reason to hope

“I have decided to stick to love. . . Hate is too great a burden to bear.”  ~ Rev. Martin Luther King

There’s a neighbor up the road I’ve never met. I know his pick-up truck though, as I often find myself driving behind him as we come and go on our daily rounds. The truck is lifted, painted with camo, and festooned with decals and bumper stickers supporting the flag, the military, and the NRA. There’s one that defines gun control as “hitting your target.”

When I’m behind this man, I ease my foot off the gas and slow down, giving him space to roar off up the road and out of sight. Nevertheless, I’ve had ample opportunity over the years to absorb the slogans and messages plastered all over his vehicle, including this one on the center of his tailgate: “If you don’t like it here, you can go back to the shit-hole you came from.”

My heart clenches when I see those words. The angry bigotry, rooted in fear of the “other,” scares and saddens me. I’d never heard someone refer to another country as a shit-hole until I saw my neighbor’s bumper sticker.  I wouldn’t recognize the man behind the wheel if we met in line at Rite-Aid, and so I’ve been left to wonder: Who would think, let alone say, something so hateful? Now, of course, I know the answer to that question. We all do. [continue…]

a blessing for deeper knowing

“All life is interrelated. All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”                                        ~  Rev. Martin Luther King

I spent a good part of Sunday flying from New Hampshire to Asheville, North Carolina, to visit my younger son Jack.  I love this kind of low-stress travel day, especially when what’s waiting at the end of the journey is not a professional obligation, but simply a change of scene and a son to wrap my arms around.

En route, I buried myself in a book. But a lay-over in Newark gave me an opportunity for people watching. It’s been a while since I passed through a state-of-the-art airport, so I was unnerved to see electronic tablets attached to the top of every flat surface. The restaurant tables all feature a pair of devices set up back to back, so that people sitting across from one another will find themselves gazing at hi-def photos rather than into each other’s eyes.  Any hope of leaning in and conversing with a friend or loved one while sharing a meal is extinguished by an electronic barrier of flashing pixels.

I stood for a while at one cafe where adults and children alike were intently focused on the technology, heads bent, leaning toward their personal screens as if magnetized. Couples and families occupying the same tables were clearly inhabiting different online universes. Everyone was staring and tapping and swiping and typing. No one was paying attention to the person across from them. No one was talking. No one seemed to be really “there.” [continue…]

who is we?

If you’ve ever fallen out of touch with a friend, you already know this: reconnecting isn’t easy. You quiet your nerves and deliberate for a moment before, finally, after months, picking up the phone just to say “hi.” You wait a beat or two before hitting send on an email with a header like, “Everything ok? I’ve missed you!” That’s sort of how it feels to me today, as I sit in my somewhat messy, decidedly lived-in kitchen and type these sentences onto the screen. I could clean up all the dishes from the veggie soup I’ve just made and rinse out the cans for recycling. Or I can let them wait, take a deep breath, put my fingers on the keys, and trust that  words will come.

This morning I listened to an interview with writer Pico Iyer in which he explains why he spends the first hours of his day in silence. “I just sit there,” he says, “trying to sift through my projections, my distortions, trying to find the voice behind my chatter, trying to find, of all the things passing through my head, if there is any one thing worth committing to the page.” Although I haven’t been doing much sitting lately – there are too many weeds in the garden to allow for that – I’ve been engaged in a similar kind of daily sorting and sifting and wondering. “Speak only if it improves upon the silence,” Gandhi advised, words I’ve pondered while questioning my own writing, how to respond appropriately to the unfolding events in our world, and whether there’s any need to add one more voice to the clamor.

Reading the New York Times over breakfast, tuning in for the latest CNN breaking news updates as I peel potatoes in the evening, I’m at once pulled in and appalled. How to reconcile these small pleasures – the comfort of a morning cup of coffee, the routine of making a meal in my own familiar kitchen – with the deeply disturbing developments reported in the paper or on my TV screen? [continue…]

how is your heart today?

It is still dark, not yet five, too early to be awake. But here I am, eyes wide open. It’s a new habit, this four a.m. restlessness blossoming into a low-grade anxiety that makes going back to sleep impossible. But this morning, oddly, it’s a question that nudges me to consciousness:

How is your heart today?

I lie in bed for a while, taking stock. How is my heart? There’s no easy answer.  And so I try to remember, instead, where I first heard or read these provocative, tender words.  In a book? A conversation? A blog post?

More curious now than sleepy, I turn on the light, reach for my glasses and phone, and Google the words “How is your heart today?” [continue…]

choosing love over fear

img_1151-1“The world is violent and mercurial — it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love — love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”   ~ Tennesee Williams

I wonder what would happen if we were all to commit ourselves, over these next months, to small gestures of love, healing, and reconciliation? Would the national mood of distrust and divisiveness change for the better?

What would happen if we took our cues from the graceful, forceful words spoken yesterday by Hillary Clinton and President Obama, and by the President-elect as well, all of whom encouraged  Americans to come together now, and to do whatever we can, wherever we are, to repair our torn social fabric?

What would happen if those of us who grieved the results of this election chose today, and in the days ahead, to transform that grief into renewed determination — determination to create a kinder, safer, more tolerant country, one in which to be a citizen means to uphold our deepest national values of freedom and dignity and respect for all Americans?

What if we were to stake out this small territory as our first patch of common ground: a respect for our imperfect yet precious democracy, manifested by an insistence, from both sides, that the President-elect    start making good, right now, on his election-eve promise to reunite the country?  [continue…]