Words of wisdom: A gift I needed

“One shouldn’t pretend that people don’t get overwhelmed by the sense of impotence, but do what you can where you can.”

–Archbishop Desmond Tutu

That’s what I read today shortly after opening up The Book of Joy. After yesterday, when I was at risk of feeling overwhelmed by a sense of helpless and hopelessness after the massacre of children in Parkland, Florida, I could not have asked for a better reminder.

Also this:

“Start where you are, and realize that you are not meant on your own to resolve all of these massive problems. Do what you can. It seems so obvious. And you will be surprised, actually, at how it can get to be catching.”

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From anger to gratitude

I’m angry today. I’m angry this weekend, and I’ve been angry most of this week. It’s a natural response in the wake of yet another mass shooting that has left yet more students dead and injured in yet another of our schools.

I am tired of senseless killing and tired of seeing children die. I am tired of blood flowing in the corridors and classrooms of our nation’s schools. I am tired of fearing for our nation’s children and tired of fearing for everyone else’s safety in this society—for as we all know schools are not the only targets, only perhaps the most heart-wrenching.

But I’m not cultivating anger. I’m hoping it can serve as a motivating force, but I know it can debilitate as well. I’ve struggled to write today, and I think it’s because my anger connects to feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness and despair. Those will get me nowhere. They will get us nowhere. Continue reading

Choosing joy

The puppy stopped suddenly, coming up short when he realized what he wanted was gone.

The younger, and far less dominant, of two dogs, he had been playing joyfully with a toy, shaking it and tossing it around, when it flew from his mouth and hit the floor with a thud. It caught the attention of the older, larger dog, who quickly grabbed it off the floor and walked away with it.

And just like that, the toy was gone.

This is a true story, which I tell because of what the little dog did next. His face took on a stunned look, and he stood motionless, silent, for a couple of seconds. I could practically see him thinking about what had just happened, and whether or how he should respond. Then shaking his head slightly , his face restored its happy puppy brightness, and he ran off to grab a different toy. Continue reading

How to honor Dr. King

I marked the start of the Martin Luther King holiday by finishing the last few chapters of The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation, by Chicago reporter Natalie Y. Moore. The book explores the continuing persistence and effects of racial segregation America, with a focus on Chicago and especially the city’s South Side, where Moore grew up.

This book has earned wide praise, and has left me with much to consider. It approaches segregation primarily in terms of race, but acknowledges the intersections with class and economics. Which of these is the more important factor if our goal is to be improving racial equity and justice?

It seems important today to remember that Martin Luther King’s primary goal wasn’t racial harmony; it was racial justice. Continue reading