But What Can I Do?

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At first, he was a reluctant civil rights leader.

He had (very legitimate) fears: personal safety, the safety of his family…

But he served anyway.

It only took one person to lead a nation and provide inspiration for decades thereafter.

But what can I do? You might ask.

When you hear hate, speak up.

When you see injustice, take action.

When it’s election time, vote.

Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr., for your leadership.*

*from Light Watkins

 

Peace, Not Passivity

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Photo by Jakob Owens

There’s a lot of political strife and fear going around. I keep hearing about people losing sleep over the recent events in Virginia with the supremacist groups and the death of an innocent protestor.

I offer this: Take a deep breath. Do not expect others to feel the way you do. Do not get frustrated and scared. Instead, think of one SMALL thing you can do to feel effective and do it. You’ll feel better. You might even sleep better.

Lead by example.

Show up. We need people to show up for what they believe in.

But fighting and arguing are only going to get defenses up.

And, for your insomnia, I offer this YouTube video of Byron Katie speaking with someone who feels the way you do. Trust me, you need to watch this. It’s magic.

This is not a call for passivity. You need to feel the inner peace before you can help create the peace outside of yourself.

 

Be a Wild Flower

Photo by Milos Tonchevski

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I have a desert garden in my backyard. A beloved neighbor gave us all of her potted plants when she moved out of state and the plants have thrived. This year, some new wildflowers grew next to the pots. They’re not related to any of the potted plants and they are not being irrigated. Yet, they continue to grow beautifully on the little rain they get.

People can be like wildflowers. They are transplanted from some other place and they just grow. They take advantage of the resources available.  They don’t ask permission. They don’t shrink because the other plants were there first.

They are beautiful in their uniqueness, their peculiarity, and their originality.

We can all be like wildflowers: wild, courageous, strong and proud.

Be like a wildflower. Don’t look for approval or acceptance. Hold your head up high.

 

Speak Up

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Photo by tchompalov

Five years ago, I left a corporate job to go back to teaching. I missed the kids more than I wanted the money.

I was asked to teach the 4th quarter with sixth graders in a low socio-economic school. Their previous teacher abandoned the post. He never said goodbye, he just left. Of the 30 students I taught, more than half had fathers in prison. Every child qualified for free breakfast and lunch. One of the male students had very strange eyebrows. Someone told me that his older brother and a gang tied him down and shaved his eyebrows off. They never grew back quite right.

As I got to know the children, I realized most had been traumatized in a number of ways: neglect, verbal and physical abuse and (I suspected) sexual abuse.  One of my students was a sweet, round-faced boy. He wore the same pants every day and they looked dirty, but he was always kind. He was always smiling and he walked and talked slowly. I’ll call him Francisco.

One of the teachers had over 12 years experience at the school. She was extremely strict with all of the kids. I know she cared about them and wanted them to be successful, but she acted as if each child had a bull’s eye on their back. She was constantly barking orders and yelling.

We were outside, lined up to go back inside from lunch. Francisco walked slowly to line. Apparently, too slowly. This teacher yelled at him, “Who do you think you are? What are you trying to prove? Too cool to care?” We all stood, stunned. “When you walk, walk with purpose and walk fast! And tuck your shirt in!”

I wanted to explain that this was the way he always walked.

I wanted to come to his defense and vouch for his character.

I wanted to stop her from attacking him wrongfully.

But I didn’t. I froze.

 

It haunts me to this day. I should have stood up for him.

But he was Mexican-American. She was Mexican-American. I am Korean-American, an outsider, only to be there for 9 weeks.

This was their school, not mine.

I see now, I was wrong. It was our school. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

 

Never just stand by silently. Speak your mind when you see a wrong.

Otherwise, you’re participating in the injustice.