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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Stay Gold (texts to accompany The Outsiders)

Thank you, Mary Stassen, for inspiring this text list!  As requested, you will find books, videos, and a Newsela text set to serve as additional resources when you read The Outsiders with your class.  When you can, buy your books at an independent bookstore.  Anderson’s Bookshop is one of my favorites!

 

Newsela.Com text Set “Stay Gold!

BOOKS WITH SIMILAR THEMES AND/OR DISCUSSION POINTS

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander      

Josh Bell is a baller and a twin brother.  He needs to sort out what he has in common with his brother and how he is different.  He also needs to face the medical issue going on with his dad.

 

Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess  

This novel-in-verse tells the story of Blade and his broken rock-n-roll family.  Blade grieves the loss of his mom and the shame of  his drug-addicted father by writing his own songs.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson 

Melinda is miserable at school.  Kids laugh at her and make it obvious that they are doing so.  They are still mad at her about something that happened over the summer.  As she struggles through each day, she is trying to heal.  She was the one who was hurt, but nobody will know until she finds her voice.

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous 

This book is the diary of a high-school girl who Runs away from home, and gets mixed up with drugs.  At some points she seems like she has the world ahead of her.  Other times, she seems so lost . . .

 

Tyrell by Coe Booth  

Tyrell can’t get a break.  His mom is useless.  His dad is in jail.  He’s got a kid brother that needs too much from him, and a girlfriend that wants too much from him. All he wants is a place to live, and a new start.

Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes   

Wesley doesn’t write the required essay for Mr. Ward’s class, but he writes a poem. This leads to an open mic poetry event every week in Mr. Ward’s class.  Girls and boys from different races, cultures, and circumstances open up to each other through their shared words.


Between the Lines by Nikki Grimes (Available February 2018)
In this companion/sequel to Bronx Masquerade, Darrin is a  budding news reporter.  He and Mr. Ward bring back open mic poetry and a new group of students learn about each other through shared vulnerability.

 

Joseph: A Novel by Sheila P. Moses  

Joseph is about to start at a new school.  The problem is, it’s hard to get to know anyone when you can’t talk about your life.  Joseph and his mom live in a homeless shelter, because she can’t keep a steady job with her drug and alcohol addictions.  Joseph is trying to figure out how to help her while he also tries to deal with his own life.

Bottled Up by Jaye Murray  

Pip is desperate to escape his life – he skips school, drinks, and gets high trying to escape.  When Pip gets in trouble at school,  the principal gives him an ultimatum:  See a counselor, or his dad will be called.  Pip will do ANYTHING to avoid his father, so he sees the counselor, who wants him to see what he’s doing to himself and to his little brother.

Handbook for Boys by Walter Dean Myers   

Jimmy and Kevin could really use a guide to life.

Their activities almost land them in juvenile detention until Duke employs them in his Harlem barbershop. Duke has rules for everything. But is he offering good advice or just more aggravation?

Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers    

Lately everybody’s messing with Jamal. His teachers, the kids at school, even his dad. And now that Jamal’s brother Randy’s in the slam, Crazy Mack has a crazy idea. He wants Jamal to take control of the Scorpions and run crack.

All the gang jive–Jamal has no use for it. Unless, like some say, it’s the only way to “get money” for Randy’s appeal…

The story of twelve-year-old Jamal, whose life changes drastically when he acquires a gun.

 

I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets:
Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure
by Larry Smith

Based on Earnest Hemingway’s six-word-story, teens wrote their own six-word-memoirs—powerful, vulnerable, truth-telling memoirs.

 

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser   

After getting caught with drugs, fifteen year-old Garrett is sent to Lake Harmony, a disciplinary boot camp for troubled teens.  At the boot camp, Garrett is abused and controlled until he “obeys all orders immediately and without hesitation.”  Part of him wants to escape, and part of him is terrified to break any more rules.  Can he escape while he still has his own personality?

Teen Angst? Naaah… by Ted Vizzini  

Ned’s angsty teen memoirs can be read in order, or not.  Each chapter is complete and can  stand alone.

YOUTUBE VIDEOS 

Thug Notes: The Outsiders (Warning: Explicit Language)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJl3cEOpFH4

Gone With the Wind in 60 Seconds
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIpNvvVN13Y

Bunnies: Gone With the Wind
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsOIn0IBAdA

Interview with S.E. Hinton
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJnfleLeOZg

Robert Frost recites “Nothing Gold Can Stay”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDPUdK2tcdA

Stop-Action Animation “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (Good For CCSS RL7)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLYj1A5Z_t8

 

When I Grow Up, I want to be a Fire Truck

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-6-22-30-pmFire truck

I remember looking through
an old childhood book,
In which I had added
My two cents.
With all of my sense,
And my backward-letter
Penmanship, I had plotted
my plans
on the page.

“When I grow up
I want to be
a firetruck.”

Since then,
I had laughed at
Such silly, sophomoric
Sentiment.

“Look,” I’d say, and point
at my self-prescribed,
Pre-school script.
“I really took it to heart
When they told me I could be
Anything I wanted.
A firetruck?
What could I have
Been thinking?”

But, tonight,
As I listed and lamented
The long list of
Other occupations

I had once considered:

Interior designer,
Psychologist,
Cultural anthropologist,
I realized something. . .

Haven’t I since,
In a sense,
Become all of these things?

Except for the fire truck.

But that, perhaps, is
What I am to become.

I still
Want to be
A fire truck!

You see, of a fire truck,

Nobody has ever said:

“Don’t listen to her,
she’s just overreacting.”

“He’s making all of that noise,
Because he didn’t get his way.”

When fire truck wails and screams,
nobody says:

“She has become angry and bitter.”

“Maybe he wants something to really cry about.”

“She’s probably about to get her period.”

“He’s being irrational and crazy.”

As the fire truck
Declares an emergency,
Nobody dismisses it with:

“I don’t know why she is crying. It was her own fault.”

“There he goes, getting all political again.”

“She has no reason to be upset.
She is just being manipulative.”

“Dude, seriously?
Are you complaining again?”

But, a fire truck is respected,
Heard, heeded, honored.

The fire truck is a warrior,
Shouting out
An alarm call,
A barbaric yawp,
A siren cry to save lives.

The fire truck is
not a second-hand good.
Not a victim,

A fire truck is not
Something to be seen and not heard,
But instead,
Is a voice.
A voice that matters.

A voice that pushes through denial
Saying
“Hey!
There is something wrong here.
I can point it out.
I can lead the way.
Hear me.”

I still
Want to be
A fire truck!