or how little–they earn, where they come from, their gender, or their beliefs. All are worthy of consideration and care. The only aisle between us is the one we have drawn in our minds…and in our hearts. When we reject even a single one of our brothers and sisters, we all lose. When we all work together, we all win…BIG!

May God bless you & keep you!

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A Song for the Year

“Play joyous melodies of praise upon the lyre and on the harp. Compose new songs of praise to Him, accompanied skillfully on the harp; sing joyfully.” (Psalms 33:2-3)

I probably should’ve written this post on January 1st. However, as we enter the Lenten season this week, my resolve to stay a particular course is tested and strengthened. This is my “new year”, my time to find something in my heart that I feel needs attention.

This time around it’s a growing awareness–an awareness that has been with me for many, many years (not just the last 3 or so)–of how divided we are in the U.S. And in the world. We see people who look differently than us, worship differently, love differently, dress differently. And we judge. I don’t think deep down inside that we’re inherently racist or filled with hate. I think we’ve become indoctrinated with a lot of racist rhetoric and assumptions about each other, rhetoric and assumptions that cause us to fear and mistrust…instead of reaching across an invisible aisle, or line, that we have drawn in the sand. Of course, it doesn’t help when our leaders continue to reiterate those assumptions. Or that we’ve been fed American history from a biased perspective.

What would American history be like if our history books told about slavery from the perspective of the men, women and children who were trapped in it for centuries?

What would our curriculum be like if it included the oral histories of the Cheyenne, Sioux, Cherokee or Iroquois’ (etc) nations?

Do we realize how many Hispanic and/or Latinos have contributed to that history, to the building of this country, from its very inception? Ditto for Asian, Indian, Jewish and Muslim/Middle Eastern peoples, etc.

And how many of our most revered authors, artists, etc from centuries’ past would identify today as LGBTQ? Does who they love(d) make their contributions any less?

What truly makes America–and all the world, really–great is the beauty of that diversity. And I think it’s time that we focused on what brings us together, not what divides us. As my choice for “song of the year” by Mandisa (feat. TobyMac and Kirk Franklin) says, “We All Bleed the Same”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVKuA1s5I3o

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Mandisa. “We All Bleed the Same.” Out of the Dark, Sparrow Records, 2017.