January 29, 2009: Happy anniversary, Owen and Lynda!

This past Sunday during meeting for worship, Katie Cullinan, a member of Friends Meeting at Cambridge, led all of us in a rousing “Rosa sat.” [“Rosa sat/ so Martin could walk. Martin walked/So Obama could run. Obama ran/He ran and he won/So all our children could fly.”]

Now although I am prone, as my daughters would tell you, to blithely burst out in song, I am usually not a big fan of singing during worship. In my experience, it is extremely rare when whatever song is put forth feels like an organic and natural expression of however Spirit is moving among us that morning. “Amazing Grace” sung like a dirge almost never speaks to my condition!

But this past Sunday, five days before the forty-seventh anniversary (!!) of Lynda Woodruff and Owen Cardwell desegregating E.C. Glass High School, to celebrate the Rosas and the Martins and the Lyndas and the Owens and the Virgils with my faith community felt just right. Virgil, by the way, is Dr. Virgil Wood, Lynchburg’s leading civil rights activist. “We stand on their shoulders,” he noted once, in reference to other Lynchburg civil rights movement notables.

Yes, we do.

January 15, 2009: Witnessing On the T

Earlier this week, right after lunch, I was on a Boston subway train (aka “the T”) and, since it wasn’t rush hour, easily got a seat. Pinned to my down coat’s collar was my “I’m Pro-Immigrant—and I vote!” button. Since my friend—and tireless immigration rights activist—Mary Hopkins told me that she’d been verbally attacked for wearing that same button while on the T, I have been a little wary. But continue to wear it.

Across from me sat two young Hispanic men, neither dressed  warmly enough for the frigid weather, one so agitated his right leg shook violently from time to time. As the train rattled along, their attention was drawn to the older Asian woman seated to my left as she worked through the large bundle of bills on her lap, slowly and carefully opening each business-sized envelope, glancing at it, then moving on. Since she sat so close I snuck a peek: they were medical bills. A thick stack of them.

One of the young men and I made eye contact. “Whoa!” our eyebrows and slight tilting of heads towards the Asian woman seemed to say. “That’s a huge pile.” Did that young man wonder about her health, about her health care, about her ability to pay those bills? I sure did. Did he wonder if she revealed her private life to strangers on a Green Line train because she felt invisible? Or because she held down multiple jobs so the only time she had to do things like look at her mail was between jobs? I sure did.

Whatever was going with that woman and with those two thinly-clad young men, whatever the reason that man’s leg shook, one thing was clear: my travel companions’ lives were hard. Very hard. Harder than I can imagine, I imagine.

And I stress about wearing my button?

 

September 29, 2008: “Guest Book”?

Back in the spring, when Nathan Gwirtz, the incomparable creator of this website (Thanks again, Nathan!) asked if I wanted to allow people to add comments, I said “No way!” Hard as it is to admit, my skin’s a little more thin and tender than I’d prefer. The bruising comments left on The Somerville Journal‘s answering machine re my columns, for example, then printed in the paper’s “Speakout” section, upset me. And at the Women, Action, Media conference I attended a few months ago, I heard far too many scary stories of mean-spirited, nasty comments left on other women’s blogs. So: No.

A few things are encouraging me to rethink that decision.

1. A couple of weeks ago I went to a panel discussion on the media and civil liberties sponsored by, who else, the ACLU. One of the panelists raved, almost starry-eyed, about the media revolution and how blogs, UTube, Twitter et al fundamentally change how all of us can access information (Indeed, a young man with a camcorder was documenting the evening for his blog. He happened to be a September 11th conspiracy-theory advocate: everybody’s got a shtick.) Do I want commentary re Way Opens and this site to be a part of that new way to access info?

2. After a fun-filled but exhausting trip to Kentucky, I got sick last week. Really sick. But clicking on sites about the Palin-Couric interview—and the comments about that interview—or David Letterman’s rants when stood up by John McCain—ditto—or reading the hundreds of comments from people all over the country after Friday night’s presidential debate takes almost no effort at all. Click. Scroll. Click. Encouraged by the ACLU panelists to move out of my comfort zone, i.e. to read comments from people who don’t espouse my personal beliefs, I did. And, yes, sometimes it almost hurt to read some of the garbage I read. But, and here’s what was far more, ahem, telling: There’s some really thoughtful people out there whose opinions, I found, are helping to shape my own. Hmm.

3. Yesterday I heard an artist talk about her current exhibit of elaborate, intricate pen drawings which are now on exhibit at the Boston Public Library. Like most artists, she’d left a guest book at the library for exhibit viewers to write in; so far, these comments have filled 8 books! The public has lots to say about her work,she explained excitedly, from little drawings and one-sentence comments, to, as she said, “theses!” A “guest book,” I thought. Would calling a newly added section something vaguely old-fashioned like “guest book” encourage civility? Thoughtful discourse?

Dunno.

First Reading:Unexpected Tears

Since Friends Meeting at Cambridge (FMC) has been so much a part of the Way Opens story, the first reading had to happen there. As soon as possible. A busy, busy place, however, the only time available in May was Memorial Day weekend. Not a great time to launch a book.

But, I reluctantly decided, in the spirit of “The people who show up at business meeting are FMC,” the handful of people  expected could represent the larger community, right? The May 24th event could be symbolic. So Saturday afternoon, David * set up twenty chairs in a circle in the spacious Friends Room, I arranged food and flowers, and then we waited for the first arrivals, braced, I think, for a lackluster event.

Close to forty people came! And rather than eat and shmooze, these lovely souls immediately sat down in the ever-expanding circle in “expectant waiting.”

Here’s the unexpected part: David has read the book more than once yet cried several times during the reading. In the years leading up to this book’s publication, I have read and reread Susan Lloyd Mc Garry’s poem, “Empire,” which introduces Chapter 10, countless times. Hearing her read it at the reading (Thanks again, Susan Lloyd) made me cry, however, as if I’d never before been moved by her powerful and deeply felt poem. When I read  a little piece re Patricia Watson, more tears. After the reading, friends/Friends reported they’d cried, too.

I’d thought this reading was supposed to be an opportunity to thank FMC for all its love and support. But what it actually turned out to be was an opportunity for me to be reminded of something essential, something fundamental, something very, very deep.

So, once again, thank you, FMC.

* David Myers, “my L.L. Bean outfitter, my guide and companion every step of the way,” is my wonderful husband.