I face the sun, which we share. It warms the familiar brown envelope in my hands, which contains news of Silantoi, who lives half a world away.
A small photo shows her beautiful, round face beaming a huge smile. Not only is she taller, but her posture conveys confidence. A friend peeps over her shoulder and laughs as a photographer snaps the picture. Both girls stand in front of a rough wall at their Rombo boarding school in the wondrous Rift Valley in Kenya.
I read Silantoi’s letter next. She likes science and wants to go to university to become a doctor. “I want to complete [high school] with good grades which will take me to a university around America…that is my dream.”
I’m astonished at Silantoi’s perseverance. Rote learning, no technology, a library consisting of old test booklets shoved on a shelf. I began sponsoring Silantoi’s education when I met the founder of BEADS for Education, Debby Rooney, in a Newburyport, MA, bookstore. Now Debby has opened Tembea High School to give more girls a quality education.
Silantoi graduated 8th grade with high enough test scores to continue on to the Rombo high school, if she chose to—and she did! The significance of this is hard to overstate. Many girls in Kenya don’t go to school, severely limiting their options. When I sent Silantoi a modest watch for a graduation present, she replied, “I really treasure the watch and take care of it…it is really helping me to keep time while studying.”
Education for social justice often begins one child at a time. The gift for me is watching Silantoi grow and reveal her gifts and talents to the world.
It was parade of about eight thousand marchers. Onlookers, several hundred thousand of them, jammed the sidewalks.
Soon the marchers were mobbed, shoved, tripped, beaten, even burned by cigars by some onlookers. Police refused to interfere. Army troops were summoned to help. Hundreds of marchers were injured. One hundred of them ended up in the hospital.
Could you tolerate this treatment in order to vote?
The marchers, who were suffragettes, did. This 1913 parade in Washington, D.C. was another event in the fight for women’s right to vote. They won the fight in 1920, after over sixty years of struggle.
On Election Day this year, please exercise your right to vote. Teachers, parents, and grandparents, tell your children why you vote and why voting is important.
Our foremothers and forefathers fought long and hard so we could do so.
What issues in our world fill you with passion?
Perhaps you’re working to gain freedom for the children in Tibet. Maybe fracking issues make you crazy or you are a member of Veterans for Peace. Or your focus might be more local, like saving a silver maple forest in a cherished reservation.
Do you care enough to grab your tuba or push yourself down the street with a couple of plungers?
Because that’s what people did at the 2014 HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands in Somerville and Cambridge, MA. The parade mixed zeal with fun and educated the spectators, providing welcome relief from the litany of terrible world problems in the news. Not that the HONK! groups didn’t make their points. They did. And they used larger-than-life sized puppets and funky costumes to do it.
Making the usual, unusual gives messages a fresh emphasis. Everyone in this parade found a personal and artistic perspective in community with others. That’s a valuable set of life lessons for all of us, accompanied by a dash of AfroBrazilian percussion.
I love to see parents and grandparents teaching children how to help change a larger world than their own. When learning starts in the family, it settles into childrens’ souls. And when it’s lodged there, you’ve given children tools that no one else but you can give. Add in some glitter and an orange feather boa–who knew that changing the world could be so much fun?
What’s in your pocket today? Keys, coins, lip balm? Tomorrow, remember to slip in a poem.
This year’s Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 24, a day for everyone to celebrate. It’s free and fun. You select a poem or favorite lines from one. Copy it, fold it up, put it in your pocket to share with others. Get your peers and friends to do it, too. Throughout the day enjoy all of the poems–funny, sublime, solemn, or clever.
Sometimes I feel shy about sharing poems. Perhaps it’s because many poems evoke personal connections that reside deep inside. It’s far less risky to share other forms of art, like books or music, because they seem more mainstream. However, my perspective expanded during a trip to California a few years ago.
On a warm, sunny day I’d planned a visit to a national historic forest. When Tom pulled his pickup van up to the hotel, I climbed aboard for a great adventure. We chatted during the half hour ride and he mentioned that he was a published poet.
Tom knew the forest well, and recommended certain vistas of natural beauty to experience on my hike. The conversation turned to his favorite bench in the forest, where he’d written a poem about the birth and strength of its trees. He recited it upon request and gave me his business card as I left.
The front of the card held his tour company information. On the back of the card was his poem.
I carried around his card in my pocket for months. And I learned a valuable lesson, too. Sharing poetry is a generous act that expands our connections to each other.
Click on the tab Kathy Shares for some of my favorite poems and lines
Did you hear the story of the Victorian grandmother who stripped down to her foundation garments to keep cool on hot days? She answered the door and frightened the postman. “Oh, dear lady!” he shrieked as he covered his eyes in shame.
And what about the story reminding you how grandfather banged his fists on the table before dessert and led his grandchildren in the chant, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream, Tra! La! LA!”
Holidays like Thanksgiving create the perfect time to tell and retell family stories. They enrich a child’s understanding of family and the bonds that connect generations. Stories about travels, traditions, and wars make their heritage real. Even young ones are able to discern voices and generational differences. It draws children in to hear stories that deepen their understanding of time family lore and loved ones’ experiences that may span a century.
Mine is a family that likes to linger at the table after dessert and that lingering invites conversation that turns to family storytelling. Some years I’ve taken videos of these priceless times. These videos become part of my family heirlooms–storytelling by beloved family members that will be preserved for a long time. I’m deeply grateful for that.
- Listen to family stories this Thanksgiving. Then talk about them in the car. Ask your child, “What do you remember most?”
- Bring a recording device so you can preserve the storytelling.
- Participate in the National Day of Listening http://nationaldayoflistening.org/ on Friday, November 29, 2013. A part of StoryCorps, you can record your own interview with a loved one.