Southerners love to cook. Especially we love those community gatherings where everyone brings their favorite dish and we all sample “just a bite” of everyone’s. My earliest memories of this were “Dinner on the Ground,” and it literally was on the ground. Thinking about it now, I’m amazed we kept the kids from stumbling into the spread – and maybe we didn’t..
I have such wonderful memories of that food – and no matter how many times I try recreating their recipes, they just don’t come out the same. Uncle Henry’s fried chicken, Miss Nina’s coconut cake,
Miss Ethel’s peach cobbler, Aunt Minnie’s chicken and dumplings, Miss Edna’s buttermilk biscuits, and of course, Aunt Annie’s fabled deviled eggs.
Eventually we graduated to folding tables and chairs and finally to a real Fellowship Hall equipped with all the modern conveniences. Much more comfortable but in nostalgic moods, I wonder if we were better off in those days. We were blissfully unaware of the dangers of sugar, gluten, lactose, saturated fat, cholesterol, and vegetarians were, well, just weird. There was no guilt associated with a hamburger and a coke for lunch.
We had no idea the trouble we were in.
My rational self remembers how it was to lose relatives to diet-related disease, especially heart disease and diabetes. These could be devastating for a family, since health insurance was essentially non-existent in those days; health care was pay-as-you-go.
Southerners will always love our community food get-togethers, although today we make at least a token effort to prepare healthful food . However, if the occasional slice of coconut cake happened to sneak in, well.. just a bite couldn’t hurt.
I would definitely not light up after dinner in my favorite restaurant these days, but there was a time when..
Smoking was a rite of passage, a symbol of sophistication. Movie stars smoked: James Dean, Elvis, Kathryn Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day, to name a few. Smoke rose along the edge of the TV screen from Edward R. Murrow’s ashtray as he delivered the evening news. Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson smoked. Doctors, including the Surgeon General, smoked. Even Fred Flintstone smoked! Cigarettes dominated the advertising market and heavily supported prime time TV, sponsoring such popular family programs as “I Love Lucy,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” and “The Adams Family. All, among many others, brought to us by the cigarette industry. In this vintage Philip Morris commercial, Lucy tells us “how to keep your man happy” by choosing the right cigarette.
Most men, including my father and uncles, in the small Louisiana community where I grew up smoked. Sundays after church would find them clustered on the steps or under a nearby tree, hastily lighting up or stoking pipes, although it was considered immoral by some, and especially on church property. However, it was more or less accepted as a good man’s reward for bringing the family to church. There was no debate, however, on the subject of smoking for women. It
was “trashy” and everyone knew it. I never smoked until years after leaving home and then never, ever, in the presence of a family member. The only woman I knew who was able to escape the ire of the community for flaunting the “smoking ban” for women was my wonderfully eccentric Aunt Ivalee. But then, she was from New Orleans…
I began smoking in earnest in grad school. And I loved it. I loved it all. The ambience, the romance of it, that special camaraderie among smokers. I loved blowing smoke rings. I loved a cigarette with a cup of coffee after dinner. I loved the way it made me feel. And it didn’t hurt that it helped me keep the weight off. And after all, I could always quit…whenever I was ready.
On July 12, 1957, the Surgeon General issued the first official, and greatly understated, warning about the harmful effects of smoking. Seven years later, the American Cancer Society released a slightly stronger warning. However neither acknowledged the compelling evidence of the link between lung cancer being suppressed by the tabacco industry. A virtual war ensued over the next three decades between health care advocates and the powerful Tobacco Institute. Eventually health advocates won an uneasy peace, taxes were levied, warning labels required, and smoking rates declined, as more and smokers attempted to kick the habit. But what no one knew then, was that the power of the nicotine addition is comparable to that of heroin, and for most people, more powerful than alcohol.
I eventually quit smoking in the 80s, my resolve being fortified by the growing public disfavor of smoking. Secondary smoke had been implicated in lung cancer and growing number of restaurants restricted smoking to designated areas. Some airlines banned smoking on flights less than two hours and by 1990 all smoking on airlines was banned.
But breaking the nicotine habit turned out to be far more difficult than I had imagined. A few days (or hours) after gathering my resolve, throwing all my cigarettes in the trash, out the window, giving them away, etc., would find me scrounging for cigarettes under sofa cushions, jacket pockets, even trash cans. Those humiliating experiences gave me a new understanding of the power of addiction and compassion for those under its spell.
Today, with all the knowledge at hand about the harmful effects of cigarettes, smoking would seem to be a game-stopper. However, about 15% of adults and sadly, 20% of teenagers, are smokers today. I would like to think that if my rebellious teenage self had known what I know now about smoking, she would have exercised the good judgment not to light up. But, sadly, good judgment seems to be something we learn by making mistakes, assuming we live through them.
Click here to view a history of the effects of smoking on health.
A southerner waking up that first morning in Wisconsin, I was sure I had mis-heard the weather forecast: “-25 deg with wind chill factor.” Whatever that was. Surely not – people couldn’t survive that! I switched to another channel. Sure enough, it really was -25 deg with wind chill. Certainly businesses were closed.
But they weren’t. Soon I saw neighbors faring forth, picking their way down the sidewalks. Still incredulous, I layered on most of the clothes I owned, and slipping and sliding, eked my way to the bus stop where people stood around casually talking or sipping steaming coffee from mugs, like nothing was amiss.
“Is it always LIKE this?” I chattered to the woman nearest me, hands jammed in pockets, feet stamping for warmth. She flashed a knowing smile. “You’ll get used to it,” she said.
And I did. Which was a good and proper thing if I planned to stay in Wisconsin.
But “getting used to it” isn’t always the answer. In fact, I’m wondering if it isn’t at the root of some of the turmoil in our country today.
For starters, when did interrupting not only become acceptable, but commonplace? There is hardly a “news” show that doesn’t sound like a magpie convention. This obviously rude and irritating behavior is now widespread, and since more and more anchors adopt the practice, apparently worthy of emulation.
And when did it become OK for politicians to lie on prime-time TV? When did we “get used to” leaders that had nothing more to offer than insults for their opponents and end up voting for the lesser of the evils? How would John Kennedy’s clarion call be received today? “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
I greatly fear we have lost our respect for each other and with it, our self-respect. Perhaps our cellphone-internet addictions have so immersed us in a web-game-world of noisy anger and violence, glorifying an insatiable need for power, appearances and possessions, that we have come to believe that what matters is what the internet sells: the illusion of individual power. In other words, “F You!” But that is foolish. Our lives are utterly and eternally interlinked by immutable laws of nature. No cell phone or internet game will change that.
And speaking of the “F” word, when our kids were in college (OK, it was the nineties) the commonplace word “suck” was considered inappropriate in polite conversation, although its genesis was and still is, disputed. Use of the “F” word in public was practically unheard of. Now it is openly bandied about by teenagers in restaurants and peppers conversations in popular TV shows. Ironically, it is especially popular with young women. Really? Have we forgotten the connotation of the word for women? And what if someone else simply doesn’t want to hear it shouted out on the street? Wikipedia calls this phenomenon the “dysphemism treadmill“, meaning former vulgarities become inoffensive and commonplace. Or simply, we “got used to it.”
So take it or leave it, but from where I stand, disrespectful language and behavior are just that, disrespectful. And if we allow ourselves to get used to disrespect, can abuse be far behind? Don’t we deserve more?
I began my morning walk with Jake and Jesse burdened with the troubles of our world; the famine in Africa, the injustice visited on children in wars, petty politics, corporate greed; all being paraded in rapid fire across the TV screen on the morning news.
The rustle of the wind through the tall pines, the sun sparkling on whitecaps on the lake, the mallard ducks floating serenely on gentle waves, the lush perfume of jasmine on the fence and gardenia by the garden gate – none penetrated my mood.
Jake and Jesse strained on their leads pulling me behind them down the path like an overloaded dogsled. I had no appetite for bringing them to heel, dimly aware that allowing them to pull on the lead meant more work for me in retraining. If not for their insistent pacing back and forth to the door when it was time for their walk, I would have bagged it altogether.
As we started up the hill, a golf cart came into view heading toward us, the driver braking when he saw us. I didn’t recognize them, but it was clearly a grandfather out with a morning ride with his two granddaughters; perhaps four or five years old. Of course, they wanted to “pet the puppies” and PawPaw was OK with it, so over they came, squatting down to eye level, tentative little fingers touching furry black ears and and quickly pulling back with giggles and shrieks of glee.
“Look, he LIKEs me, PawPaw,” the oldest said as Jesse licked her finger.
“Likes me too!” from the younger.
After five minutes or so of playful chatter and pleasantries, Grampa decided it was time to go home before Mom got worried.
“Well, you know what?” the oldest asked, swinging into the cart.
“What?” I answered.
“You can come visit me sometime. And bring the puppies!”
“I will!” I answered.
The grandfather turned the cart around and headed up the hill. My earlier foggy malaise slowly dissipated as I watched the happy little trio, the girls chatting away and pointing out various points of interest to their grandfather as only small children can, a squirrel, a bird perched on a high limb, a lizard, wildflowers, until they rounded the last curve and disappeared up the hill.
Yes. There IS that.
It is important to remember that in our troubled, broken, scary world, there are still grandfathers taking grandchildren for a ride on a beautiful spring morning. That is good.
And what I learned in Sunday School is as true today as it was then: “Hold Fast To What Is Good.” (1) Don’t ignore the pain, the trouble, but hold onto the good. With all your might. That is what will get us through.
I tried to tell Miss Julianne it wouldn’t work. Jimmy don’t have the sense God gave a billygoat. But he begged and whined and went on until she let him try it out at the rehearsal.
Jimmy are y’all SURE this will work?” she asked, her hands on her hips, looking up into the loft where Jimmy squatted, dangling a rope swing. Miss Julianne is the prettiest lady I ever saw. And just as sweet as she is pretty. She’s got naturally blonde hair which curls all by itself, she doesn’t even have to use a perm. She was wearing blue jeans and her husband Ronnie’s old work shirt. Anyone else would have looked like a hobo, but she looked beautiful.
Jimmy put on that stupid grin of his that makes all the girls swoon, I don’t see why.
“Yes Ma’m” he said, sugar sweet. Don’t you worry a bit. Suellen is just a little bit of a thing – we’ll just lower her down on this swing, me and Buddy, when Brother Paul reads the part about the angels coming down and then haul her back up after we sing Hark the Herod Angels.”
Herald, you idiot, ” I thought.
“You know I wouldn’t never do nothing to hurt her. It’ll be great, it’ll be the best part of the pageant. You’ll see!”
“Well, Miss Julianne said. “I still think it worked just fine last year, with us just dimming the lights and the angel climbing a ladder behind the manger. What do y’all think?” She turned to the rest of us sitting in the pews waiting to practice our parts.
I could tell she was weakening. That’s the only thing about Miss Julianne. Sometimes she can be too nice.
No one said anything. “Ya’ll, what do you think? “Still nothing. No one wanted to get into it with Jimmy.
” Well, ” she finally said, ” We got to make up our mind pretty soon so we can help the Ladies Aid with the decorating. We got a lot to do, we got to decorate the big tree outside, tie bows on all the pews, and clean up before we go. Remember, ice cream at the house for everyone when we get done. “
Wally was scribbling in his little black notebook which he carries with him everywhere and writes down what happens and what he thinks and I don’t know what all. He has a whole shelf in his bedroom full of his crazy notebooks. His mama gets them for him every Christmas over in Shreveport at Marshalls. She gets them wholesale since she owns Portia’s Blossom Shop.
This year Wally’s a wise man instead of a shepherd like last year. I should of got Mary, because why? Because I wouldn’t forget my lines is why. Last year Miss Julianne had to whisper almost every line to Georgia. At least I thought I should of got wise man like Wally. Instead, I had to be a shepherd again and wear a costume made out of a scratchy croaker sack with holes cut out for the arms.
Miss Julianne doesn’t get to say who gets the parts. The Sunday School teachers all meet and decide the Sunday after Thanksgiving, in secret, so no one can get mad because they don’t like their part. But except for Miss Lavinia, who’s real old and pretty much deaf, they’re all men, so they always pick the prettiest girl, even if she’s dumber than a stump. Which Georgia was. I know that’s not nice to say, but it’s true. She’s just pure D dumb.
So when Georgia graduated Junior High last year, which is the oldest you can be and still be in the pageant, I thought sure I had a chance, but this year Betsy got the part. At least Betsy isn’t dumb, but she’s not all that pretty either. I guess the best I can hope for is to make it to wise man next year. I don’t think the Sunday School teachers like me much. They say I ask too many questions, like the time I asked what a virgin is. Mr Grady got real mad and said I shouldn’t talk like that in Church, and I had to get Wally to tell me.
“Jimmy’s up to something,” I whispered to Wally. ” I can tell by the
way Buddy is squirming around. He never could stand up to Jimmy. Lets him boss him around like he was his daddy or something instead of just his cousin.”
“Afraid of getting beat up, more like, if he won’t do what Jimmy tells him to.”
“But what if they drop her and she gets hurt? And who knows what else they’ll drop down out of the loft? You know rats get up there. ”
He just shrugged. “Everyone knows Jimmy’s got a crush on Suellen. He’s just trying to impress her. But anyhow, it’s none of my never-mind,” he said making that pruney little face of his.
“O Wally, you make me want to scream.” I hate how uppity he gets sometimes. I decided if no one else was going to say anything, I ‘d have to. I walked over to where Miss Julianne was standing.
Miss Julianne? I said sweetly.
“Yes, Sugar, what is it?” she said, smiling and putting her arm around my shoulders.
“Miss Julianne, I just think .. “
Jimmy glared down at me from the loft where he squatted dangling the rope.
“I just think you’re right about last year, it was real pretty. Why do we need to do anything different?”
Jimmy hopped down from the loft and began winding up the rope swing. “What do you know about it, four eyes?” I was the only girl with glasses and all the boys teased me about it. They were pink plastic and ugly, and I hated wearing them, but I couldn’t see past my nose without them.
“Now, Jimmy, stop talking like that and let her have her say, too!” Miss Julianne said, the way she can always make us mind without yelling.
Everyone stared at me. I felt like I had forgot to put on my clothes or something. “Well, I mumbled, “I just think it’s dangerous is all.”
Jimmy curled up his lip at me. “You’re just mad cause you have to be a shepherd. You ought to be glad you don’t have to be a sheep no more.”
I wouldn’t admit it, but he was right about the shepherd thing.
“Please, please, please, Miss Julianne,” Jimmy crooned, getting down on his knees and making his hands like he was praying.
“Now, Jimmy,” Miss Julianne said, laughing. Am I gonna have to paddle you again?
He gave her a big hug.
I was sunk.
The night of the pageant it was cold and sleeting. I had prayed for snow, but just like when I prayed my dog Pepper would get well, it didn’t happen. Mama says the Bible tells us “Ask and ye shall receive,” but so far that’s not working for me. I must be doing something wrong. One day I’ll ask Miss Julianne about it.
The church was full up. People like the Banks who never go to church except on Christmas were there with their whole raggedy family taking up the front pew where my Grampaw always sits. This happens to him every year. He just walked over real slow to where they were sitting and stood there, thumping his cane on the floor.
Pretty soon, Miz Banks looked up and said, “Why hello, Mr. Henry? Would you like to sit here? Betty Sue and Darrell, y’all go sit in the back. Just you set down right here, Mr. Henry. So nice to have you with us.”
Grampaw acted like he never heard a thing she said. Just walked over to the window where he always sat and waited for them to make room for him. He sat down, wedged his cane between him and Mr. Banks, looked at the Banks bunch like they had cooties (which they probably did) and stared out the window. I think he sits here so he can see Gramma’s grave, but he’d never say that.
Mama and Daddy couldn’t get to their usual place, so they sat in back by the heater, which was actually better since it was cold in the church. I ran downstairs to the Sunday School room where everyone was putting on their costumes, carrying a dishtowel and one of Grampaw’s old canes. Mama said she’d make me a costume, so I didn’t have to wear the croaker sack and she can sew anything, but I didn’t want to make a big deal of it.
Suellen was prancing around the room in her angel costume, everyone going on about how pretty she looked. She had on a white dress with lace ruffles on the bottom lace on the sleeves with white satin slippers to match and was carrying a stupid wand, like she was a fairy godmother instead of an angel, going around tapping everyone on the head and cooing, “Bless you, bless you.” I thought I would throw up. I pushed my way over to the corner where Miss Julianne and Mr. Ronnie was helping the little kids into their sheep costumes. The sheep part is the worst because you have to crawl around in a boiling hot costume. They always give that to the little kids. They think it’s fun, they don’t know everyone’s laughing at them.
“Hi,” Wally, said, adjusting his turban and brushing his robe.” Want
some help with your costume?”
“I don’t need help, thank you very much,” I grumbled, tying a dishcloth around my head.
“That’s looks real nice” he giggled.
“Shut up,” I said, sticking my arms through the croaker sack. “Shit, his damn thing scatches! I said under my breath.
“Cricket!” Wally said, putting his hand over his mouth and giggling. “In the Lord’s House! You’ll go to hell.”
‘Well, if I do, I guess I’ll see you there, Mr. Smarty Pants.”
Mr Ronnie whistled and yelled, “Y’all be quiet, Miss Julienne needs to say something. ”
“I’m so proud of y’all! Miss Julianne said, smiling. “And I know you’re going to do great.“ Now lets go over the program just one more time so we’ll be sure. Everyone get your song sheets. ” Mr. Ronnie was passing out blue mimeograph copies that smelled like vinegar and the purple ink rubbed off on your hands.
“The first one is Silent Night. Now remember everyone sings this one. Then everyone goes behind the curtain except Mary and Joseph. Betsy, did you bring your doll?”
“Yes’m. I brought my nicest one, with the China head that I got last year for Christmas.”
“Oh, Betsy! You brought you very BEST doll,” Miss Julianne said. Isn’t that NICE, y’all?”
“Next the the wise men sing We Three Kings of Orient Are and then the shepherds sing While Shepherds Watched Their Sheep By Night” And I need ALL the wise men and ALL the shepherds singing, not just Wally and Cricket.
“No, you don’t, I thought. Wayne sounds like a dying horse, and Marvin’s tone deaf.”
“Then the congregation will stand and we’ll all sing the final song Hark the Herald Angels Sing, while Jimmy and Buddy let Suellen down from the loft. Just one verse now, of all the songs. Miss Martha will signal to you when to start and when to stop.”
Miss Martha smiled and waved her pudgy finger in the air. Miss Julianne put her hand over her heart. “Now Buddy and Jimmy, ya’ll be real, REAL careful with Suellen. Let’s pray before we go.”
“Good idea, I thought.”
We made a circle, joined our sweaty hands and chanted the Youth Fellowship prayer, “Lord, teach us to so number our days that we might apply unto wisdom.”
“And bless us as we carry thy message though this Christmas Pageant,” Miss Julianne added. Amen. “
“Amen,” we chorused.
We tromped up the stairs in a line and walked behind the curtain. The church was full and kids was sitting on pallets on the floor, mamas standing holding babies. The church was so pretty; there was flowers, candles, and big red bows everywhere and it smelled like pine and candle wax. Buddy and Suellen climbed up the stairs into the loft, Jimmy behind them. I thought I heard him say to Suellen, “I’ll show you a thing or two, you little tease.” She hissed something at him, but I couldn’t hear what she said.
“I knew it.! Why doesn’t anyone believe a thing I say?” I hissed to Wally.
He gave me one of his looks over his glasses. “What’s the matter with you? Are you still mad about the shepherd thing?”
Before I could answer, the curtain opened and Miss Martha plopped down on the piano bench. She’s so fat, we always think she’s going to break it and we all got out our song sheets. She held up her finger and started playing Silent Night while we all sang. Everyone in the
audience oohed and ahhed over the little kids. When the wise men came out, Wally was the only one singing, the other two just hanging their heads and sorta mumbling. Wally didn’t seem to notice. When he’s on a stage, Wally’s in hog heaven. Next it was our turn, and not only was I the only singing shepherd, Marvin and Wayne didn’t even know the words.
“This is the LAST time, the VERY LAST time I do this, I thought to myself. It’s hot and I itch all over; besides it’s embarrassing. I’m too old for this.”
And then it was time for the big finish. I felt a lump in my stomach. I knew something was going to go wrong, real wrong, but there wasn’t nothing I could do to stop it. Mr. Ronnie shined the spotlight up onto the loft where Suellen stood in her angel get-up. In spite of her stupid wand, she looked look real nice, standing there in her white dress, holding out her arms, her clothes-hanger halo sparkling.
Miss Martha started up Hark the Herald Angels Sing and everyone in the church stood up to sing with us. While we sang, Suellen started to come down from the ceiling on the rope swing – almost like she was floating. Everyone in the church looked up at her like they could hardly believe it. The whole church was quiet. Miss Julianne was standing off by the curtain, her hand over her heart. I think she was praying. I thought for a minute I may have been wrong. It really was pretty. But then some of the boys started giggling. That’s when I knew.
I looked up just in time to see Suellen fall out of the loft into the manger, landing with a big crash right on top of the Baby Jesus doll. Everyone started yelling and going on and Miss Julianne and Mr. Ronnie went running over to see if Suellen was OK. She was, all except for being fighting mad, scratched up and the sleeve of her angel dress tore plumb off from where she caught it on the manger. She was sitting up, picking hay from the manger out of her halo and yelling at Jimmy that she’d get him back for this and he was laughing his head off. And Betsy was fit to be tied. “Git off my Doll, “she yelled.
Sure enough the doll’s face was cracked where Suellen fell on top of her and her wand was stuck into the doll’s stomach. The boys was all snickering, Betsy was crying and Miss Julianne was walking around making sure no one was hurt. The people in the church was real quiet. But then there was another big thunk and Miss Bernice had fainted dead away in the third pew. She’s real bad to take fainting spells if she gets over-excited except Mama thinks she’s just putting on for attention. Miss Lavinia was fanning Miss Bernice with her handkerchief and Vonda Fay was waving smelling salts over her face, She uses them in her beauty shop for ladies who fall out from the permanent wave fumes.
Mr. Ronnie came running up onto the stage. “Which one of you knuckleheads done this?” he yelled, looking straight at Jimmy. Mr. Ronnie is a real nice man as long as you don’t do nothing to make Miss Julianne unhappy. I seen him grab Wilbur Spivey by the neck and throw him out the door of Vickers Newsstand just for cussing where Miss Julianne could hear. I remember thinking I wouldn’t want to be Jimmy right now.
Brother Paul was trying to get everyone to be quiet. “Quiet, Brothers and Sisters,” he kept saying. “Be still. This is the Lord’s house. There is no harm done. Let’s all be seated and have a word of prayer.”
Miss Lavinia and Vonda Faye got Miss Bernice back up on her feet and helped her out on the porch to get some air. Miss Julianne closed the curtains on the stage. We all looked at her. She looked so sad. I thought sure she was going to fuss at us which I can’t stand. But she looked back at us for what seemed a long time. Finally she sorta smiled. And then she began to laugh. At first we thought she was crying. But when we saw she was laughing, one by one we all started laughing. She opened the curtains and walked out onto the stage.
“Y’all, she said, still laughing. “I don’t know when I’ve seen such a
Christmas pageant to beat this one.“ The whole church began to laugh, even Brother Paul. Even Grampaw, who hardly ever laughs. Everyone except for Mr. Ronnie who was standing in the back of the church with his arms folded over his chest. After all the laughing died down, Brother Paul walked up behind the pulpit.
“Brothers and Sisters, “ he said, real serious-like. “Some of us here tonight have not understood what Christmas is all about and could have ruined it for the rest of us with their foolish prank. Luckily no real harm was done and I am quite sure that those responsible will be held accountable. Jimmy’s face was redder than Santa’s cap. But no one can ruin the Christmas story; it’s too powerful. It’s about turning sadness into joy. It’s about the love and forgiveness this community have for each other. Nothing can take the joy of Christmas from us. And we’ve had plenty of that tonight. Let us pray,” he said. “Let us give thanks to the Lord for a joyful Christmas.”
Blind-sided, thunderstruck, ambushed, stunned, floored flummoxed. Just flattened. By what’s just happened in our country – no, not what just happened – what just surfaced.
As my genteel cousin put it, “Surely not?” Exactly. Surely we are not the people screaming racist epithets, intimidating children, advocating jail for our rivals. We are not the people that believe silencing those who don’t look like us or believe like us will solve our problems. We are not the people who obsessed on the media’s 24/7 shouting matches, while shaking our heads about the ugly campaign. We don’t riot
in the streets after an election and burn the President Elect in effigy. We can’t be those people. And yet we are.
Until November 9, I carefully sidestepped awkward social and political conversations. After all, everyone’s entitled to her/his own opinion, right? And what does it matter really? Things will go on pretty much as they always have no matter what I do, right? So why risk damaging a friendship, causing a ruckus. Why be “that” woman? I really didn’t know what my friends, my neighbors, even some of my family, believed at a core level, didn’t really want to know, and didn’t share my own opinions. We coexisted; polite and superficial strangers under the skin. So when November 8 happened, we were amazed to find out who was living next door, or even in our own house!
It’s pretty clear we don’t understand each other. Perhaps we don’t really understand ourselves. Hopefully the 2016 election will inspire us to learn more about ourselves and our government and moreover, to become involved in our communities. We can learn to listen respectfully to each other with no other agenda. We can have discussions that don’t deteriorate into shouting matches. Ideas that challenge us are healthy precisely because they make us uncomfortable. They stretch us and keep us growing.
On the morning of November 9, I began a one woman listening campaign. I talked to neighbors on my morning walk. I listened to members of my church, to my family, to my Facebook and Twitter friends. And I heard some surprising things. Some not easy for me to hear. But my friendships were not threatened. In fact, just the opposite. After all, we all want to have our voices heard.
I know the fluttering of the butterfly wing in my tiny corner of the universe cannot influence world events. But just as one vote makes a difference, so does one honest conversation.
So let’s talk! Leave a comment. Tell us what the 2016 election meant for you. Who knows? We might not be as far apart as we thought. At the very least, we are sure to learn more about our own beliefs.