I have little more than an intellectual understanding of the Civil Rights Movement. I have only 'media reported' experience of the words and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I did not walk. I did not go to jail and neither did anyone in my family. I am a man saturated with white privilege, by virtual of my birth, education and social circles - and I know it is wrong.
I don't really know what to do about it except this: I try to be kind to everyone I meet, embrace the few and uncomfortable opportunities that I have to experience the cultural and economic differences of my world. I work to be more self aware of my thoughts, prejudices and limitations and then to push beyond those to new perceptions and actions. I commit to working on what I am presented with each day - to NOT be the limited person I was yesterday.
I simply want to find a way to love myself out of these limitations and to demand that others do the same.
It may not be enough, but it's what I've got..
You're hiking in the woods with a good friend and all of a sudden she stops you and whispers intently, "Hear that?"
You freeze in your tracks, try to control your heavy breathing and listen...
At first nothing. Then a stirring in the brush. The snap of a twig somewhere behind you. You turn to look. A family of whitetail deer- several does, a fawn and then a majestic buck come into view. You are amazed. Then, there - you see it all. The wildness, the beauty, the strength of the moment - nature, raw and untouchable, untamed. The buck catches your scent on the air, stares at you and your friend for a moment and then snorts and the deer are gone.
You and your hiking buddy look at each other and smile, then laugh. You've been graced by the woods, touched by a fleeting moment of surprise and you both know it.
Here's the deal. What about the woods we are hiking in right now? Am I listening for the subtle sounds of beauty approaching? Is a colleague (or Spirit) trying to alert me that I'm missing something important? Am I willing to stop and really soak up this moment?
The words below reign in my mind every time I think about a particularly difficult or taxing day.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I approach the close of another year, I re-purposed Mr. Emerson's words...
Finish each year and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. It's a new year. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
Happy New Year!
This one is from my brother. I've edited it slightly for brevity...
We always waited for dad to get home from work (he always worked late it seemed to me, on Christmas Eve). We always opened gifts on Christmas Eve. One person would pass out the gifts and everyone would pile their gifts up, waiting for all of them to be given out. Then we would rip them open (well I would) as fast as we could, and hold them up for everyone to see. It was over fast but always great.
This one night I went to bed waiting for Santa, sleeping in the PJs I just opened as a gift. The PJs were always too hot for us living at Myrtle Beach, but we put them on and paraded around the room, anyway. I finally did get to sleep that night. Sometime in the early morning I awoke to find the best Santa gift in the world - an electric train set with a black engine that would smoke and a light in the front. The track was already assembled and ready to run. I don't remember any other gifts that year, but I remember the train.
I still have that train.
It seems that there were a number of years when my siblings and I lived by the adage, “The one who has the most presents wins.”
Several times, in the days that led up to Christmas, we would sort the presents under the tree into piles by name. Then would come the accounting as we tallied up the gifts and announced who had the most gifts. I’m not sure why we did it. Perhaps it was just a way of passing time. Perhaps it came from some innate sibling rivalry. Maybe it was just a way of immersing ourselves in the excitement of Christmas. What I do know, as best I recollect, is that I usually won.
Hey. This is my blog and I can tell it like I want to!
Continuing on the Homemade Ornament theme, I also remember what you can make with two Dixie cups and a string.
Make a small hole in the bottom of two paper Dixie cups. Thread a piece of colored yarn through the cups to connect them (tie a knot on each end of the yarn to keep it from pulling through). Then, cover each cup with tin-foil and you now have “Silver Bells” to place on the tree – or on your ears while you run around the house singing Christmas songs – not that I have personally done anything like that – I’m just saying, you could.
Frankly, I don’t remember if it was a gift on Christmas or one that arrived during the Christmas season, but it is a gift that captures much of what Christmas is truly about – simple giving in love.
My son crafted a Christmas coffee mug when he was a very young lad. He drew the picture himself on the side of the mug – a Christmas tree, two wrapped presents, and angel on the tree top - and then presented it to me. Every year when we bring out the Christmas decorations we replace our normal glasses and mugs with Christmas ones. His gift is always among them, and all season long I reach for that mug with great love and care.
The mug sits around reminding me that I am a most fortunate father, step-father and husband. It reminds me that we never know what act of kindness, no matter how small and ‘imperfect’ will remain permanently in someone’s life. It reminds me how quickly life can change and how important it is to enjoy each simple moment. It reminds me that taking time for a quiet cup of coffee and delicate reflection is important in the busy holidays. It causes me to hear the carols of children singing in church.
Mostly, I see that angel, perched atop the tree and hear an ancient voice speak a timeless message softly through thousands of years, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
If you are willing to risk personal injury, you can make these Christmas ornaments.
In both school and at home I remember making ornaments for the holiday. My mother has always been creative (the license plate on the front her car read “Crafty Lib” for years) and when it came to a inexpensive way to occupy our time at Christmas, she would help us with projects.
Take the lids from soup cans. Smear glue on the sides of the lid. Sprinkle colored glitter on lid. Let dry. Make a hole in the edge of the lid and loop a piece of twine through it. Presto! Homemade tree ornaments!
(NOTE: I know the edges of soup can lids are sharp, but I grew up in a time when parents told children to be careful and we quickly learned that NOT being careful when told usually meant we got hurt. It seems like a lesson that needs to be learned.)
When did you learn that Christmas trees look much smaller at the tree lot, than when you get them home?
For years, every Christmas I would fight the battle of the too tall Christmas tree. No matter how much I tried to reason, explain, and plead, my first wife would insist on having me buy a too-tall-for-the-house tree and we would end up with a tree that looked like it grew into the ceiling.
And every time, she would stand back and proclaim, “It’s perfect.” I guess it was. Why not? If Charlie Brown can conjure sentiment by wrapping a blanket around a twig of a tree, why can’t a tree that encompasses the entire living room and spans across the ceiling be “perfect?”
Christmas perfect is in the eye and heart of the beholder.