Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

why it seems like open season on my cousin’s grandsons

racism ruins livesMy cousin Sally is white. Her grandsons are mixed race — their father is black, Sally’s daughter is also white. Each of the culturally sanctioned murders of black men lately is a bludgeon to Sally’s heart. As it should be for all of us.

When George Zimmerman went free of murdering  Trayvon Martin, and Michael Dunn’s jury hung over his killing of Jordan Davis, every family member of a young black men shuddered. In America, as Bruce Springsteen sang, you can get killed just for living in your American skin. And if you don’t believe that, you aren’t paying attention.


Recently a 15-year-old girl — Adrian Broadway — shot by Willie Noble for egging his car. Willie Noble will probably get the book — he’s black. But white Michael Dunn, who pulled in next to a group of black youths listening to loud music? And then shot Jordan Davis for refusing to turn his music down? He’s free on that racism killscharge — hung jury. Dunn will serve time — a minimum 20-year sentence for shooting at each of the other three youths. But those sentences may be served concurrently, if the judge so decides. Technically? With ‘good behaviour,’ Dunn may only serve 10 years for murdering a 17-year-old kid who basically angered Dunn. Wow. In Oklahoma, a woman got 12 years just for marijuana possession, and so far no ‘good behaviour’ clause.


You can look all of this up. I’m sick at heart re-reading these cases. While I realise that living on the inside of a racist heart must be terrible, it doesn’t (usually) kill you. And it DOES kill others. The bottom line doesn’t change: in America, there’s an open season on my cousin Sally’s grandsons. Which is beyond wrong. And I don’t know what to do about it…


friendship and the art of loving

BrittonFamilyInJerusalemTempleAs one of four sisters, I’m used to the envy that twins with love. At least when it comes to sisters. So it’s okay w/ me that I’m not the sister each of the other three loves the best. Because I’m the one who loves each of them the best.

So today’s post is about that: what it means to not be the best-loved, the most popular, etc. American culture is all about being loved — the last one on the island. That would NOT be me!


Growing up — but even more so once we were all adults — I was often envious of my sisters with the friends they managed to keep, despite our many moves. I have no friends left my childhood, only a couple from my early adulthood. I moved too much, and my family was always my central focus.

I have cousins I adore. And of course, there are those three sisters. Not to mention my beloved, and the friends I’ve made as a mature adult. I even have a BFF!  But not friends who knew me in 5th grade — as each of my sisters do. My 5th grade year was spent in a land long ago and faraway. :) friends


And that’s a lot of why I don’t have childhood or high school friends now: I moved at the critical times when those friendships might, otherwise, have survived.

and then a voice says: but your sisters managed… you’re the loser.

This is the voice we often hear when we look at others, I suspect. So some years ago I looked at why I didn’t keep friends from early life.  And I realised: I did. They’re my family. I’m as close to my sisters as to the BFFs of others. PLUS I have the BFF I’ve made as a mature adult — the friend who knows and loves who I am NOW, not because she knew me ‘when.’

friendshipBut I still wondered: what if it’s because you’re not loveable? And laughed at myself: that only matters on TV. Seriously — isn’t it more important to love than to be loved? Besides, my sisters — and my friends — DO love me. Lots. It’s not like I live life as a social leper. :)


So in my ruminations about this, I thought about beginner’s heart, and what that means. About love, and learning how to give it. That the art of love is as precious as the gift of being loved. And I’m good at loving my sisters, my friends, my BFF. My beloved husband, sons, daughter-in-law, grandson, nieces & nephews & cousins… My extended family.

As well as a couple of additions — an almost-brother (he introduced me to my husband, so very many years ago), another almost-sister. heart in hands

Which may not seem like many, but given how full my life is now, with the men and women I’ve found to love as dear friends in my adulthood, I’m very happy.  I may not be the best loved. But even with a simple beginner’s heart, still learning, I’m pretty sure I’m great at love.


leftovers and ‘after’ days

image Yesterday we had a lovely evening — friends came over to celebrate African American History month with a sharing of various African American artists & authors. I cleaned and cooked before it all began. I made this beautiful lemon icebox pie. I even made cornbread in the big skillet that was Mom’s. All of which made today was one of the  perfect ‘after’ day.

One of the (many) joys of having a party is it’s a two-fer: after a party, there are leftovers! All that food, already cooked! And the house is already clean! All you have to do is sit back & enjoy the fruits of past labour. How cool is that? First there’s the party (which was great, just FYI), then there’s the great day after.


Plus, since my beloved is recuperating from knee surgery, a quiet day spent reading, teasing the dogs, and visiting w/ sons, on the phone, was just the right kind of day for us.

More of my life is spent, it seems, in this lovely ‘after’ state. I work on one project, and rewards I never anticipated pop up somewhere else. I do one thing, and it brings unexpected pleasure later, as well as in its completion.

You don’t have to do anything much for a perfect ‘after’ day. And unlike those ghastly ‘before & after’ pics, this is one time that ‘after’ is not so much better as just as good. Different, sure. But still lovely. So go ahead — call up folks and have a get-together. You’ll have both the pleasure of the event, and all those leftovers for after. Perfect!



30 Days of Love: ‘calling in’ and room for compassion

compassion“Calling in” is a new term for me. During the 30 Days of Love project, I’ve learned several new things — vocabulary is only 1 piece of it.

I had to go to the original article, after reading today’s prompt. Calling people out on racism, heterosexism, or just plain hatefulness is a calling for me (and yep, I said that on purpose). Still, from what I gather, reading Ngọc Loan Trần’s amazing piece on calling in, adding ‘calling in’ to our tool belt of strategies for intercultural dialogue is NOT a ‘get out of being called out free’ card for anyone.


If you’re a dumbass who seriously believes that others are in any way ‘less’ than you in your privileged state, I will call you out. I’ll begin by assuming you didn’t mean what you said, and ask you to clarify. But if you’re convinced that, say, women should obey their husbands, and stay home and make babies? I’m not supporting that with my polite silence.

What Ngọc Loan Trần offers us is, as he puts it, a ‘less disposable way of holding each other accountable.’ I have been guilty of utter cluelessness, when it comes to not ‘getting it.’ I’ve said things with NO malice intended — not even stereotyping — but still clueless as to how they sound. For instance: if you were outside of the US during the entire 80s, you probably don’t know that there ‘spear chucker’ was no longer a term for the extras in Cecil B. DeMille films (think: Moses and all those crowd scenes). You would be terminally embarrassed — and deeply, profoundly sorry — if someone took your clueless, dumbass remark as a racist slur. But to them it would be. No matter what you extras


You almost certainly would call me on it, telling me in no uncertain terms that I was a racist. And then you’d probably get up and leave the conference room. At least, that’s what happened. The problem with that is that I had no idea what I’d done. I had to ask a friend (black), who cracked up, thinking of me using the term in a work meeting.

‘Calling in’ wouldn’t have worked in that specific instance, anyway, despite my clueless lack of intention. Neither party who left knew me well, so they had no reason to assume I wasn’t a racist yahoo. As far as they could tell, they were the victims of microagressions. So discarding me as another white idiot was certainly understandable. But say instead, that I’m clueless with a dear friend. Say that I don’t understand when she’s been insulted by a white woman. That I don’t ‘get it’. In that case, instead of ‘calling me out’ for my lack of understanding, my dear friend Sylvia took the time to explain what had transpired, what it meant, and how she saw (and felt) it. I’ve written about that elsewhere.


inclusion 2Because Sylvia and I already were good friends, it was worth it to her to take the time to share her feelings, her thoughts on what had happened. She wanted me to ‘get’ what had happened. In other words? She called me IN — asked me to be one with her for a moment in her life, in her thoughts and feelings. Again, I quote Ngọc Loan Trần, who notes that “when we shut each other out we make clubs of people who are right and clubs of people who are wrong as if we are not more complex than that, as if we are all-knowing, as if we are perfect.”


I absolutely love this idea. I can’t thank 30 Days of Love or Ngọc Loan Trần enough for offering me something to go with my other compassion practices: tonglen, wrathful compassion, meditation, breathing. Certainly there is a time for calling out, as there is for wrathful compassion. But I am hoping that I can do more to dissolve barriers — to create unity — by learning how to call others in. Isn’t that what inclusion is all about?

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