Thursday, July 7, 2016

Racism Unmasked

I am one of the privileged class in America; I am white. I have never experienced being followed when I go into a store.  I have never feared being shot if stopped by a policeman.  I can't even begin to imagine what any of that is like.  As a mother, I never had to worry about my son ending up dead in a traffic stop, shot by a policeman.

Throughout the South during most of the twentieth century, lynchings of black men were a common practice.  The name Emmett Till readily comes to mind.  He was a 14 year-old Chicago boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955, reportedly for whistling at a white woman.  After being beaten, shot, and having an eye gouged out, his body was tossed in a river.  In order to show what had been done to her son, his mother had an open casket at his funeral.....for all the world to see.

Fast forward to the 21st century:  South Carolina.....Maryland....Louisiana....Minnesota

Walter Scott.....Freddie Gray......Alton Sterling.....Philando Castile.....

all killed by policemen.  Walter Scott was shot in the back multiple he was running away. Freddie Gray was left paralyzed after a ride in a police van and eventually died.  Alton Sterling was tackled to the ground by two policemen, one of whom shot him repeatedly in the chest and back.   Philando Castile was reportedly getting his ID out at a traffic stop when a policeman pumped him with bullets.

America has changed little since the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s.  Yes, we have African-American governors, Congressmen, and President.  Yet, what the election of the first African-American President has done is expose the hidden racism that many thought we as a nation had conquered.  There it is, revealed in the fear, the abject fear, that many white officers have of black males.  That is the heart of it:  fear, fear of a group of people they can not relate to, don't know. Fear born of preconceived ideas.  Many police organizations do a fabulous job integrating into the communities they serve, but there are those who don't.  Until local police organizations honestly examine their culture, the culture of rallying around the police brotherhood at all costs, this slaughter will continue. Police are supposed to serve the community.  In order to serve, they must have relationships with the people in the community. It takes work to build that trust and those relationships....but it is vital.  Today, a Congressman asked FBI Director Comey to do something.  I pray he does.  This has got to stop.

Where does this racism come from?  It is taught; no one is born a racist.  It can be taught at home, by peers, and even by politicians.  Mainly, it is born of fear--fear of people/ethnic groups/religious groups one doesn't know....and doesn't want to know.  

Look at this precious little boy.  I'll call him "I."  "I" is the son of a former student of mine.  She has to raise him to fear police officers.  Maybe "fear" is the wrong word, but he has to be cautious........cautious simply because of the color of his skin.  The Walter Scotts, Freddy Grays, Alton Sterlings, Philando Castiles....they are all sons of all black mothers.  They started out just like little "I" here.

Don't be part of the problem.  All the little "I's" deserve to grow up without fearing law enforcement. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Jesus Weeps

I often feel things too intently.  Things bother me that most would not understand.  I read the news associated with each terrorist attack---Orlando, Turkey, Bangladesh (for example)---and I seek out profiles of the victims.  They had families, lives, future dreams.........They were people....part of humanity....part of the "Love your neighbor as yourself" that Jesus commanded.   Jesus commanded....""  He didn't mean literal neighbor; He meant humanity.  We are all in this world, in this life, together.  

The vast majority of terrorist victims outside the US are Muslims.  That is lost on so-called Christians, or perhaps it isn't.  Maybe their response is, "Good for them.  That's what they get for being Muslims."  I am always at a loss when I see Muslim-hating posts on Facebook by avowed Christians, particularly when it is someone I know very well.  How can people who claim to be a follower of Jesus spew such hatred?  Was that what Jesus taught?  The more I see these postings, the more I wonder what He thinks, up there in heaven looking down at His creation.

The Bible tells us many will claim to know Him, but in the end His response for many will be, "Depart from me; I never knew you."  

If you claim Christianity, what will His response be to you?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

We Wear the Mask

We Wear the Mask

Paul Laurence Dunbar1872 - 1906

We wear the mask that grins and lies, 
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— 
This debt we pay to human guile; 
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile 
And mouth with myriad subtleties,

Why should the world be over-wise, 
In counting all our tears and sighs? 
Nay, let them only see us, while 
     We wear the mask.

We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries 
To thee from tortured souls arise. 
We sing, but oh the clay is vile 
Beneath our feet, and long the mile, 
But let the world dream otherwise, 
     We wear the mask!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hi, I'm Ginger, and I'm a recovering________

AA meetings begin with "Hi, I'm ........., and I'm an alcoholic."

Hi, I'm Ginger, and I'm a *recovering* republican and evangelical Christian.

I say *recovering* because I still bear the scars.........and may always.

Once I was a member of an evangelical church that promoted cliques and exclusivity.  I (and my son) still bear the scars of that experience.  See, I was a single mother--divorced--and we were never really accepted "into the fold."  There were a few truly Jesus-following people there whom I met (CC, DM, MW, and LW), and I will be forever grateful to them for the love they showed us; however, my overall experience was crushing. 

I'll give an example, one that to this day sticks in my craw, and it involves their Vacation Bible School.  When one signs their kids up, they put whom they want in their groups---do you get it?  Can we say "CLIQUE" on steroids?  What about the new kids, or the kids who don't really fit in?  Where do they get "dumped"?  To this day, my son hates that church and the way he felt excluded going there.  In all the years we went, I can count 1 house he was invited to for playing.  In the children's groups that met on Sunday nights, the "regular" homeschooled kids palled around.  I had no idea when I started going there that it would affect him the way it has.  Or the way it has affected me, for that matter.  I pray one day I am able to escape the effects.

Why am I writing this?  Because of Orlando...because of the hatred and silent voices from the so-called Christian community at large.  Where is the outrage?  I may be wrong here, but I don't think so; the Christian community has *mostly* remained quiet because they fear that to speak out against the carnage is to condone homosexuality.  While preaching the fire and brimstone sermons of salvation (can we say a la Westboro Baptist?), they ignore the man of Jesus.  What would Jesus do, or WWJD, was a very popular bracelet in the late 90s.  Never before has that question, or slogan, meant more to me than it has in the last few years. Would/did he spout hatred towards gays? Would
he shun them?  On the contrary, he hung out with the "least of these," the marginal, the oppressed, the people the sadducies and Pharisees and other "godly" people of the day spurned.

That takes me to being a recovering republican.  In my experience, the evangelical movement bases its politics on two SINS (as if these are the ONLY SINS):  abortion and homosexuality. Those pretty much sum it up; if a candidate is for ANY AMERICAN'S right to choose how to live his or her life, he or she will not get the evangelical support.  An evangelical candidate himself can be a liar and a bigot spewing hatred, as I saw in the republican primaries this spring, but if he is anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality, he gets the evangelical support.  What.would.Jesus.think?  I envision him shaking His head at how His gospel has been bastardized.  How what He preached about "loving your neighbor as yourself" has been forgotten, ignored, in favor of a set of rules promulgated by a political faction for their own selfish agenda/gain.  Evangelicals, for the most part, espouse a society so foreign to the way He lived His life---an exclusive society whereby public schools are deemed the bastion of evil, and anyone who doesn't adhere to their way of thinking is a heretic.

I will spend the rest of my life recovering from this and following the Jesus I know; the Jesus who cared for the marginal of society.  This time next year I will be retired, but it won't be a lazy, quite retirement (at least not totally).  I will listen for *His* voice to tell me where I am needed--whether it is volunteering in my friend Joy's Saturday soup kitchen or hammering nails on a Habitat house, or anything else.  I know His voice, and I intend to obey, no matter whom it is He calls me to serve:  gay, straight, democrat, Muslim, agnostic, atheist-----------For the well do not need a doctor; the sick do... Those marginalized/hated by our American society.  You see, I am a perfect person to empathize because I was marginalized.....because I was divorced.......the vast majority of the women my age in that church wanted nothing to do with divorced we want their can have married  in your own church after your husbands......if you're worried about us, then your MARRIAGE has a problem.......for that reason, my heart bleeds for Orlando............and all the Orlandos.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I'm angry

Sandy Hook.....Aurora.....Boston.....San Bernadino......Orlando......

Here we are, almost six months since the San Bernadino massacre, and we as a nation are reeling after yet another terrorist attack, this time in the city of Disney; that itself is an anomaly:  terrorist attack and Disney.  We are not safe in school; we are not safe in a movie theater; we are not safe running; we are not safe at work Christmas parties; we are not safe in clubs.  We are not safe anywhere.

I am angry...angry at a society that cares more for the individual's "right to bear arms" than the murder of innocent people doing what each of us does:  going to school, going to the movies, running, attending parties, going to clubs.  Every one of the above massacres (except Boston) have one thing in common:  assault weapons.  I am angry.  I want someone to explain to me why any American needs the right to own assault weapons.  I'm waiting.  Are you going to use it to hunt?  Are you going to strap it at your waist in your holster while you go into the grocery store or into church? 

I am angry.  Angry that anyone who passes a background check can buy assault weapons...In each massacre where an assault weapon was used, if the killer had not had it, more people would have lived.  There would have been a better chance of victims getting away or tackling the shooter.  It.just.makes.sense.  Having assault weapons

I am angry.  Angry at the virtual hush from the "Christian" community in the wake of the Orlando
massacre.  While he did ask for prayer for Orlando on his Facebook page, Franklin Graham, son of Billy, couldn't resist politicizing the situation in a scathing, hate-filled rant at his President: 

"I appreciate President Barack Obama speaking to the nation yesterday in the wake of the Orlando massacre. He was right in saying that this tragic shooting was an act of terror and hate. But why didn’t he say it was an act of radical Islamic terrorism? Mr. President, with all due respect, don't forget Fort Hood; don't forget the Boston Marathon; don't forget San Bernardino; and don’t forget 9/11. What do they all have in common? They were all Islamic terrorists carrying out th..."  Franklin Graham's Facebook post.

Why, why can't he leave politics and his hatred of the President out of this?  Notice he omitted Sandy Hook, Oklahoma City, and Aurora.  Why?  Those were all acts of terrorism as well.  Make no mistake about it.  But.....they were committed by homegrown white males.....not radical Islamists.  Terrorism is terrorism, people.  Whether committed by a good ol' white boy with an arsenal or a radical Muslim, the massacres ended the same way:  death of innocents.  Yes, I am angry.

I am angry.  Angry at the do-nothing Republicans offering their obligatory "for the camera" moment of silence yesterday in Congress. (As a recovering Republican, I have license to criticize.)  I am angry at the politicians who come before the cameras after every massacre and say, "We need to do something."  We need gun reform in this country.  I don't have all the answers, but I know where to begin:  Ban assault weapons.  It would be a beginning.  I don't want to hear the namby-pamby argument that "Guns don't kill people; people kill people."  We don't have to make it easy for the next gunman to take out 50 or 100 people.  At some point, rational heads have to prevail.  After 9/11 the airline industry made changes that made flying safer, and it harmed no American in doing so.   Maybe we need to see the pictures of the carnage caused by assault weapons.  Would that make a difference?  There is zero need for civilians to own assault weapons.  Zero.  Period.

When do we act?  When do we truly do something?  Is banning Muslims, as Donald Trump suggests, the answer?  You tell me---Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Adam Lanza, James Holmes----were they radical Muslims?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Little Inconvenience or Spoiled Americans

We Americans want what we want, when we want it.  I came home from a night of dog-nannying about 5:15 this morning.  Yes, even on Sunday I am an earlier riser.  As soon as I walked in, I sensed the oppressive heat....even at that hour.  After I took care of the animals, I turned the light on.  The thermostat was blank....totally in nothing showing.  I immediately called the company that installed it 4 years ago and got the 24 hour message service.  Luckily, it's overcast and drizzling rain today, so it's not unbearable in here.  A little after 9am the scheduling lady called back.  By my description of the thermostat, she says it sounds like a clogged drain line, and the service tech should be here between 3-5pm.

Before she called, I had four hours to think.  I immediately thought of the devil this morning.  He is very real, and he truly is always on the prowl, seeking whom he may devour.  He always attacks me in my finances; every time I am on the precipice of a break-through, here he comes messing with me.  BUT, I know my God is bigger than he is, and I go on God's track record; He has *always* brought me through every trial in my life, and I've had some big ones, most notably cancer.

I then began to think how we Americans are so spoiled.  We want what we want, when we want it.  That is our instant gratification society, and I see it in young people all the time.

Then, God gently reminded me of my friend whom I cook for each week.  This is her home:

For the last two Saturdays, when I have driven up out front, the door has been open, hoping to catch a breeze.  She is always sitting just inside at the small round table.  They have window units, but to save on electricity, (I'm sure.) they seldom run them.  So, they hope for a breeze and swat the flies that make their way in.

I am so blessed in monetary ways---more so than the majority of the world or even more so than my friend who lives downtown.  This no AC is but a momentary inconvenience for me; it is not a way of life.  Neither is the internet outage or the electricity outage.....or the broken stove...or the....or the.....or the......

It makes me stop, think, and count my blessings.  Shame on me.  Shame on us.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Memories from Ruffin High School

I suppose as one nears retirement from teaching, it's only natural that one's life flashes before one's eyes.  By the time next year comes and I do retire, I estimate I will have taught roughly 2500 students spanning every grade from 3rd-12th.  Last night in thinking about this time next summer, I had some flashbacks, but it didn't span my entire career; they zeroed in on my roots, back where it all began:  Ruffin High School in nondescript Ruffin, South Carolina.  That would prove to be my only high school teaching experience.

Back then in 1988 Ruffin had a post office and no stores.  It is a small farming type community where my father was born in a house back in the woods in 1927.  My family has roots up in that area as my parents were raised in Little Swamp Community, which is probably 15 minutes from Ruffin.  I'll never forget that interview with Principal John Stephens.  As I walked up to the rural school that summer day, I was dressed in a pink and white skirt set with white pumps; he greeted me in the office in blue work pants and a white t-shirt.  The only thing I remember about that interview is this question he asked as he kind of giggled or laughed:  "You don't have a boyfriend do you?"  As I later came to understand, he had a teacher up and leave because of one of those.  Of course, now it's illegal to ask that question, but I answered him. 

I took that job and would spend 8 years driving the twenty minutes from home down Stokes Road to the rural Title One school.  It was probably 95% African-American then.  Students' families were close-knit and so was the staff.  I remember many lunches spent with Home Economics teacher Beth Warren.  I still have a Christmas kitty sweatshirt she appliqued for me; at least, I think that's what it is.  Those were the best days of my teaching except for this past year. 

A couple of years ago I was "talking" to a former student on Facebook Messenger when he reminded me I sent his parents a certified letter that he was failing Senior English and may not graduate; I had totally forgotten that "little thing," but he had not.  He credited that with him graduating on time.

When I think of Ruffin High, I see a sea of faces:  Chris and Nichole (who married and live near my parents and whom I reconnected with a year ago after all these years); Rick, the ever-smiling genius-now-turned-my-prayer-warrior; Stanley, who called me "Teach" through his gigantic smile; Gerald, who also had a gigantic smile (There was a lot of smiling in my classes); Wanda, my now Dr. Boatwright, who followed me into teaching; Hope and David, who rounded out my AP class with Wanda; Lesley, who seemed to be so intent in class; Oretha, the talker; KaKeshia, who looked so intent and scared at the same time but followed me into teaching and became a Teacher of the Year in Atlanta (as did Wanda);  Scott, the only student all these years who had to stand by me and translate everything he wrote because of his handwriting; and so many, many more. 

That was my first taste of poverty, though at the time I didn't really know it.  I was raised a middle class kid.  Now, I know God was preparing me for the path my life would take.  I have worked in Title One schools my entire life except for one year in private school after my stint at one middle school became unbearable. 

This post ended up being a rambling of sorts on this, the first day of summer vacation.  I'm sure I will revisit Memory Lane on this little blog as memories invade my thoughts.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Retirement does not mean dying

"Ginger, what are you going to do?  You're too young to retire."  Yesterday after the kids left, shortly before we left, my "daughter-I-never-had" asked me if I wanted to walk with her to the other end of the building to chat with some of the upper academy teachers.  As I sat in her rocking chair, this question/statement came from one teacher.  It made me think:  Do people think retirement means I will shrivel up and die?

Au contraire!  While I have loved the last year with my littles, and I will love next year as well, I firmly believe people will know when it's time to hang up the saddle and spurs.  I know next summer will be my time.  God is setting everything in motion, and I have blogged about that before.

Retirement means I will have a second life, or perhaps a second chapter of my life.  A friend has told me it may take me six months or a year to de-stress, or decompress.  I usually pop up at 4:20ish am, so I look forward to maybe sleeping in a little.  Other than that, there are other things I want to do. I have said here before that I'm not big on travel.  I would like to volunteer at the animal shelter and a homeless meal ministry a former colleague-turned preacher's church has at a local motel.  Through his wife, I have made several cakes for them at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I would love to cook as well, but now I don't have time or energy.  There is also a lady I cook for once a week, but during the school year it tends to be the same thing, something fast.  Today, because it is a holiday weekend and the onset of summer comes Tuesday afternoon, I am making ribs, potato salad, okra, and banana pudding.  I am taking the time with the potato salad, time I don't usually have.

Besides that, about three years ago, a colleague within one year of retirement dropped in the cafeteria with a stroke, had several more in the hospital, and died a week or two later.  I don't want to become a Cavaluzzi.

Then, there are my parents.  They are 84 and 88.  If God continues to bless them, I need to be around to go when they need me.  Both are doing remarkably well, but they come before staying past my 28 years.  As I was explaining this and how I go on Sundays and may need to go during the week this summer to cut Dad's grass if my brother can't, a colleague just looked at my blankly.  Later, I heard her say something about *having* to answer her mother's call more than once a week.  Clearly, my view of my parents and duty is different from hers.

Aside from all of this, once my parents are gone, I don't know that I will stay in Beaufort.  I have no ties here aside from work. I love my house, but I would like to downsize further.  Dad and I have even talked about me getting someone to build me a tiny house.  I love that show, and the idea of having one built to my specifications appeals to me.  The older I get, the less I want to keep up with. 

I have survived cancer, and with my dad's and his mother's longevity, if Jesus tarries, I could have another 30-40 years left.  Who knows?  What I do know is that He is preparing me now for the next phase of my life, and I am going along for the ride to see where we end up.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Listening: What will you do?


Sun up

Cars racing ….


Left turn lane

Peripheral vision catches

Shopping carts

Pushed by

Two young? people

Hard to discern the ages

Winter clothes

Carts full—

All their belongings?

Turning left

Holy Spirit talking?

“Tell me for *sure,* God.”

Minutes pass

Turns pass

“Ok, God.”

Glancing at clock:


Of Time—

Going “around my elbow to get to my thumb”—
“Where are they headed?” I wondered.
There---before the animal clinic—
I turn, get out—
“Excuse me, I think you need
This more than me.”
Look of hopelessness
Turns to gratitude:
A soft, “Thank you”
From her lips.
I return to my car.
They continue—Where?
I continue—
We continue
On our ways…
Divine appointment
I almost missed..
I would have missed
If I had not been listening.
Where did they spend
The night?
Where were they going with
Two shopping carts of
When had they eaten?
Do they have summer clothes?
That image will
Resonate with me—
A young couple
Trudging down
Trask Parkway
Past Chick fila,
Past Dunkin’ Donuts
Headed where?
Invisible to hundreds
Of single-focused
Commuters racing…
Racing….racing to
Get to work
How I bet this
Couple wished
They had jobs to
Rush to—
A car to rush in
Rather than being
Invisible to the masses
Who have tunnel
Vision, rushing, speeding
To work,
Oblivious to those
Around them.
My one regret as
I drove off:  I forgot
To tell them it was
From Jesus; I hope
They know; maybe
He will tell them.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Grandmother Pearl

When my mother gets mad at me, she often says, "You're just like your grandmother Pearl!"  Well, when she *used* to get mad at me; she doesn't so much anymore.  My dad's mother, Grandmother Pearl, lived into her 90s.  Her husband was killed in a car accident coming home from his job on the railroad in 1947, I think.  She died in 1982, so for many years she was a widow, and before that, she was alone much of the time while he worked.  She raised four boys pretty much by herself much of the time.

She was a fiercely independent woman.  I can remember an old reel to reel motion picture of her coming around the house with a shotgun crooked in her arm.  She didn't flinch at shooting any snake in the head; I'm quite sure she was a good aim.  She never learned to drive; she depended on relatives and friends to take her where she needed to go.

My grandmother was not the sweet type to cuddle and let us climb into her lap; at least, I certainly don't remember that.  I feared her, or perhaps it is more correct to say I had a healthy respect for her.  She was a fierce Scrabble player.  Because she did the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, she possessed a vast vocabulary.  I finally learned not to question her on words.  When I did, a smug look crept over her face as she slid the dictionary over to me.  Yep, she was invariably right.

I have thought a lot about her lately as I find myself becoming more like her in my "old age."  Today, I went to Lowe's and loaded 39 stones and the bags of lava rock for my DIY fire pit.  I overhead an "older" woman nearby tell her husband she wanted to stick around and see me push that cart.  She didn't think I could do it; she actually told him she knew I'd have to get help.  Well, in Grandmother Pearl fashion, I loaded each of them by myself, skinning my fingers several times during the course of the afternoon.  I pushed that flatbed cart to the check-out line.  The cashier asked if I needed help getting it to my truck; I said incredulously, "I pushed it up here myself, so I can get it to the truck myself."  People behind me snickered.  Well, I did.  When I got to my truck, a kind man next to me started helping me load them; I graciously took his help.  When I got home, I backed that truck up to the gate and unloaded them in my wheelbarrow.  The result is below:

I'm not sure I will ever carry a gun or kill a snake, but I am becoming more independent like Grandmother.  It becomes a necessity to do for myself what I am physically capable of doing.  I think she would be proud of me.