Good Friday. And I'm at the high school, having dealt with many serious issues during the day. Reality is bad enough, but this week the very naïve and innocent ninth graders are studying "To Kill a Mockingbird." English is not their first language. But you wouldn't know it. They sound great and fit in with native speakers in most social situations. But the similarities end there. Cultural nuances, vocabulary, and background knowledge - it's my duty and blessing to be able to give them a leg up, so to speak, on the rest of their classmates. I find photos from the 50's and 60's and have them describe what is going on in those pictures. They wince and ask questions. They seem hungry for knowledge. I reduce the size of the photos and list them on a sheet of paper which each student receives the next day. Each then writes what he or she sees in each photo....And so I find an abridged version of the book and begin reading with them. The "N" word appears. I can't say it. I tell them. They ask why - even offer that some other English teachers have said that word. And I stare at them and decide to tell them the truth.
At one time in my life teaching English, I was to read a poem about Rosa Parks. In it, the bus driver addresses her as a "N." I tenderly prepare my young teen students for the time that I will be saying that horrible, negative word. I tell them that it will make me have a stomach ache just for saying it, but if I don't, they won't understand the full impact that attitude and word had on Rosa. So I do it for six periods that day. The first two or three periods it does make me wince, but, to be honest, by 7th period, I didn't feel that bad. And that's when I realized....
Repeating something negative or evil feels awful at first. Then, as we proceed with our lives, if we continue usage of that word or phrase or attitude, it doesn't seem too bad after a while. And that is what happens with cursing, racism, ignorance, etc. If we continue our negative actions, words, and thoughts, they become part of us. We sort of become accustomed to them. Just like the battered and tattered folks in the world - soon they figure out that pain is just part of their world.
We can change, however! We can control how we react to negativity. We can't rid our lives of it. It's rampant! But we can control our reactions. Did I say we CAN? But why did I start this blog with Good Friday in red? Well, being a cradle Catholic, I can't ignore that this day is one of mourning and suffering...and I certainly had a small dose of that as I tried to juggle the myriad feelings of abandonment, injustice, and guilt swirling about in my head. I simply could not understand the meaning of my jumbled feelings until I dreamt Friday night about the story followed by a segment of a dream of a friend whose husband is black. She, a blonde, fair-skinned woman, slowly turned black and they were sitting on a couch talking with me. I woke up and began to see how all of this came together to demonstrate that we can't control everything, but we can reorder and attach meaning to these thoughts. I am no dream interpreter, but I can say that my dream showed that we are all one - we are humanity. By believing this, I know that we must care for one another and help each other on this journey.
I am finally peaceful and it's the next day. It took a lot of mindfulness to achieve this state of mind. And I did so without pills or injections or therapy with someone else. Just me and my head. Huge. (Ok, those of you who know of the "grosses Kopf," you can keep your comments to yourself!)
And so as we head towards Easter Sunday with celebration and thanks, I am creating little bouts of gratification thoughts for being able to quiet my soul and find peace. For at least a little while....
This short cartoon is a basic intro to mindfulness. Sit back, relax, and think....
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