What I’m saying to my kids

My mom asked me the other day what I’ve said to my kids about the state of the world these days. It made me  pause, because I’m at a point in time where I don’t have to say anything. We don’t actually watch the news in our house, I turn down NPR when the kids are in the car, and the only TV we do watch are Netflix kid shows or silly YouTube videos. (Just so you know this is the kind of nonsense my kids have been watching lately.)

It’s different than the world I grew up in where even watching Punky Brewster, I ran the risk of seeing war, terrorism, and murder. Now even though in reality there is more media and more stimulation, my little family can be insulated from it. And while I appreciate that, I also feel like I am not living up to my responsibility as a parent to help my children react to and deal with the realities of human suffering and injustice.

For instance, we just celebrated Thanksgiving and each year I am more aware of the lies I was taught as a child about the way white settlers treated the Native people they encountered. It makes me want to simultaneously scream, “Everything is terrible!” and hold my children close and wonder at the beauty of a world that has them in it.

And so, I realize that I must talk with my children about the state of the world. Talk with them about the real history of Thanksgiving and a new way forward. Talk with them about our responsibility to stand up for refugees in need. Talk with them about striving for kindness and gratitude, and about forgiveness and accountability when we fail. Talk with them about flowers and small acts of rebellion in a world that seems filled with violence.

So here is what I commit to saying to my children. In the midst of the violence, know that I love you and that I want a just world for us all, so let’s try to bring about peace together.

Sung and unsung

Mrs. Ericson used to stand solid as a rock between the rows of high school desks and compel us through the sheer force of her love of literature to love it too. I never read willingly before she was my teacher, and I never stopped devouring books after.

She popped into my head the other day, as random memories do, though accompanied by an unusually strong feeling of appreciation and love. It took me by surprise.

What followed was a meandering of memories—the people, famous and unknown, for whom I hold the deepest appreciation. In this season of thanksgiving, it seems fitting to call a few of them out.

Thank you Joseph Campbell, who with Bill Moyers shined a brilliant light on myth and the hero’s journey. I think their messages are more relevant than ever as men struggle with the purpose of violence. Though Joseph Campbell did not speak of the heroine’s journey and was decidedly a man of his time in his use of gender pronouns, I remember feeling remarkable resonance with his ideas—compelled to listen as though he were speaking directly to me.

Thank you Thich Nhat Hanh and Jack Kornfield for putting me solidly on the road to exploring what mindfulness, as the Buddha taught it, has to do with violence and the end of violence.

Thank you Norma Wong and Ellen Pence for your deep and wide understanding of domestic violence. Today I am especially aware that what the two of you have in common is, yes, brilliant minds, but also an enduring curiosity and loving engagement that helps all of us think more critically and act more courageously.

And finally thank you Mary Oliver and Rumi for poetry. A long time ago, I was driving down the road listening to a poet reading his work. It was a beautiful autumn-roadday and I was transported by the magic of the words, even as I became vaguely aware of a funny burning smell. I’d like to tell you that self-preservation trumped the ethereal moment, but it didn’t. I ended up with an expensive tow. But that experience was a reminder about the power of beauty, art, and words; as important to our humanity as food and shelter.

So hurray for the teachers, the authors, and the poets—for the bloggers and the readers. May you find joy in remembering your people. Gratitude abounds.

Our long marathon

Photo by Vicki James
Photo by Vicki James

Do you believe that domestic and sexual violence will ever end? Or that we can at least get to a place  where it is super rare?

I do. I wholeheartedly believe that humans are capable of behaving better towards each other.

They say that social justice work is a marathon, not a sprint. As I schlepped through my second marathon over Thanksgiving weekend, I reflected on just how true that is for all of us who care about ending domestic violence. Since I love drawing parallels between different experiences in my life, here is a new list of things I’ve learned.

When  working to end violence:    And/Or    When  running a marathon:

  • There are good stretches and bad stretches. That’s alright. Don’t let the tough moments trick you into thinking it won’t be possible to cross the finish line.
  • We need all the help we can get. Whether you’re behind the scenes, on the sidelines, or pounding the pavement, there’s a role for everyone.
  • Most of the time you are focused on the road ahead, but it’s really lovely to look back every now and then and acknowledge how far you’ve traveled.
  • Getting through this big of a goal is hard, physically and emotionally. You have to breathe. You have to be adequately nourished. Most people need to take breaks.
  • You have to believe that it will eventually end. Enough steps will be taken, and you will, eventually, get there.

Three years ago, I couldn’t even run one mile. Now I have completed two marathons. Likewise, with the right support and training, anyone who wants to take on the ambitious goal of ending domestic and sexual violence can join in.