Election Day 2016

As I prepare to go out to vote for the next President of these great United States, I consider all of the issues that every other citizen is considering:  foreign policy, social programs, equality and civil rights, economics, etc.  And while all of these issues are important, I keep remembering a life lesson shared by my grandmother.  “Kindness,” she would say, “is the most important thing.”

I think about which candidate will demonstrate the most kindness.  Who is more likely to embrace the marginalized, to work for the disenfranchised?  Who will work for those of all backgrounds, all races and ethnicities, all religions, sexual preferences, gender identities?  Who will work to promote respect and equality for all people in the country?  Who sends a message that I want our children to believe in?  I want a president who conducts himself/herself with class and dignity, who does not unravel.

On occasion, I have felt like punching people or telling them to perform certain acts on themselves.  I have been angry.  It could be at my boss, it could be at my family, it could be at other drivers.  However, I don’t give in to the most based part of my character and indulge those temptations.  Obviously I don’t want to lose my job or get shot in traffic but I keep it together for a more important reason:  I want to believe I’m better than that.  I may picture myself saying or doing something and may even get some pleasure from that idea but I don’t do it.  If I did, what would my grandmother say?  What would the children I teach think?  What would that say about me?

I want a president who will model the very best of who we are.  I want more kindness.  In fact, I insist upon it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfriended

IMG_7543 (1)My Internet was glitchy so I thought why not snatch the wifi from Starbucks and indulge in a four-dollar coffee? I like the idea of writing here. Something about expensive lattes, comfortable chairs, Beth Orton music playing – although I almost never do it. Usually I write in my spare bedroom – incense burning, no cats bothering me.

Ever watch people at a coffee shop? You can usually tell what their stories are. Look at those two over there. Clearly not married – constant eye contact, conversation. Maybe I should pay attention people who are friends. It goes more with my story.

The other thing about Starbucks is when you hit a wall with your writing, you can get an extra espresso shot in your coffee, which really helps the creative process. A million thoughts flood your mind at once, you know? That and the pastries – a little sugar bump. You should really grab something from the pastry case. In any case, I should be working on the piece for my writing class – the one about living in a townhome community in a resort town? Except I’ve been twisted about something for days, so I’m cheating. I’ve got this sidepiece, you know like a side chick? It’s not the writing I’ve committed to, but I’m way more into it. It’s a writing affair.

Last summer my mom and I took a trip to Gettysburg and took pottery lessons. The pottery studio was advertised as “Christian oriented” which made me nervous. Technically I’m a Christian but when I hear that term it makes me think of Westboro Baptist Church. In any case, the studio was set up in an old warehouse. Inspirational quotes were painted on the walls along with little kids handprints and contemporary Christian music playing. The potter, I’ll call her Christy, didn’t try to save us or anything like that. I mentioned Cathy, my partner, in the first few minutes so if she were a homophobe, we’d be out of there. She didn’t blink an eye. As she taught us how to roll, coil, and score the clay, she was very patient. Mom was frustrated with how her “conversation piece” was turning out and Christy said that sometimes the mistakes make the piece better. Unlike writing, I thought to myself. Mistakes in pottery might make a piece more interesting, draw someone to the piece whereas in writing, mistakes distract the reader and push the reader away. Tangents may be a perfect example for this, but I digress.

On the way home, mom and I agreed we felt a connection with Christy. I want to say it was a spiritual connection – she did a lot of work with grieving kids and other community service. When I got home that evening, she had sent me a friend request on facebook, which I accepted. Since meeting Christy, I’ve bought ornaments from her, sent her a book, Jesus is Calling, at Christmas, sent a card when her father died, and messaged her a few times. Here’s the kicker – she UNFRIENDED me on facebook. It’s been eating at me for days. What does the word “unfriend” really mean? Either you’re friends with someone or you’re not. Isn’t “unfriending” someone like “unringing” a bell?

Once I realized she’d unfriended me, I nailed down the time period when she unfriended me. Then I checked my activity log to see what I had liked, or posted, or reposted that may have offended her. I liked something about being against AR 15s or any other weapon that can kill a lot of people quickly. Christy’s a gun person, her husband gave her a handgun for Christmas, and I saw the pictures of her and her daughter at target practice. Maybe she took my being against civilians owning assault weapons as an affront to her second amendment rights. Then I thought about what I’ve supported – like the Black Lives Matter movement. Did I show too much support for that or not enough? Is she a racist? What kind of a Christian is a racist? I should send her another book, Jesus is Calling You a Dick. I was so relieved when she wasn’t a homophobe it never occurred to me she could be a racist. I also liked the Blue Lives Matter pages – again too much or not enough? Then I’m thinking I have no apology for what I believe, why do I care what this woman, who’s really a stranger to me, thinks? Right?

Here’s what I wanted to say to Christy: You know who you unfriended? You unfriended a woman who buys $100 of raffle tickets from a little person who is in hospice; you unfriended a woman who stops her car on the highway to move a snapping turtle into the marsh; who picks up worms from the sidewalk because they’ll never make it across the pavement (see my autobiography titled, I am the Girl who puts Worms in the Grass); who for her 50th birthday asked her friends to donate to a homeless shelter; who breaks up fights at school, who teaches kids that kindness is the most important thing and no, I am not crying right now, who doesn’t believe in hatred and is hurt that you unfriended her — and maybe that means she lacks confidence — and who is willing to drive nine hours in one day so she and her mother can get pottery lessons from you, you who may not even like her. And she’s doing that because her mother likes you, truth be told, she likes you. That’s who you unfriended.

You unfriended someone who reached out to you when she thought her mother had cancer because she wanted your prayers, a woman who keeps the little worry stone, the one with your thumbprint on it, in her bag to remind her to have faith (since all turned out well with her mother, miraculous was what the doctor called it. But that’s another story – should I sidetrack with these stories?)

You unfriended a woman who participates in a peace march each year walking from one poor, black neighborhood to another in memory of a man who died by gun violence and she does this without carrying a gun. That’s who you unfriended.

So if you unfriended me because of guns, then know that guns are your only friends. If you unfriended me because you are a racist, please don’t allow me to make you late for your Klan meeting.

I tell the kids in my class that they have to be okay with who they are and not worry if people like them or not. I understand, I tell them, that being accepted is most important during the teen years but they have to have a solid foundation, be grounded, have a strong sense of self. If someone doesn’t like their post on facebook or doesn’t follow them on Twitter or God forbid unfriends them, they have to still be okay. They can’t be jumping off the bridge over these things. That’s what these kids do. They fall apart. I look at myself and think Christy is a woman I met one time, and yes we’ve interacted since then but what am I worried about? Why do I need this validation? Am I really worried because she doesn’t like me? Or am I worried because I think I’m losing a decent human being in my life? It’s not like she was in my life … so why am I so wound up about this? Maybe I’m just insecure. How can I preach to kids about being okay if someone unfriends them when I am not okay when someone has unfriended me?