My Prayer for Today

When I woke up this morning, my eyes, ears, mind, and heart were filled with stories of the tragedy in Las Vegas. The emotional flooding began . . .

-Sadness about the loss of 50 lives.
-Grief for the families and friends of each of those people.
-Fear about the unleashed hatred that confronts us daily.
-Gratitude for the quick response of  law enforcement, emergency personnel, and civilians who worked quickly at the scene.
-Appreciation for those who have already stepped up to give blood and help save lives.
-Disgust with the human condition and that the shooter’s anger/rage/fear/unknown was     big enough to visibly harm over 200 people, and non-visibly harm a band, and city, a         plethora a families, a state, a nation, and then some.
-Amazement at how quickly this news spread across the nation and to other nations.
-Exhaustion from listening to the internal voices asking “What can we do? What can we do? What can we do?”

Needless to say, I started thinking about how our world needs more empathy, more grace, more love.  What does that look like? How do I do that?

The news told of a young concert-goer who had witnessed M______ D_______ shouting, “You’re all going to die tonight” 45 minutes prior to the shooting. She was led out of the concert because she was disruptive.  This gave me pause.  Was this her last act of desperation? Could things have gone differently if someone had heard her? Obviously, someone heard her, as her quote can be found all over the news. What I mean is could things have gone differently if someone had actually listened to her? What if as she was being escorted out somebody asked “What do you mean? Is this something you’re concerned about? I hear you. Tell me more. What do you think will happen next?”

Could the shooter have been stopped? Minutes beforehand? Days beforehand? Weeks ago?  What if someone had really listened to him months ago and responded with “What do you mean? Is this something you’re concerned about? I hear you. Tell me more. What do you think will happen next?” Could we have gotten help for him?

I understand that this cannot undo the damage that has been done. There’s been a lot of damage. Lives have been lost. We must grieve.  I’m just thinking that as I move forward, as I grow, as I try to love fearlessly, that maybe I need to listen more courageously.  Not ignoring. Not hoping someone else will deal with it.  Not writing it off because it’s not my problem, but fearlessly asking the questions. Listening.  People who are hurting do not usually do the most drastic thing first.  Acts of desperation come from smaller pain that escalates. Sometimes the signs are there beforehand.  Sometimes it’s just a whisper.  Ignored whispers become screams.  Ignored screams become acts of desperation. What would happen if I listen when people are indicating pain?

When someone is talking about depression, or suicide, can I make a difference if I were to respond with “What do you mean? Is this something you’re concerned about? I hear you. Tell me more. What do you think will happen next?”

When someone is talking about anger, and wanting to inflict violence can I make a difference by responding with “What do you mean? Is this something you’re concerned about? I hear you. Tell me more. What do you think will happen next?”

When a nation of people are demonstrating their pain, can I make a difference by responding with “What do you mean? Is this something you’re concerned about? I hear you. Tell me more. What do you think will happen next?”

When someone is hinting about abuse/violence/neglect in their own home, can I make a difference by responding with “What do you mean? Is this something you’re concerned about? I hear you. Tell me more. What do you think will happen next?”

Could I make a difference if I just listened?

Lord, help me to listen to others.  Help me to respond to other people’s hearts when it is early enough to hear, to understand, to help.  Help me to be brave enough to ask difficult questions, to be there for others, to respond and help before their pain becomes “too big.” Help me to listen to people when they are whispering for help so that they don’t have to scream for help.  Lord, help me to intercede and intervene (or at least just listen) before another person’s pain escalates into an act of desperation.

Lord, surround me with others who will also listen.  When I am struggling, let me be near another who will hear me.  When my pain becomes “too big” and I am on the path toward  a bad decision, self-harm, or any other act of desperation, place people in my life who love fearlessly. People who will ask tough questions. People who will listen.

Lord, help me to be brave. Hope and healing happen in the light.   Topics like shootings, domestic violence, suicide, substance abuse, racism, hatred, sexual assault, and fear must be talked about—in the Light. We can not heal if we turn our faces away from these things. Help me to courageously speak up for humanity.  More importantly, help me to LISTEN to humanity. Help me to listen and respond when it is just a whisper. Help me to listen and respond when I hear a scream. Help me to listen and respond before it becomes an act of desperation.

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Later (#NaPoWriMo2017 – Day One)

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     Two pine trees stand next to each other, like best friends who have walked next to each other for a lifetime — buddies, pals, comrades.  I can practically visualize their outstretched hands, in the form of a hammock, reaching to each other in perfect backyard bliss. Immediately, I know that I must go shopping. Several stores later, I find the colorful hammock that promises rest and relaxation.  The tropical colors sing Caribbean beaches and mango-flavored moments.  This is the one.  I buy it, bring it home, and put it in the garage.  It is getting dark and there are papers to grade, dishes to wash, and laundry to fold.  The afternoon of spring warmth and hope sets with the sun, and the hammock will get hung up the next time I have an hour to spare.


Backyard hammock bliss —
Roped between trees and wishes —
To enjoy “someday.”

“The haibun is a combination of prose and haiku. It was originally developed as a sort of travelogue or character sketch , in which the writer would first describe a place in prose, and then pen a haiku appropriate to the place or scene.”  –  (This was actually the prompt from 3/31, not the one for 4/1, but that’s okay.)  http://www.napowrimo.net/

Later

Love Letter to America

Dear America,

Love can save us.  Trust me, I know.

My childhood was not a lovely one.  I was the youngest, and therefore the most helpless, child of a very broken family.  Alcoholism, domestic violence, and several types of abuse were some of the secrets we kept (or thought we kept) hidden within our household. When life was not a place of fear and terror, it was a place of shame and doubt.  Love saved me. One of the first times that I confronted love was in the book Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  I know it seems silly that a book about a donkey and a little red marble could show me what love looks like.  It was Sylvester’s parents who got through to me. They grieved when their adored son, Sylvester, couldn’t be found.  I realized that love could look like grieving.  My next encounter with love was the Frances books by Russell Hoban.  Frances was lovable, though she was sometimes stubborn, selfish, and childish. Frances had wise caring people in her life who helped her grow and change. I learned that love is not abrasive and that love can transform.

I watched my dad encounter love in the Alcoholics Anonymous book (the Big Book) as he read accounts of other recovering alcoholics sharing their experience, strength, and hope. Yes, I ended up reading the whole book cover-to-cover, too.  I was watching it transform my father, so I just had to read it.  I knew there was good stuff in there!

Book by book, chapter by chapter, page by page, I have been transformed as I have encountered love in books.  I have realized that I am not alone. I have realized that my shortcomings don’t have to be permanent.  I have learned that people are resilient, and I can be too.   I learned that there is hope.  Since then, I have tried to share this love with others.  I like helping my students and friends find the right book. The book that will speak to their hearts.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon Donalyn Miller’s words that put voice to what I was trying to do with books.  On page 9 of The Book Whisperer, Donalyn explains how she and her husband have use books to express themselves and their hearts to each other with “Books are our love letter (or apologies) passed between us, adding a layer of conversation beyond our spoken words.”

For over a week, I have been beyond words. I know that to heal, to move forward, I need to use my voice, but there is too much to articulate.  I also know that I need to love. Fearlessly.  So, America, I want to express my love for you.  Here is my love letter to you in the form of books.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Even when it seems that the world (or in Melinda’s case, the entire high school) is against you, and you are hurting alone, find your safe place, your safe person, and speak.

Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

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Sometimes the best way to help a friend is to listen to what she is not saying.

 

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

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When a friend encourages you to be yourself, your toughest critic might finally accept you as you are, even if your toughest critic is your own father.

 

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

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Wait, do you really expect me to tell you a tiny little thing about each book on this list?  Just read this one!  Trust me!

One For the Murphys by Lynda Mullay Hunt

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Even those of us who feel we are undeserving of love, are indeed loved.

 

Love the Baby by Steven Layne

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Jealousy can cause hatred, but seeing another’s vulnerability and humanity can sometimes be what we need to help us love.

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

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“If you plant a seed of kindness, in almost no time at all, the fruits of kindness will grow and grow and grow.”

 

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

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Sometimes love looks like a bald, chipped-tooth, taxi-driving coach who pushes you to be better.

 

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

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Love, especially sacrificial love, trumps everything no matter how terrifying, dark, and powerful a certain force may appear to be.

 

A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un Tiempo Perfecto Para Soñar by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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Find someone you trust and share your dreams.

My Secret Camera: Life in the Lodz Ghetto by Frank Dabba Smith, with photographs by Mendel Grossman

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Even in the worst of times, connecting with others, laughter, and love helps us persevere.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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Pay attention to how you treat others, and remember that even small amounts of kindness can ripple outward and change the world.

 

America, this is a teeny tiny list, and there are countless books that will remind you who you are to the world, and who the world should be to you.  These are just a few that I have on my coffee table right now, reminding me that there is hope. Start with one of these, or choose another book, but read, love, transform, and be transformed.
Fondly,

Julie Hoffman

 

 

 

NaPoWriMo – Day 18

The Sounds of Home

 

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Laughter
Sounds of sanders, sawdust, and creativity
10 pound bags of potatoes
spattering in the Fry-Daddy
While Dad sings and makes us laugh
Laughter

Tears, crying, sorrow, pain
Fighting, fear, fighting, fear

Hope
Healing
Takes Guts
Gut-wrenching
truth TruTh TRUTH
Gut-wrenching
Takes Guts
Healing
Hope

Fighting, tears, overcoming fear,
Dare, growing, grief, heal

Laughter
While Dad sings and makes us laugh
Spattering paint in the basement
10 gallon bucket of possibilities
Sounds of sanders, sawdust, and creativity
Laughter

NaPoWriMo