“They say the world is spinning around; I say the world is upside down.” ~ Jimmy Cliff.
There are times when the world just does not make sense. Last week one of my students explained that she was late because of traffic. On the main street in front of the college, traffic had been backed up to allow a mother duck and her little ducklings to cross the street. Awww, how sweet, you may think. That was not my reaction! I was instantly angered, because the same morning I had heard on the news that a bus carrying unaccompanied migrant minors to a processing center had been met by protestors. These children had been sent from Central America by their parents, risking many perils, in the hopes that they would have better opportunities in the US. And rather than feel compassion for the hopelessness that would make a parent send their child on such a journey, there were people who decided that somehow these kids threatened their wellbeing.
And yet we stop for a family of ducks. Meanwhile, across the world in Israel, there are people who express their dissatisfaction with their world by kidnapping and killing teenagers. Which then causes other people to seek revenge. How does that work? Where does it end? Vengeance can only end when everyone in the world is eyeless and toothless. And yet in the midst of that there is hope. The father of one of the Jewish teens who was killed called and spoke with the father of the Arab teen who was killed in retaliation. Together they shared their grief. There is hope.
Last week I went out of town to attend one of our high school reunions in Toronto. The event itself was wonderful, but of the four days I was away I must have spent 36 hours in travel (by road and plane). During that time I was in touch with people by phone and text, receiving requests to do some work related tasks. I also had homework that was due. On Thursday I received strict instructions from one friend to ‘disconnect’ – she reminded me that I was supposed to be on a break, a long weekend away from my responsibilities, just disconnect! she instructed me. Easier said than done, I replied.
On Friday morning after completing another leg of the journey north, I woke up in upstate New York to find that I was totally disconnected! In the peaceful leafy hamlet I was staying in a house with no internet, and even my phone had responded to my friend’s instruction by telling me ‘no service’!! I was forced to stop, take a breath, watch the gentle rain as it washed over the leafy trees, and enjoy the quiet. There was no way to send out my usual message, and so I obeyed the universe.
The radio was playing, it was July 4th, and on the public radio station they played a speech given by Frederick Douglass in 1852. He had been invited to give a speech commemorating the signing of the declaration of Independence. His speech began: “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” He went on to describe the concepts of liberty and equality as “hollow mockery”. His words could have been spoken today, in a land that boasts of equal opportunity for all, yet permits families to struggle below the poverty line; allows students to pile up massive school debt and gives tax breaks to corporations that are making billions of dollars. And we stop for ducks.
But that is not where the story ends. I continued to listen to NPR while the rain dripped on in a soothing rhythm outside (this was unlike the torrential tropical downpours we get in South Florida, in fact it was unlike the thunderstorms we had driven through the previous evening). Next was an old interview with the activist and folk singer Pete Seeger. This was a man who had protested his entire life. He was a committed pacifist, an environmentalist, and a believer in the power of people to change the world. It is said that at his concerts he was not content unless the audience was singing along.
The interviewer asked him what he thought about the inequities in the world, how did it make sense to keep on fighting? He said that we should think globally, but act locally. We can begin where we live. And then he spoke of what he called the ‘teaspoon brigade’. He said that the inequalities in the world are like a seesaw. On one end of the seesaw is a pile of boulders that weight it down. At the other end there is a bucket which people are filling up with teaspoons of sand. It may sound impossible to believe that individuals doing small things can bring about change, but if enough people keep putting their teaspoon’s worth of sand into the bucket, eventually we can make a difference.
This week I heard about the teaspoons at work in Texas. While small minded people protest the humanitarian shame of children risking their lives to cross the border, people in Texas are offering shelter, legal aid, and support for these kids. Even Glenn Beck sent toys and food for them, risking backlash from his base. There is hope in the world.
On this Friday morning I hope you will pick up your teaspoon and help to fill the bucket. I have to believe in the power of love and that ultimately good will overcome evil. But we have to throw down our arms, be willing to forgive and turn the other cheek and stop fighting violence with violence.
You may stop for the ducks today, but let us also stop for people, for those who are as powerless as the ducklings, so that they can have lives of possibilities and hope.
Have a fabulous weekend Family!