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Category Archives: Social Justice

This is what you shall do

This is not a poem, but Walt Whitman used poetic language and deep meditative thought it qualifies. He used  language in ways that are politically incorrect today, but provided considerable insight into what it might mean to be a servant-leader and live in the world that way.

I become part of the world and it is embodied in me in such remarkable ways as I learn from the world. I think that is the counsel that this passage provides for me and asks of me.

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons with the young and the mother of families, read these leaves in the open air every season in every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…”

Making Peace

Denise Levertov wrote this wonderful and I think it is a good way to bring my week to an end as I head to Sabbath. Stephen at Grow Mercy posted this earlier and I did try to share it with those who follow my blog. It did not make it over and this was the next best thing I could do to get it to you folks. Take a moment and visit Stephen’s blog.

I used a lesson plan with my students where we talked about a culture of war and a culture of peace. They had to describe each one and we did them separately. We have many more words that come to mind when we talk about peace. I filled whiteboard, they would share for an hour, be disappointed when it was over, and the quiet ones were always present. There is a presence in peace. The students ran out of ways to describe a culture of war very quickly.

A voice from the dark called out,

“The poets must give us

imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar

imagination of disaster. Peace, not only

the absence of war.”

But peace, like a poem,

is not there ahead of itself,

can’t be imagined before it is made,

in the words of its making,

grammar of justice

syntax of mutual aid.

A feeling towards it,

dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have

until we begin to utter its metaphors,

learning them as we speak.

A line of peace might appear

if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,

revoked its affirmation of profit and power,

questioned our needs, allowed

long pauses. …

A cadence of peace might balance its weight

on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,

an energy field more intense than war,

might pulse then,

stanza by stanza entering the world,

each act living

one of its words, each word

a vibration of light–facets

of the forming crystal.

Equality

Maya Angelou wrote this lovely poem. I think there are several ways to interpret the poem’s message. It could be a love poem, a poem written from the perspective of an oppressed people, or the way we see each other in daily life. I wonder, “What would it be like if we found ways to be equal, in our workplaces, families, communities, and the many other places humans gather? Could we each be free?”

I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s famous line: “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty we are free at last!” and Maria Montessori’s quote: Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”

Can I help lift the yoke that keeps others down in some small way each day, each moment? We each need moments of uplifting and the respect that flows from it.

You declare you see me dimly
through a glass which will not shine,
though I stand before you boldly,
trim in rank and making time.

You do own to hear me faintly
as a whisper out of range,
while my drums beat out the message
and the rhythms never change.

Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.

You announce my ways are wanton,
that I fly from man to man,
but if I’m just a shadow to you,
could you ever understand?

We have lived a painful history,
we know the shameful past,
but I keep on marching forward,
and you keep on coming last.

Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.

Take the blinders from your vision,
take the padding from your ears,
and confess you’ve heard me crying,
and admit you’ve seen my tears.

Hear the tempo so compelling,
hear the blood throb through my veins.
Yes, my drums are beating nightly,
and the rhythms never change.

Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.

The Journey

I am not sure what my schedule is like for the rest of the afternoon, so I will post earlier than I normally do. I read quite a bit yesterday and one of the books I finished was by a friend, Deb E. Berg and is called Ja-Mya and the Journey. I taught two members of the Berg family and Deb was a founding member of our small school. Much of the underlying philosophy that led to this group of parents approaching educators with their idea of a different way of imagining a school and children’s learning is reflected in this book.

The book weaves story-telling reminiscent of classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and many others. The two main characters, Teagen and Andrew, search for life’s meaning as two adolescents who embark on their summer vacation with their uncle. They search for their Heart’s Desire, explore deep and timeless questions adolescents ask, and enter a fourth dimension where time is not as we understand it. They witness two opposing worldviews: one of abundance and stewardship; the other of scarcity and depletion. They learn their greatest strengths are often their greatest weaknesses. The reader embarks on a journey with Teagen and Andrew as they learn about nature, connect to a new world through their imagination, and find wisdom. In a single afternoon, Andrew “fought a war, rode a dragon, wrote and performed a song while learning about my Heart’s desire.”

This book is about finding and integrating the contemporary with the traditional. It is about a real need to see legacy not through the eyes of adults, but through the eyes of children. What world do we choose to leave for them? What is our gift to them?

I leave you with the song Andrew wrote and performed at the end of the book:

Life begins, life ends,

Struggles come and go

What the Journey holds for each

Is something we cannot know.

Friends along the way,

Providing what we need

In companionship and wisdom

With varied type of deed.

One’s Heart’s Desire can only be found

When walking the road of life

No matter what we find it is

The awareness will bring less strife.

Emotion also finds its place

Along the Journey’s way

With welcoming and firm embrace

Wisdom will guide today.

Value, meaning, the hope of life

Shows in the time we take

To listen to a kinder voice

Love’s words to never forsake.

Life begins, life ends,

Struggles come and go

What the Journey holds for each

Is something we cannot know.

I would love to use this book in the form of a novel study or a reading project with junior high students.

Dreams

It was a long day. I feel tired and I was not as close to 100% as I thought. Despite that, I had an interesting conversation and, on the way home, I wondered if many children’s dreams have exploded? Do children dream like I did when I was a child? Do some children while others are afraid or unable to dream? I turned those questions over and they reminded me of Langston Hughes’ wonderful poetry. What is my role in holding their dreams with them?

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

What Can I Do?

It has been an extraordinarily sad day and that was clear in the blogs I follow. A profound sense of sorrow and loss echoed through the digital world. What was extraordinary was the sense what has happened in Connecticut needs to end. This centred on the question: “What can I do?” I think we can do much, but the change begins with us and moves out. As I take my weekly pause, I want to give some thought to what can I do?

On a sombre day–

Grief and sorrow the order,

A message heard:

Change begins in me.

I am a catalyst

I look inside:

Call forth a gentle spirit–

Give it voice.

In light, love happens–

Resonates,

Reaches out its hand

Beckons others join.

Rings on clearest pond,

Ripples of love touch,

Right cascades forth,

Good people meet.

Good touches good,

Prayer meets prayer,

Love conquers hate

Join together.

Good people summoned–

Their tears catalyze,

Grieve and heal as one,

We are change.

Be a community–

It is not a distant loss:

It is our loss–

Feel it.

Small change is ours–

We each contribute,

Love multiplies:

Heals the world.

 

Grace

Although I am not American, I think this poem’s theme is universal. A colleague shared this lovely poem that speaks eloquently about today wherever we live. The poet is Rafael Jesus Gonzalez.

Thanks & blessings be
to the Sun & the Earth
for this bread & this wine,
this fruit, this meat, this salt,
this food;
thanks be & blessing to them
who prepare it, who serve it;
thanks & blessings to them
who share it
(& also the absent & the dead).
Thanks & Blessing to them who bring it
(may they not want),
to them who plant & tend it,
harvest & gather it
(may they not want);
thanks & blessing to them who work
& blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want – for their hunger
sours the wine & robs
the taste from the salt.
Thanks be for the sustenance & strength
for our dance & work of justice, of peace.

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