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.

Experts

I’m not going to say anything about the current Coronavirus because I’m not an expert. I am an expert on a few things, though. For instance, I’m fairly certain there’s no earthquake vault under where I live in California because I checked it out when I was taking journalism in college. (Not that we don’t shake a little, but not a lot.) I think I’m an expert on managing dry skin because I have it. Gold Bond Ultimate, just sayin’. (This is not an advertisement, but a recommendation from my doc.) I’m an expert on my hubs, too. Maybe not completely because he keeps changing, but better than anybody else in the world. So that’s me, or some of me.

person holding green leafed plant

Who’s an expert? Somebody who’s done the work of finding out. A scientist or MD is an expert on the Coronavirus, or maybe if you want to know what it’s like, someone who’s had it. Due to that fact, I ignore a whole bunch of what I see on Facebook. But I listen to the experts, and follow their recommendations. That’s why you won’t see me in crowds for a while, including church on Sunday, darn it. We need to give the medical people a break by not all catching it together. But I said I wasn’t going to say anything about that. So never mind.

Another expert I pay attention to is that one who’s been in the trenches. If I want to know how to be a mom, I pick a mom who has stayed the course whether her kids are considered successful or not. If I want to learn writing, I listen to a writer who publishes what I want to write. If I want to be a CASA, I listen to people who volunteer as CASAs.

Why am I saying all this? Because there are a lot of folks these days who don’t know how to pick an expert. We ask sports figures how to manage finances, movie stars how to love our kids, radio talk show hosts how to manage our love lives. We even take advice from television shows, say what? Whoa!

Evaluate people! If a sports figure is living high because s/he makes millions, what’s that got to do with you? A. You probably don’t make millions. B. That dude may easily be out of money when s/he blows out her knee or his elbow. Goodbye high life. What about your hardworking parents or neighbors, wouldn’t they be better experts? Did you know that movie stars concentrate most on how to act and look good? Why would that make them an expert on parenting? Famous isn’t informed. How about picking a couple who have raised several kids. They won’t sugar coat it or give you pat answers. They’ll give you the true skinny.

OKay, you say, so where do we go for advice? Go to people who are honest and kind, to people who are humble and wise. Go to people who are willing to help and also admit they are still learning themselves. And I know you may not appreciate this next, but go to God. He’s the expert extraordinaire, and He loves you, so you can trust Him not to steer you wrong.

One last thing. God gets a lot of bad press. People say He lets bad stuff happen for no reason. Not so. Even when God allows bad stuff, there’s a reason. We may not be able to discern it in the moment, but He knows we learn more in bad times than in good. So, as an expert Father, He allows the bad times. And if you don’t believe He loves you, take a look at the world He created for you. EXPERT

 

Grace and Truth

I have held many incorrect assumptions about grace and truth. For instance, I believed at one point that telling the truth was wrong in many cirumstances because it hurt people’s feelings. On the other hand, I thought it was a percentage then between grace and truth, like if you have 80% truth, then you have 20% grace.

So, I have been studying the relationship between the two because I suspect that what I’ve thought is incorrect, but I haven’t know how. Here’s what I’ve found so far. I think we can figure out our boundaries using a combination of grace and truth. I believe we don’t have grace without truth or truth without grace. I believe it is loving to speak the truth with grace.

I’m working on this for myself and for the next novel I’m going to write, Queen of the Third Grade. I think the prep work will take a while, but I’m excited. My guide is Jesus, full of grace and truth.

white swan

Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

Platformitis

In these days of rampant technology, writers are being advised to build a platform. This platform, according to the experts, should include a blog – written daily, or at least weekly; and Facebook, Twitter, instagram and some other “presences” I don’t recall the names of, posted with even more regularity; as well as speaking on the subjects about which we writers write. (Do you know how long it takes to prepare to speak?)  I believe this platform-building steals the hope of good writing, especially for those who wish to improve their writing over the course of their lives. There are, after all, only twenty-four hours in one writer’s day, and we all do have to get the dishes done or take out the trash.

design desk display eyewear

Interesting that I’m wiritng this in my blog–kind of an oxymoron in progress. No, not really, though, because it serves to clean my brain of a rant. I’ll just add this. When I was writing nonfiction, research was my biggest “distraction.”  Time-consuming, but far less than my current writing life, then I could spend a fraction of my time on platform.

Now that I’m trying my hand at fiction, there are so many skills  to learn, skills that build on each other and require neverending practice.  This polishing of a writer’s writing should take priority over platform building. If it doesn’t, my writing stands a good chance of being lackluster, ill-conceived drivel.

I know, because I have read others’ who I imagine spent the time they could have polished their fiction — you guessed it, building platforms.

So what to do? Publishers want the platforms so that readers will be drawn in. Makes sense. Perhaps they should consider helping  authors create and maintain their platforms. Or maybe agents should assist with that job? Or perhaps the frequency doesn’t need to be daily or weekly. I’m just advocating for putting the most, best time into the writing.

Rant End.

Adults Abused as Children

For about ten years, my husband, the marriage and family therapist, and I led Stepping Stones, a support group for adults abused as children. It was peculiar in that we didn’t sit around commiserating, but studied Scripture on how to climb out of that pit together. The topics are:

  • Face the Problem
  • Assess the Damage and Make the Commitment to Recover
  • Correct Your View of God
  • Set Healthy Boundaries
  • Improve Your Self-Image
  • Overcome Fear
  • Learn to Control Anger and Depression
  • Increase Your Capacity to Trust
  • Deal With Sexual Issues
  • Give and Accept Forgiveness
  • Determine Whether to Confront Your Abuser
  • Life Beyond Survival

So, we’re thinking about putting the material online for people who don’t live near us to use to recover. Anybody out there interested in something like this? If so, what do you think would be a fair price? If you’re out there feeling alone with your secret, I’m talking to you, and praying for you.