Mr. Hill, This One’s For You

We do see the color of our skin. People who say they’re color blind aren’t being tansparent, no matter what color they are. That being said, skin color isn’t an evaluatory tool. I won’t mention all the other human variations that aren’t evaluatory tools, because what we’re talking about since George Floyd was killed, since Dr. Martin Luther King marched, since Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, is racism in the United States.

Now for a stab at transparency. When I was in college, I asked a black girl what black people thought about something that was going on at the time. She asked me why I thought she was representative of all black people. Made sense. I’m sure not representative of all white people.

fb_img_1584673841152Charles Hill, Tammy Whose Last Name Has Changed, Dr. and Mrs. Bohn, and Dr. Serna

Later, when I taught third grade, one morning before the beginning of the schoolyear I walked into the office, and a huge black man sat at the principal’s desk. See how I said that? His size and color frightened me at first glance, and I guessed he might  be a new custodian fixing a drawer or something, at least I hoped so.  That’s because I didn’t know him, yet. And he wasn’t the custodian. He was the best principal I ever had.

His name is Charles Hill. When he’s your principal, he knows the names of even the good kids. He plays football and basketball with them at recess. He makes it a point to value all the cultures of all the kids. He includes teachers, parents, kids and the community in the life of the school. He takes up for the downtrodden no matter what color they are. He’s one of the good, no, best guys.

So here’s me, initially afraid of this giant. One day, we’re in staff meeting, and he’s trying to help the teachers talk about racism. No one is saying anything because they’re worried about pissing each other, or him, off. I’m sitting there thinking about how much I appreciate Mr. Hill’s efforts. See, I come from a prejudiced parentage with KKK members in our distant relatives. And about the time I tought this, Mr. Hill said, “Mrs. Baker, what do you think?”

Honestly, I considered lying. Not a good character quality. So I said, “I was thinking that I have a KKK member in my family tree back a ways, and I hope we’ve come a long way since then, but I suspect that a lot of prejudice has simply gone underground.” Truth.

Time goes by. One day Mr. Hill asks me to go with him and some other adminstrators to a workshop on diversity in the Bay Area. Why me? He says it’s because of my comment about my KKK relative. He thinks it was transparent, and that I might learn a lot. The workshop leader has us complete a survey, then we line up according to our score. Questions like, “Would you expect the maitre’d in a restaurant to be the same race as you?” Mr. Hill was clear on the other side of the room from me, and not because he is more educated, played professional football, or can motivate kids to do better than they dreamed they could. I wanted to cry.

On the way home, he told me stories about name calling, being pulled over for no reason, his daughters in danger. None of which happens to me, ever. He and another black administrator in our district were in the front seat. That man was on a diet. He pulled out this powder he was using for the diet, and Mr. Hill yelled, “Put that stuff away! You want the cops to think not only do two black dudes have a white lady in the back, but we got white powder in the front?” Funny, but then, maybe not so much.

About that time, my friend and brother, Charlie Crane, asked me to help him write a book about his dad. It turned out to be the story of the Civil Rights movement from his point of view. From the moment he told me about the shoe store owner telling him to put his foot on the outside of the shoe he wanted to buy because if he put it inside, no white person would buy it, I desperately wanted to write that book for him. It was the least I could do. Charlie came to speak at an assembly at my school, and while he was there, he counseled a boy in my class who needed to hear a strong black man speak truth. Charlie told the kids I am his sister that day. They were looking back and forth, and back and forth, but it was true. I am his sister.

Not long after that, Mr. Hill moved back to the Bay Area. There had just been too many incidents. I was heartbroken. But I remember him, and when I see the opportunity to help a black person win, I take it, because he showed me what it means to be black in America.

People Pleasing

I’m studying Exodus. Moses was a reluctant spokesman for God to the pharoah of Egypt. I suspect he may have started out as a people pleaser, as opposed to a God pleaser. I have been called a people pleaser, by others and by my inner voice, Weezer, who is a … bitch.

I have this issue. Here it is. God created us to need each other, to be relational. We need to give and receive love. So when does that become people pleasing?

banking business checklist commerce

First, I looked up what a people pleaser does. This is adapted from Psychology Today.

  •  we disobey what God says, or our own moral code, to please a person
  • we never evaluate the availability of our time or inclination before we say yes
  • we’re unable to manage our health because we’re overcommitted to others
  • we make all the plans
  • we do all this because we live in anxiety from early relationships, and that causes fear of failure or rejection

So, I hit that list on all five points. Great, what do I do? Hebrews 11:27 says this about Moses: “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing Him Who is invisible.” He kept checking in with God, again and again and again. And as he did, he became a God pleaser instead of a people pleaser.

So I made a longer list of how I can do this in practicality. Here you go:

  • Put time with God early in my day
  • Track my food
  • Exercise before I start my “to do” list
  • Speak up for myself, and remember, the outcome of speaking up is not the issue
  • Attend events less frequently and use the time to recharge
  • Identify one responsibility I can cancel to gain free time for myself
  • Teach people how to behave toward me by rejecting behavior I don’t want
  • Say no to something small
  • Express my opinion and learn from people who disagree

So there you go. Next is, practice, practice, practice. And tell your Weezer to shut the hell up.

 

 

 

Affection with Thanks to C.S. Lewis

Get ready, this one’s going to be long. I’ve been reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis and I came upon this section under affection that helps me deal with people in my life. I hope since I’m not getting paid I can share it with whatever public I have, and I hope it helps some of you, too. Get ready for a huge quote:

the chronicles of narnia book

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“It would be absurd to say that [King] Lear is lacking in Affection. In so far as Affection is need-love he is half-crazy with it. Unless, in his own way, he loved his daughtrs he would not so desperately desire their love. The most unlovable parent (or child) may be full of such ravenous love. But it works to their own misery and everyone’ else’s. The situation becomes suffocating. If people are already unlovable a continual demand on their part (as of right) to be loved – their manifest sense of injury, their reproaches, whether loud and clamorous or merely implicit in every look and gesture of resentful self-pity — produce in us a sense of guilt (they are intended to do so) for a fault we could not have avoided and cannot cease to commit. They seal up the very fountain for which they are thirsty. If ever, at some favoured moment, any germ of Affection for them stirs in us, their demand for more and still more, petrifies us again. And of course such people always desire the same proof of our love; we are to join their side, to hear and share their grievance against someone else. If my boy really loved me he would see how selfish his father is … if my brother loved me he woudl make a party with me against my sister … if you loved me you wouldn’t let me be treated like this …

And all the while they remain unaware of the real road. ‘If you would be loved, be lovable,’ said Ovid. That cheery old reprobate only meant, ‘If you want to attract the girls you must be attractive,’ but his maxim has a wider application. The amorist was wiser in his generation than Mr. Pontifex and King Lear.

The really surprising thing is not that these insatiable demands made by the unlovable are sometimes made in vain, but that they are so often met. Sometimes one sees a woman’s girlhood, youth, and long years of her maturity up to the verge of old age all spent in tending, obeying, caressing, and perhaps supporting, a maternal vampire who can never be caressed and obeyed enough. The sacrifice — but there are two opinions about that — may be beautiful; the old woman who exacts it is not.

The ‘built-in’ or unmerited character of Affection thus invites a hideous misinterpretation. So does its ease and informality.

We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters’ side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents. Who has not been the embarrassed guest at family meals where the father or mother treated their grown-up offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simpy have terminated the acquaintance? Dogmatic assertions on matters which the children understand and their eleders don’t, ruthless interruptions, flat contradictions, ridicule of things the young take seriously — sometimes of their religion — insulting references to their friends, all provide an easy answer to the question ‘Why are they always out? Why do they like every house better than their home?’ Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?

If you asked any of these insufferable people — they are not all parents of course — why they behaved that way at home, they woud reply, ‘Oh, hang it all, one comes home to relax. A chap can’t be always on his best behaviour. If a man can’t be himself in his own house, where can he? Of course we don’t want Company Manners at home. We’re a happy family. We can say anything to one another here. No one minds. We all understand.’

Once again it is so nearly true yet so fatally wrong. Affection is an affair of old clothes, and ease, of the unguarded moment, of liberties which would be ill-bred if we took them with strangers. But old clothes are one thing; to wear the same shirt till it stank would be another. There are proper clothes for a garden party; but the clothes for home must be proper too, in their own different way. Simlarly there is a distinction between public and domestic courtesy. The root princple of both is the same: ‘that no one give any kind of preference to himself.’ But the more public the occasion, the more our obedience to this principle has been ‘taped’ or formalised. There are ‘rules’ of good manners. The more intimate the occasion, the less the formalisation; but not therefore the less need of courtesy. On the contrary, Affection at its best practices a courtesy which is incomparably more subtle, sensitive, and deep than the public kind. In public a ritual would do. At home you must have the reality which that ritual represented, or else the deafening triumphs of the greatest egoist present.  …

‘We can say anything to one another.’ The truth behind this is that Affection at its best can say whatever Affection at its best wishes to say, regardless of the rules that govern public courtesy; for Affection at its best wishes neither to wound nor to himiliate nor to domineer. You may address the wife of your bosom as ‘Pig!’ when she has inadvertently drunk your cocktail as well as her own. You may roar down the story which your father is telling once too often. You may tease and hoax and banter. You can say, “Shut up. I want to read.” You can do anything in the right tone and at the right moment — the tone and moment which are not intended to, and will not, hurt. The better the Affection the more unerringly it knows which these are (every love has its art of love). But the domestic Rudesby means something quite different when he claims liberty to say ‘anything’. Having a very imperfect sort of Affection himself, or perhaps at that moment none, he arrogates to himself the beautiful liberties which only the fullest Afffection has a right to or knows how to manage. He then uses them spitefully in obedience to his resentments; or ruthlessly in obedience to his egoism; or at best stupidly, lacking the art. And all the time he may have a clear conscience. He knows that Affection takes liberties. He is taking liberties. Therefore (he concludes) he is being affectionate. Resent anything and he will say that the defect of love is on your side. He is hurt. He has been misunderstood.

He then sometimes avenges himself by getting on his high horse and becoming elaboratley ‘polite’. The implication is of course, ‘Oh! So we are not to be intimate: We are to behave like mere acquaintaneces? I had hoped — but no matter. have it your way..’ ”

As you breathe a sigh of relief, I call a halt. Lewis doesn’t acutally say how to deal with someone like this in your life, but I think if we chew on it a while, that will become clear.  Thinking this through should do me a world of good, and I hope that it will also do some of you a world of good. Have a nice, thoughtful day.

 

I Love a Good Story

I’ll tell you one, and you feel free to tell me one.

I saw her inside the front window. She wept openly. Huge sobs shook her shoulders and tears drenched her cheeks.

Dilemma.

Do I pretend I don’t see her, or chance that she’ll suck the life out of me if I ring her bell? I heistated on the sidewalk, my little dog bouncing to continue our walk. Do unto others … “This way,” I directed my pup, and we headed up her front walk.

Her bell chimed, and I could see her lift her silver-haired head, a look of wonder on her face. She placed both arthritis-grissled hands on the arms of her rocker and lifted herself to a stand.  I waited, while the pup danced on the porch.

At last, she spoke from behind the still closed door. “Yes?”

“Hello, my name is Jane. Are you all right?”

I heard her turning the bolt, and the door opened a fraction. “Hello” She had swiped most of  the tears from her face. It appeared no lights were on in the house. The pup began to jump at the screen door when the woman spoke.

“Hi, I live down the street. This is Aime. We were going for a walk, and I noticed you in your front window.”

She opened the door wider and I could see one hand on a walker. “I’m Golda.”

Getting her out of that dark house might help her. “Maybe you’d like to finish our walk with us?”

She glanced down at Aime and looked uncertain.

“I can keep her on the other side of me from you if you’d like.”

Her face brightened. “Let me get a sweater.” She closed the door and we waited a few minutes.

The thought crossed my mind that we could have been home by now, just as the door opened to Golda, wearing a red sunhat. She wrestled her walker over the threshhold, turned and locked the door. I backed down the steps, keeping myself between Aime and  Golda.

an elderly woman

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She placed her walker on the first step, then one foot after the other. “Thank you for offering to take me on your walk.”

“You’re welcome. Actually, I was hoping to meet you. I’d seen you putting your car in the garage, and sometimes watering your flowers, but we never seemed to be able to meet.”

“I’ve lived on this street for fifty years.”

I wasn’t sure whether she was scolding me, or making small talk. “We’ve only lived here ten years. Your family are all gone?”

“Yes, my husband died fifteen years ago. My children are scattered all over the country.”

“My husband works in the Bay Area. My kids are still here, but today they’re at school.”

“I lived in San Francisco as a child. My family left after the big earthquake.”

Holy cats! I’d like to hear about her life. We positioned ourselves to negotiate the sidewalk, Aime on my left, Golda on my right, and ambled on our way.

Golda stopped and pulled a rose blossom to her nose. “I love roses. Guess it won’t be long before they’re gone. I can feel the chill of winter coming in my bones.”

Might be a good time to find out what had caused her to cry. “I noticed you were crying when I saw you in the window. Did something happen?”

“I just got a phone call that my roof is going to cost $15,000 to replace. I don’t have $15,000. And they told me if I don’t replace it now, the damage to the house will cost far more than that. I think I’m going to have to sell out and move. But the thought of one of those nursing homes where I don’t have flowers or cats just makes me want to die.”

Speaking of cats, Aime noticed one of the ferals that roamed our neighborhood on the other side of the street, and jerked at her leash. “Aime, heel.” She settled back into her walk, but glanced across the street now and then.

Golda’s pace was slowing. We’d only gone half way down the block. Maybe it was time to head back. “Ready to head home?”

“Yes please, my old legs aren’t what they used to be.”

“You know, Golda, there are several men on our street who might be able to replace your roof just for the cost of the materials. And I think there’s a roofer at my church who could show them how to do it right. Would you like me to check?”

“Oh no, I couldn’t impose. But thank you.” We approached her front steps.

“Here, let me give you a hand.” I put my arm under her elbow to help her lift herself. She climbed the two steps.

It sure would be nice to leave her with a little encouragement. “Would you like to give me your phone number so I could check on you now and then?”

“I would, Jane. Thank you.” She found a pad of paper inside her door, wrote the number, and handed it to me.

“Thanks, I’ll be in touch. How about if I give you mine in case you need anything?” I pulled a business card I used with my little freelance writing business from my purse.

“Thank you, Jane.”

“You’re welcome.” I needed to talk to the guys about her roof. This lady was definitely not a life sucker.

 

The Jewel of California’s Central Valley

filled drinking glasses in tray

It’s going to be one of those over 100 degree weeks in Modesto – where we are known for water, wealth, contentment and health. I bet you’re wondering why I stay here, aren’t you? (Truth is: when I have to get out in this heat, I wonder why I stay here.) However, Modesto is a good town, mostly. We still smile at you on the street, most of the time. We still have an A&W. Our movie drive ins have given way to theatres with recliners. I wonder if that’s a response to the graying of the nation. We have a Costco and a Winco, and what else do you need? Gallo Winery is here and we’re in a valley that grows a good deal of the food consumed in the whole world. We have a junior college and the four-year is right down the road a bit. You can get frozen yogurt to beat the heat or you can swim in one a bazillion pools. And we’ve got a whole bunch of churches, I mean lots. All good.

But why I like Modsto the most, past that most of my kids, my friends, and my doctor are here, is that we look out for each other. I think that has to do a lot with there being a whole bunch of peope who love God in Modesto. We’ve got Love Modesto in April when thousands get together and do projects all over town. But that’s once a year. We also help relocate refugees through World Relief, care for the poor through a bunch of agencies. Lately, we’ve set up MOES, a tent city for the homeless, and people all over town support that, too. The Shower Shuttle folks, who offer free showers to the homeless in these really cool, decked out vans, have just added a laundry van, so the homeless can get their clothes clean. Imagine if you were on the street, how much those two blessings would mean to you. I like this part of us most because Jesus said to look out for the little guy, the one who can’t help himself. The one who, when you do something kind for him, can’t pay you back. We don’t need organizations to help us do that, by the way, or government. We can pull on our boots and do it on our own. Just a thought.