Many of us carry a world on our shoulders. We convinced ourselves that we must strive alone, that to ask for help in bearing the day-to-day struggles and everyday slights is a sign of weakness. In the mad, mad, madness of life, we forget that we are human, that we were not designed to shoulder so much weight. We were designed for community, for gathering, for singing, dancing, praying, and lifting together.
We have to keep in mind at all times that we are not fighting for integration, nor are we fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition…for the right to live as free humans in society. –Hotel Teresa, New York City, April 6, 1964
Malcolm was a path, a way into ourselves. –Maya Angelou
Who Sent It? This Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) postcard, like the Anne Frank postcard posted last week, also came from Dove S. That reminds me. I owe her some happy mail!
Anne Frank (1929-1945) and her family hid for over two years from the Nazis in Holland. Her diary from these yers is an incredible testimony of the human spirit. Artwork by Susan Keeter, oil on canvas, 1996, Syracuse Cultural Workers
…in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.
I have an insanely busy week ahead, so I’m taking it easy on myself with low-effort posts. I will be sharing “quote” postcards I’ve received that haven’t been shared on Pics and Posts before. The posts will be (otherwise) wordless, but feel free to share your own responses and opinions about the quote in the comments. Have a good, productive, and happy week!
Who sent it? The postcard came from a new Love Notes friend, Dove S. She sent this one along with another one that I plan to share this week.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. —Ecclesiastes 3:11
Ecclesiastes 3:11 is one of the most beautiful verses of Scripture to me. On the heels of the popular “To Everything There Is a Season” poem of the first eight verses of Ecclesiastes 3, this verse reminds us that everything serves an ultimate purpose and happens when it should.
I’ve spent many days wrestling with God over the the whys and why nots, so I understand this knowledge is not always comforting, especially when we face horrific circumstances. The last part of the verse acknowledges this limitation of our humanity—our inability to comprehend God’s ways–and gets us off the hook of trying to explain the unfathomable. We need only trust His providence, long-range divine vision, and Sovereignty.
I find the middle of this Bible verse most potent. God has set eternity in our hearts. This explains our thirst for water from an unearthly well. For we were never meant to have all our yearnings satiated in this life. We were created in the image of God, created to commune with Him “in the garden,” and, therefore, with the innate desire to spend “our always” with Him.
Today’s post was written by my colleague and friend, Dr. Danille Taylor. She wrote this reflection after working in her garden and seeing the connection between her work and the work in which we must all engage to undo the isms that are destroying humanity.
***. . ***. . ***
I was in the garden yesterday in 90 degree heat digging out weeds. I put a perennial bed in an area where the builder planted bamboo. I contracted to have soil and new plants put in. It was much too much work for my new knees, but the bed wasn’t prepped properly. The bamboo is tenacious! I can neither stomp it out nor can I use poison because of the new plants. I have to dig down and extract the roots. This is tedious back-bending work that requires the right tools so as not kill the new plants–my beauties. I may have to keep weeding for years to rid the garden of the bamboo, but as the gardener, it is my responsibility to protect my beauties. If I get lazy or forget, the bamboo will take over again.
Ridding this world of all the ‘isms, greed, and inequities requires that we all be gardeners. There is no quick medicine or vaccine. There is only consistent, diligent, hard, and loving work to destroy the roots. But we have to have the right tools.
Each period requires old and new tools, but we must understand the old to be effective now. The energy of Black youth has brought us to this moment much as it did fifty years ago. They are railing at the bamboo that has them in a chokehold.
If need be, we’ll plant a new garden and properly prepare the bed making sure the soil is rich and nurturing. No poisons allowed. We must remember the “bamboo” may still be there, so we’ll have to be diligent in identifying and uprooting it. We have knowledge and lessons of the past and tools of the future. We will sweat. But the wonderment and beauty we cultivate will feed us. As we weed and dig to extract roots we must not lose our joy. We see the beauty of the garden we are cultivating.
Today is the first day of spring. There are few signs, but it is certainly on the way.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning this week. Universities, as most know, have transitioned fully to online instruction to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19. Even though these are “troubled” times, I can’t help but notice a certain relief in the posture of my colleagues and students. Sure, there is disappointment and a little apprehension about this new way of doing things (for some), but there’s also a collective sigh, expelling loads of stress.
I am grateful.
I am not grateful for the virus. But I am grateful for the slowing down, for deliverance from the break-neck pace that had me feeling like life was spinning out of control and the only way to stop was to hit a metaphorical wall. I pray this wall is not as painful.
In the midst of the confusion, the questions, the planning, the poem below landed on my screen via a friend’s Facebook post. I felt every word. May the words carry you. May they lighten the heaviness of this load we’re all carrying. May they usher you into the magic and renewal of spring.
May you sing.
Lockdown by Fr. Richard Hendrick, March 2020
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
they say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
the sky is no longer thick with fumes
but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
people are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
so that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality.
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that:
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic.
the birds are singing again;
the sky is clearing;
spring is coming;
and we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
and though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
I thought about taking the Christmas decorations down today, but my not-so-little one convinced me to leave them up a little longer. I figured, if I take them down by Friday, I will still be about three months ahead of my normal schedule. 😀 .
Like my son, I’m having a little difficulty letting the Christmas season go. It took me a while to get in the spirit of things, but I’m not ready for the parts that I love so much to go away–unrushed mornings, Christmas movies, uninterrupted time with the guys, reading and writing, creating and crafting, and hours of contemplation without the nagging “things to do” list over my head.
I’m certainly not ready for the end of [receiving] über cute Christmas postcards from pen friends–like the card above.
My Love Notes pal and literary twin, Bianca, sent the sweet postcard featured. Immediately after retrieving it from the post office box–and before reading the message–I knew who sent it! Who else but Bianca would find in Germany a little girl with my skin color hugging a snowman? She always finds the perfect, most adorable cards that speak to some part of my identity, interests, or character.
The postcard was designed by Tanja Angermeier of Monimari, who creates “sustainable stationery for children’s hearts.” You can find more about Tanja’s work and Monimari by visiting her website. To get a steady diet of Monimari, you can also follow her on Instagram and even purchase some of the items in her Etsy shop.
Thankfully, even after the Christmas decorations have been stored and the last Christmas postcard has been received, we can still make the choice to carry the Christmas spirit with us all year. We can choose to walk with a spirit of love for humankind every single day. After all, that spirit is always in season.
Since we are heading to the polls in a couple of days, I decided to share a two-minute video reminding Americans why we must vote. In the video, my 83-year-old relative recounts her experience with attempted voter suppression and finally casting her first vote for U.S. President.
I’ve heard far too many “reasons” people don’t vote or didn’t vote in this or that election. As Cousin Marie declares, “your vote is where your rights are.” A decision not to vote may eventually lead to revocation of certain rights.
Despite the struggle between Democrats and Republicans that is constantly thrown in our faces, your vote should not be about party affiliation or who makes the most noise. Make an effort to ignore what one candidate or political party says about the other. Avoid the all-day news commentary. Steer clear of social media. Make time to research each candidate for yourself. Take notes. Make lists. Think about what you want for our country, and vote for the individuals whose actual values most align with your own principles–hopefully, principles rooted in love for humanity. Pay attention to what they do, not just what they say.
In short, as my friend Uzoma O. posted as his Facebook status recently:
Stop being Democratic or Republican. Be honest. Have morals. Show empathy. Value integrity. Be a good human.
If it all still sounds like noise to you, vote anyway.
I’ll spare you the lecture on how many people fought and died for our right to vote. I realize our right to vote includes our right not to vote, but I hope you choose the former. Why? Because beyond being a right, voting is also a civic and sacred responsibility.
In his sermon this weekend, my pastor reminded the congregation that in voting we comply with two of the directives of Micah 6:8–to act justly and love mercy. In voting, we raise our voices, protest, and do our part to right societal wrongs. We stand up for social justice and we work to make compassion and kindness part of our personal and national character.
There’s too much at stake this election season. Your vote–your voice–is far more powerful than silence. Nothing is gained through inaction.
This elegant poppies postcard was handmade by my Love Notes pal, Cricket. She designed it for “Beautiful Blooms,” the latest Global heART Swap, but kindly sent one to me in remembrance of Lori. The tiny black dots in the “green painted vases” are poppy seeds from Cricket’s garden. In a few weeks, we will plant them–in Lori’s honor–just outside my home office window. They will bloom in the spring.
The intimate notes Cricket sent to Lori and me during her struggle and the one she included with “Bloom” are among those I will forever cherish. I will reserve the most intimate details of her notes for my own eyes, but it’s fitting to close with some of the words from her “Blooms” note:
Thank you for including all of us in this journey–for making Lori alive in our world. That we can share in the love and the grief of virtual strangers is a phenomenal thing. It gives hope in/to a troubled world and should be celebrated. Lori touched us all and we’ll forever hold her.