“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
none but our self can free our mind. ”Marcus Garvey.
Going back to school brings with it a host of challenges, one of which is a subject known as statistics. The good news is, they don’t expect you to know formulae any more, and there are programs that run all of those complex computations. However you still have to grasp certain fundamental concepts. For that you usually need a textbook or two, and when in doubt, you YouTube it! I love the overall idea of statistics, the thought that complicated mathematics can tell us things about the political race, or the human race. Numbers can try to predict human behavior, which we all know is notoriously unpredictable. But I have had to make YouTube my friend!
The news this week has been full of distressing stories; some are recent, like the recent suicide bombs in Lebanon. Then there are others which have been building for some time, like the treatment of African American students at the University of Missouri. Other stories are a few years old, but what has been hidden shall be revealed in this day of the all-seeing video cameras which witnessed the inhumane tasing of a psychotic man. We can always turn off the TV, stop listening to the news, but unfortunately it won’t change reality.
How much freedom do we have that we don’t appreciate? Do you ever think what it must be like to believe that your only choice is to put your family in an overcrowded vessel and set off to sea, knowing that chances are good (statistics again!) that you will not make it? Can you imagine thinking that death is not a bad option compared to the life you are currently living? Unfortunately we spend a lot of time complaining about things that others wish they could have the luxury to complain about: cell phone with bad reception; traffic jams; a refrigerator which needs to be cleaned out. If you need to remind yourself how blessed you are, there was a video made some years ago that had third world people mocking our first world problems; you can catch it on my friend the You Tube! Sometimes we need reminders of our blessings.
The nurse has the opportunity every day to recognize and appreciate the blessings of her/his life. Confronted by those who are limited by illness or disability the nurse gets to go home at the end of the shift and give thanks for the freedom of health. Parents of children with special needs have a different reality. They wish they had the freedom of regular misbehaving kids; kids that are too energetic and boisterous; kids that are ‘normal’. Those parents of children who have particular health or developmental problems have to anticipate and plan. The freedom to act spontaneously has been taken from them. They have to think ahead, make preparations, and pack well.
Our freedom may be impacted by our geography, our place of birth or residence. It may be impacted by economics. You can’t tell someone who lives in the inner city that they need to eat only fresh fruit and vegetables, and by the way, why don’t you join a gym! All of the determination in the world can be stymied by lack of funds. Failure to recognize the role that poverty plays in American society today should be on our conscience. ‘Food insecurity’ represents the fact that many (over 48 million households in the US) do not know where there next meal is coming from. How do you have the freedom to learn if you are hungry, if you don’t know whether you will eat before you go to bed at night?
In the US there is a lot of talk about constitutional rights, to freedom of speech and freedom to carry guns, but who defends the right of people to live? It is scary to live in a society which holds the right to carry a gun more important than the lives of those who have been harmed by guns. But that is a topic all by itself!
This month I have been taking nursing students to a nursing home which specializes in the care of people with memory problems, a very nice way of describing people in various stages of dementia. Observing those whose memories have been stolen by this cruel disease is part tragedy, part comedy. I have been humbled at the sight of relatively young people who are distressed to feel they have lost their family, who keep hoping someone will show up to take them home. I have been taught by a Russian man who was repeating an unintelligible (to me at least) Russian phrase over and over. I could not get through to him at all. When I gave up and told him I didn’t even know how to tell him ‘Goodbye’ in Russian, he told me “Dos vidaniya” – so now I can at least tell him goodbye! I have seen people who don’t recognize pictures of themselves still be polite, and gracious, and appreciative of small kindnesses, when so much of their own memories are gone.
So this Friday morning I hope you can recognize the freedoms that you have, even though some may be threatened. The biggest freedom we have is to keep our minds open to the possibility that there is more than one way to see the world. The biggest gift we can give someone is to try to imagine life from their point of view, try to understand what challenges they face.
May you have a wonderfully free Friday morning Family! And a fantastic weekend.