I prefer to think of the day after Thanksgiving not as a day of manic consumerism, but a Day of Listening.
StoryCorps proclaimed the day after Thanksgiving to be a national day of listening a few years ago. I think it’s a great idea. I celebrated Thanksgiving early because flights were much cheaper the week before Thanksgiving. So I asked my parents to tell me a story the weekend after the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. I asked my parents where they were on November 22, 1963.
My mother was a college freshman. She was sitting in a history class watching a video about nationalism, strangely enough. The teacher had left the room, but returned to shut off the film and tell her and her classmates that Kennedy had been shot. They were told to go back to their dorms and find rides home, as the campus was closing down. Each dorm had one phone, so my mom waited in a line of distraught students to call her father for a ride.
My father was working at the manufacturing company where he would spend the next 40+ years. An announcement was made over the intercom. Hundreds of machines came to a halt and remained shut off for 10 minutes. When I asked my dad what happened after the 10 minutes were up, he replied, “We went back to work.”
I enjoyed listening to my parents’ stories about this iconic and tragic moment in American history. I wonder if the art of listening is becoming lost in this age of social media. Do we really “listen” to people by reading their Facebook posts and tweets? Or are we too busy posting and tweeting ourselves? When was the last time you talked to someone on the phone for over an hour? Or wrote someone a letter or an email longer than a paragraph or two?
Take some time this holiday season to ask your loved ones to tell you a story. It is sure to be an enlightening and heartwarming experience.
Once in a while, I find myself reflecting on a particular fact of life: the fact that sometimes everything you’ve ever known is taken away from you in an instant.
You have no say in the matter as you watch your past and future crumble before you in slow motion. The pieces deteriorate into a fine dust and blow away in a swift and silent wind.
You’re dumbfounded and don’t understand what just happened. All you know is that you’re alone, left with nothing and no one. You have no direction; all you know is that you want out.
You get angry and want to fight off the pain and desperation that’s attempting to consume you. But you’re tired. You’re tired from the crying and you’re tired from your hamster-wheel mind, which is trying to make sense out of something that makes no sense.
You tell yourself to breathe in and out. You tell yourself to put one foot in front of the other. You start off by having good hours. Which turn into good days. Which will someday turn into good weeks and months.
With the passage of time, you accept that what happened will never make sense. And that’s okay. And it’s okay that the situation will never be okay. You notice that the world has kept turning and you’ve made it to the other side. You marvel at your own strength and the regenerative nature of hope.
I watched the documentary Bully last night. The film follows a few children and families who have been faced with bullying, including two families whose children committed suicide because of bullying.
An overarching theme of the film was that school administrators are no help. This is highly disturbing. Yes, it’s true that “kids will be kids.” But when students/parents report multiple instances of bullying, action needs to be taken. I was shocked to hear one administrator say that if there isn’t blood on a child, he/she is not being bullied.
WHAT? I immediately thought of the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Well, that may have flown in 1862 when it was first coined.
But I’m sorry, this adage is not true. The kids in this documentary were called fags. They were called spazzes. They were pushed into lockers and sat on. They were verbally and emotionally tortured. That HURTS. It hurts the psyche. It creates scars that can’t be seen or touched.
A poem by writer and poet Shane Koyczan is mentioned in the Wikipedia entry for “sticks and stones”…an animated version of his poem went viral on YouTube earlier this year. Watch it. It is beautiful. Share it with others.
And we all know that adults bully other adults as well. Case in point: I saw a story on the news tonight about Miami Dolphin player John Martin taking a leave because of persistent bullying.
Yesterday I volunteered at a rooftop farm called Higher Ground Farm. It’s run by two people (a very nice couple), and they started planting tomatoes, herbs, and greens this past July.
Even though I don’t know much about gardening, I enjoy volunteering for gardening projects because it means being outside and getting a little dirty. This was only my second time working with food rather than flowers, and I loved it. The group of volunteers was a rag-tag bunch: a few college students and a few people in their 30s and 40s. Everyone was friendly and eager to get their hands dirty.
We harvested the last of the tomatoes: heirloom, roma, plum, and cherry. Then we sorted them into nice ones that would be sold to local restaurants, cosmetically challenged ones that would be donated to local food pantries, and icky ones that would be composted.
Next I helped dig out parsley and cilantro. That parsley was hard work! It has an insane root system. I personally love cilantro, so I was all too happy to be surrounded by its enticing smell. I learned that coriander comes from the cilantro plant when one of the owners had us try the tiny green seeds.
Things got really dirty when we mixed fresh compost with dirt and planted some garlic. No gardening gloves, folks! Just our hands working with the compost and dirt.
All in all, it was a satisfying and fun few hours, and we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day weather-wise. I look forward to volunteering again in the spring.
And here is the song that played in my head as I worked: