Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Human Rights: Choosing Love Over Hate

To hate is unacceptable.
Jackson, MS 1/16/15 on Lemon Street.
Hate reared its ugly head this past week in my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.
Scrawled in ugly graffitti, a slur against gays and the suggestion to "kill them".
Here in 2015?
Kill them?
This is wrong and never acceptable, and I want to make sure that everyone I know understands that this kind of behavior is deplorable and that I, Erica Robinson, will speak out and actively move against this kind of hate-mongering to prevent it from happening, or spreading, in my town. Count me as one of them, for I will not be treated, nor treat anyone differently than I should want to be treated. No one should ever have to fear for their life, or their safety, based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. No one. Threatening, or treating as an inferior, another human being because they are different than you -- or because you disagree with their choices-- is wrong behavior on your/our part. It is unacceptable. We all get to make choices: that is a part of being free.  No kid (or adult) should be kicked out of their home or humiliated/bullied at school or elsewhere.
Everyone deserves equal respect as a basic human right. Ignoring or "pretending it isn't happening" when you/we see or bear witness to bigoted actions, such a bullying or shaming, makes you/me complicit in those actions, whether we agree with the person or not. For me, as of today, I will be a person brave enough to say, "No" when an insult or joke or hate-filled slur is made. It is someone's life. Someone's dignity. They matter, just like you matter. Like I matter.
This week, we see the world reacting in horror to the case of Raif Badawi, who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes (and has had the first portion of his punishment already meted out in public). Amnesty International has taken up his cause, and the U.N. commissioner for human rights, Prince Zeid Al-Hussein calls the sentence "cruel and inhuman punishment". ISIS and other terrorists routinely use "KILL THEM" as a way to control and breed fear. Bullying, beatings, discrimination, murders, intolerance: those things get there start from hateful words.
Those hateful words must stop.
We are Mississippians. Americans.
I choose love over hate in all my thoughts and actions. Love conquers hate.
Be brave enough to stand up, like me, against hateful behavior.
Today, I signed the "Equality is our Business Pledge" on the Human Rights Campaign's website. I may not have been here in Jackson for the Civil Rights Movement back in the 1960s, but baby, I am here now: this is my town and hate is unwelcome here. Let's get some buckets of paint and head down to Lemon Street.
As ever,

Sunday, January 18, 2015

To Make a Friend

Bear and "that boy"
Bear and I stared at each other.
It was Sunday afternoon and here we were, just the two of us. Again.
I smiled softly at him and said, "We need to find you a friend."
He jumped excitedly, like a puppy, and said, "Yes! Who?"
"Who" was a good question.
Who wanted to be friends with my shy little bear? His older brother and sister seemed wildly popular by comparison. Perhaps it was age: they moved about in their world easily and seemed to make friends instantly. Bear was always the "tag-along", the "slow-poke" and the "third wheel"... literally.
I thought of the one other shy boy that was just a little older than Bear and scrolled through my phone to see if I had his mother's number in my contact list.
I didn't. But I did have his 11 year old sister's phone number.
So I sent a text... I do not like communicating with 11 year old's unannounced.
Then I called and asked for her mother.
Play date arranged.
As Bear and I walked the few blocks to N's home, in the warm winter sunshine, I remembered being a new wife in a new city and having no friends. Luckily, the gal across the hall in the apartment building stopped by one day and, along with a plate of baked goods, kindly said, "I've learned that if I want to make friends, I have to go out and find them and introduce myself to them." I don't remember that woman's name, but she became my friend. She taught me how to cross stitch, but more than that, she gave me one of the best lessons of my life: to have a friend, be a friend.
One hour later, in the last of the fading daylight, N, Bear and I headed back towards his house. The boys had fun together and we talked about playing together again soon.
To have a friend, be a friend.
Be willing to have the courage to extend yourself first: to invite friendship in and not wait for someone else to do the initiating in kindness.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Drawers and Their Hidden Meanings

Of course I didn't take a before picture!
Silly me, but when I started this morning's task of cleaning up the "junk" drawer, I felt it was slightly ridiculous. I mean, I'd just given this thing a thorough going through not even six months ago.
Three drawers and a plastic bin cabinet later, not to mention a full trashcan, charity bag and recycle bin later, I wondered what had just happened in that last hour.

You have heard me say before that for a long time, my home looked good on the outside and to the casual visitor, but if you lived here, you knew better: things got hidden and forgotten. Things were stuffed in drawers or under beds or in closets and, though all looked well, it was chaos just below the surface.
Rather like a reflection of myself: looking just fine on the outside, wreckage internally.
So, as I sifted through knives, cookie cutters, and birthday candles I could not help but think that this simple work was as important as the other deeper work that I am doing on myself as well. True, the world would not end with the disordered heap that was inside those drawers, in the same way that my personal world would not collapse if I didn't clear out some of the things no longer needed. I could simply close the door of my soul, like I could also close the door of my closet and not face what was in there.

Fact is that I have done that for years, and like a hoarder, find myself overwhelmed physically, emotionally and spiritually. And so though the world did not end, I did become immobilized over time: full of fear and anger and resentments. Those had to go, in the same way that the mismatched lids and old pastry cutters had to be given the boot. It was interesting to me, as I emptied out, wiped down and then went back over each item, how easy it was to let some things go that I just couldn't bear the thought of six months ago. They were too important at the time or had a name attached to them that made them "valuable". Today, it was very emotionless. No pain or grief attached with the parting. I remember earlier clean-outs and how certain spaces felt like I was tearing off my toenails or shredding the skin off my back. The pain came from the objects themselves, but also from the sadness that I had wasted money or time or energy accumulating all this STUFF.

As you can see, my life is not free of things: neither internally nor externally. Some things are needful and valuable things. Some things may go at another go 'round. And that's o.k., too. My drawers, like my life, does not have to be perfect. It is better when it is less cluttered, more organized, and more streamlined.
Sometimes, you find a little surprise in the cleaning: like what was a $20 bill doing in my dishtowel drawer? And who knew that I had these little sterling silver "salt" spoons jammed in the back of the rolling pin drawer? I thought I only had one... and that one has been a point of obsession with my kiddos, each wanting to have it with their dinnerware to eat dessert with. They are tiny: smaller than your pinky by a good digit. Now, I have more than I need, but they are so tiny, perhaps they can stay for just a little while longer...?
Yours ever,