January 10, 2011: Reflections re yesterday’s visit

Here’s what I learned after visiting the JP Green House yesterday:

I don’t know enough. Not about the basic scientific principles of heating, nor about the current political support re alternative energy. I don’t know how I really know what’s best for the environment. So I guess, like the woman I met last night studying bees, I have some deeper research to do.

Here’s what I was reminded of last night:

Like the leading that resulted in Way Opens, like working on the daunting issues of our criminal justice system and climate change (I must be nuts!), like the writing of a novel or screenplay, devoting X amount of time to completing a project—like learning everything there is to know about heating my house this month—ain’t gonna happen. For one thing, I need more time. And for another, “continuing revelation” happens. Everything’s unfolding.

So the trick is: stay open.

August 2, 2010: Wind of change

[“The wind of change is blowing all over the world today. it is sweeping away the old order and bringing into being a new order.” Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963]

Tomorrow I leave for Baltimore Yearly Meeting to give a workshop, “Winds of Change.” To spend time with Quakers from Maryland, Virginia and DC and to listen to what winds of change blow through their meetings will be exciting and enlarging.

Daunting/exhausting, too. Kind of like those earliest visits with Reverend Owen Cardwell and Dr. Lynda Woodruff when, moment by moment, I’d ask myself: “Is this significant? Is this? What about that?”

I’m remembering, for example, that very first trip to Virginia when I was to first meet Lynda and Owen. Deacon Sharon Boswell from Owen’s  church picked me up from the airport. When I got in her car, I noticed her radio was set on the gospel music station. “Is this significant?” I wondered. Yes, it was.

April 26, 2010: Working the Room

The last time I was in a hotel banquet room was precisely one year ago— at a writer’s conference in Boston; best-selling novelist Ann Patchett delivered the keynote address. Lunch had already been served so the wait staff stood at the edges of the huge ballroom while Patchett expounded to  300 or so rapt writers, editors, et al.

Although I’d really appreciated her message (Hey, writers: None of this waiting on the Muse stuff, please. Just plant your butt on a chair and WORK!), there was one very uncomfortable moment in that ballroom. When she’d heard that her first book was going to be published, she was truly excited, she told us, because now she could actually live! Because, you see, she’d been in a nowhere job, wasting her life, going nowhere waitressing. As I remember it, she’d denigrated waitressing at some length.

My friend Lynne nudged me, pointing to the (black and white) wait staff in their black and white uniforms standing nearby: “Wonder how they’re feeling about what she’s saying?” she’d asked rhetorically.

This past Saturday night, in a banquet room in the Richmond (VA) Marriot Hotel, I joined 80 or so wellwishers to celebrate Owen Cardwell’s 40th pastoral anniversary. When, during one of the songs performed by the talented LeRoix and Chantel Hampton and their band, I noticed one of the (all black) wait staff singing along, I remembered Ann Patchett’s insensitivity.

“So,” I thought. “When those serving and those being served are black [mostly], something different can happen, huh?”

But then it really got interesting: Soon after person after person had stood up to tell what “Pastor” had meant in their lives, Elder Jason Boswell, co-mc for the evening, was suddenly moved to directly address one of the waiters (Quakers and Baptists: we’re both sometimes just moved to do something!)

“You from New York?” he asked the burly waiter standing by the banquet room’s main door.

Nonplussed when the whole room went quiet, the guy said he was, then stated how moved he’d been to hear all the nice things people had to say about Dr. Cardwell.


Before you knew it, that waiter’s [I don’t know his name] standing in the front of the room being prayed over, the room’s cheering and clapping, and he’s publicly declaring that he’s accepting Christ into his life.

I’ll never know what accepting Christ means to that waiter (or myself, for that matter.) Or, over the long haul, what that moment will mean in his life.

But I sure know how moved I was when Jason broke through that them-us divide.


May 19, 2009: Lynchburg’s Community Dialogue on Race and Racism

[OOPS! This SHOULD have been posted last week. So sorry]

Here’s a description of the Community Dialogue written by Leslie King, who coordinates this important project. The people who’d participated in the program—and, BTW, read Way Opens—are invited, nay URGED, to write comments.

The Community Dialogue on Race and Racism began in response to some  racially charged incidence in our community:Real and perceived gang activity in the City, the death of an African-American man, Clarence Beard while in the custody of White police officers, public reaction to low-income housing proposal (Pedcor) and conversations with community leaders/others.   As a result of these events, the City Manager and Mayor decided it was time to address the issues of race and racism in Lynchburg. With the assistance of two-community based groups, Lynchburg Community Council and the Neighborhood Executive Advisory Committee, the study circle model was chosen as the method for engaging the community in the conversation. Everyday Democracy(www.everyday-democracy.org) out of Hartford, CT have advised and provided the necessary resources in order begin the Community Dialogue on Race and Racism. We have engaged over a 1000 people in our work and intend to continue the discussion. As of today, we currently have 8 Action Groups actively working toward racial equity in the following areas: 1) Police 2) Education Youth & Family Support 3) Faith-Based 4) Citizen Advocacy/Strengthening Community 5) Diversity Events 6) Ward Forums 7) Workforce Development 8) Communications and Media. In an effort to shift the leadership of the Dialogue from a City lead initiative to a more community based one, we have made the transition from a Working Group to our current Advisory Board. The board realizes that it must continue learning about the issues and about our community, which are some of the reasons why your book was very helpful in beginning the discussion on white privilege and relevance of Lynchburg’s history to our work.

May 4, 2009: Yesterday’s Panel Discussion, Jamaicaway Books

This morning, when I saw a woman wearing a surgical mask walk past my house, I added another reason to the list of why yesterday’s panel discussion was so special. Reason # 5: People braved swine flu/”enclosed places” to come to the (extraordinary) Jamaicaway Books to talk about race.

Here were the first four reasons:

1. Roslyn, the co-owner of Jamaicaway Books, is a very special woman. She’s created an attractive and inviting bookstore which, because of her commitment to JP, is also community center.

2. Roslyn had invited Clara Silverstein, author of White Girl, to be the other panelist. And as anyone who’s read her book knows, Clara is awesome!

3. Although competing with the Walk for Hunger, May Fair in Harvard Square, Open Studios in Somerville, a very special reading by some very special poets, etc., etc., a nice-sized crowd attended. Thank you!

4. People, including Roslyn, were open, honest, forthcoming, insightful and, gratifyingly, stayed WAY past the time the discussion was supposed to end.

I want to do this more.