The Ultimate Sign of Compassion

As many of you know, I consider myself more “spiritual” than religious. I have not attended a church, for various reasons, in many years. I did grow up in a Lutheran church – baptized, confirmed and married in the same one. I also know that every religion teaches us something.

In the Bible, Jesus’ washing of his disciples feet is a wonderful metaphor of how we need to treat others. No matter how powerful, important, confident (or lack thereof) we might think we are, humbling ourselves and serving others can only be a good thing.

 

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painting by me, CD-W

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”

Happy Birthday, Anne Lamott! I first “met” this woman when I read Traveling Mercies. Not only did I feel the “spirit”‘ of this book, I also laughed out loud. She admitted that when she prayed, she used the F-bomb saying God didn’t care. He knew her. I love this kind of honesty.

In this same book, she also talked about the female’s image of herself. At first a bit self conscience when going to the beach in her swimsuit, she saw the perfect bodies of the young women and realized that they were more self-conscience than she was. In fact, Anne didn’t worry about body image anymore. She had grown into it.

And then, there was Bird by Bird. This book truly helped take away the fear writing.

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Born on this day in 1954, I know she will continue to inspire us for many years to come. Thanks, Anne!

From Arid to a full belly

1940: Fresh Air and Dusted Britches — Last weekend Mr. Green asked Delma and me if we wanted to spend a night with him and his wife. I think maybe he’d heard a few things about what was going on at my house, about how Dad was treating me. Either way, it sure was good to get away for a night.

Mrs. Green made us corn on the cob with fried chicken and I ate every bit of mine. Then we played checkers, and even taught Delma how to play. It was like a vacation from the desert with no water into a place with fresh air and cold iced tea. It was a full belly.

The next morning before we were about to leave, Mrs. Green hugged Delma, turned to me and said, “Now Cono, you keep sittin’ on the shiny side’a that star.”

It sounded like a real nice thing to say, but I’m still trying to figure out what in tarnation she was talking about.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

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Arid

Cono meets a “Colored Man”

 

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Cono Dennis and his sister, Delma

1934:  We walk into the barber’s shop and Dad shakes hands with Mr. Kindle. The place looks pretty much the same as Grady’s in Ranger, but instead of a boxing poster, there’s a framed picture of President Roosevelt. Something else different too. There’s a colored man standing in the corner holding a rag. Dad walks up to him, shakes his hand and says, “How ya doin,’ H?”

  “I’m jest fine, Mr. Wayne. How ‘bout yerself?” They shake hands.

   “Any better ’n I’d be dead.”

  “Well, that’s fine then, jus’ fine,” H. laughs.

 “H., this is my boy, Cono.” H. bends down, looks me square in my eyes and says, “We’ll, it’s a real pleasure Little Dennis, a real pleasure.”

 I like how he’s Squatting so he can see my eyes. Like we’re playing on the same team. I don’t have to look up to him and he doesn’t have to look down on me. I stare back into his eyes where I can see right into the middle of him. What I see is safe and comfortable. So I say, “I ain’t never met a real colored man before.” I hear Dad laugh.

   “‘S’at right?”

   “Yeah.”

  “Yes, sir,” corrects Dad.

 “Yes sir,” I say.

“Well, Little Dennis, I’ve never met a young man so strong and smart lookin’ as you.”     Dad gets in the barber’s chair and H. pulls up a stool to start shining Dad’s old black shoes.

I like the way H. looks at me, like I’m worth a jar full of quarters.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

 

Have you earned your stripes yet?

 

For the longest time, I was tired of my black and white, tired of everyone bickering about who was smarter, who was better. I felt boring and tired, frustrated and snarky. Then, after I nudged  a fallen little boy back to upright and I licked his skinned knee, my first colorful stripe appeared! The second came after I pulled a mouthful of leaves from an acacia tree and, when I noticed the soulful eyes of a walking 4-legged loner, I gave my meal to him. Over time, my stripes became so colorful, my friends wanted to know my secret. Now, Arnie Armadillo is aqua, Scotty Skunk is sky blue and silver, Gracie Gray Wolf is green, and … well, you get the picture.

Anyway, being kind is easy and nobody bickers anymore.

How many stripes do you have?

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painting by me, CDW

What would Mr. Rogers say now?

Yes, that’s me in the photo with Mr. Rogers. In the 1990’s, before I retired as an Early Childhood Specialist, I took my mom with me to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference in Anaheim, CA where Mr. Rogers was to be the keynote speaker. On the day before the evening speech, Mom and I were walking around the big almost-empty auditorium when I heard Mr. Roger’s voice somewhere behind me.

I followed that soft, kind voice and found him with David, his PR manager, both checking out the venue before the speech. I introduced myself, told him what I did for a living and how much I loved him.

My mom, who was never the meek sort, chimed in and said, “And I’m just a grandma.”

Whoa! She never expected his response. He told her that being a grandmother is one of the most important jobs in the world- how they are a major contribution to a child’s well-being – how there is a special kind of love between a child and a grandparent.

After the goosebumps settled, I said, “I wish I would have remembered to bring a camera. I would have loved to have our picture taken together.”

Mr. Rogers said, “That’s okay. David, can we use yours?”

His PR person first took a photo of Mr. Rogers and me, then Mr. Rogers insisted my mom be in the next one.

True to his word, the 5/7’s were sent to me a week later.

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Mr. Rogers was a man of honor, dignity, truth, kindness, and much, much more.

But I wonder what he would be thinking now if he knew Paul Ryan has proposed budget  cut including $445 million in Public Broadcasting Subsidies. Actually, I know what he would say. He did it before. When President Nixon threatened the same cut in 1968, Mr. Rogers, in his kind, eloquent way, spoke before the Senate Subcommittee. 

You can see his testimony here. And it’s well worth the watch.

Long live the spirit of Mr. Fred Rogers!

Am I really thanking Trump?

No, but …

We The People had been far too complacent. Most Republicans and Democrats thought he would never win. He did. Snuck right under our noses like a not-so-quiet thief in the night. Then, when we rose, said, “what happened to all our shit?”

Trump has unknowingly forced us to take a hard look at ourselves and, in doing so, we have awoken to reconfirm our beliefs and our rights (or lack there-of).

Now, dialogues are reopened. Millions of people are speaking up, and out, to the masses. We are no longer complacently thinking that things are okay. They are not. And, for the most part, they were. Ten days ago we did not have executive orders that divided us with the rest of the world, executive orders that remain questionable in their constitutional authority.

Yesterday, the DNC tweeted: We want to know what YOU want the future of our party to look like and what you want from our next Chair. Tell us:

Well, they got an ear-full! Here’s one:unspecified.png

Read more here.

Yes, Trump has inadvertently brought us together. Did you see the marchers on January 21st? The women, men and children of all backgrounds including the Black Lives Matter and LBGT community who came together as ONE? Did you see the protesters at JFK airport and learned how it led to a stay in Trump’s order to keep immigrants away? I am SO proud of you!!

We The People, of the United States, in Order to form a perfect Union,” have returned to our moral code and now remember how to march, how to protest, how to voice our frustrations and concerns.

Am I happy he is president? Hell, no. But I’m glad he has, in no accord of his own,  made us remember what is important.

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“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”-Gandhi.

“Ask yourself this question: ‘Will this matter a year from now?’ –Richard Carlson, American psychotherapist and author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

When you carry something elephantine for the good of humanity, the feet where you tread will leave a deeper, lasting impression. Carolyn Dennis-Willingham