“One problem I see with those of us who want to be humane is that while we invariably support calls for justice at a macro level, some of us are not above taking advantage in our personal, day-to-day dealings. I once rented a room in a house full of Marxists, and one of them was one of the least just individuals I’ve ever met. Yet he regularly marched in favor of justice for the oppressed peoples of this world. If we want peace, it’s essential that we be peaceful. And if we want justice, we have to be just—down to the smallest transactions. I think a lot of people can agree with this easily. But there are always “grey areas.” That’s where we have to be especially disciplined and thoughtful.” -Mark Bittner, We Must Be Just, April 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jane's Journey - The Beginning of Difficult Choices

Jane is a good person. She is a wife and mother who is very happy in her home and personal relationships. She has many interests and hobbies that she pursues, as time allows. She is also a religious woman who deeply values the principles that have been formed from her religious, philosophical, philanthropic, and social studies. She has taken, and continues to take, great care in developing her mind in order to form just, intelligent opinions. And while she may not be considered an intellectual giant, building her mental faculties and thinking and reasoning abilities, through learning, is a daily pursuit for her.

She strives to better herself through the increase of knowledge of those things that matter to her.  In her religious studies, she has learned that it is a good thing to deepen personal knowledge of many things so that she may be an asset to those she associates with as well as to her community. Yet, she struggles to find acceptance among many of her peers. Why? Jane is unsure. She has a kind heart and only desires to help and bring happiness to others in any capacity she can, even if it is only to teach others what she has learned. She has never been profuse with her opinions, typically keeping them to herself unless specifically sought out by another, or occasionally offered during a discussion. She feels very strongly that learning is part of her life calling, but because of the scornful treatment she has received from some when sharing her insights, she prefers not to participate unless she feels strongly that she should do so. The friendships and connections that Jane shares with other women are important to her. She longs to be able to express herself without fear of losing them.

Attending religious services is an important part of Jane’s life. Compassion, sympathy, unconditional love, acceptance, and many other important principles have, in part, been obtained through her religious studies and church participation. She desires to help others with the knowledge that she has worked hard to obtain, but when her opinions are offered, there are some who, instead of joining the discussion, turn to gossip or even openly ridicule. Jane wants to belong among the women in her religious community, so she typically chooses to keep to herself--most of the time--in order to get along. However, she no longer has the desire to hide behind the façade she has created for herself in order to fit in and to be accepted.

On one recent occasion, Jane offered a comment during a religious discussion. Some of the women in the room were observed bumping their elbows and rolling their eyes in disdain. In a room full of 30 or more women, only one of them had the courage to speak up in support. This was done kindly and tactfully. It was not the first time Jane’s opinions have been derided, but it was the first time, to her knowledge, that another woman was willing to stand with her, by speaking up directly in her favor and praising her for sharing her thoughts. Unfortunately, just one voice in a crowded room wasn’t enough to alleviate her feelings of loneliness in a community that preaches sisterhood. Jane realizes that not all of the women in the room observed this unbecoming behavior, and there are women who have been kind to her, but she has struggled for so long to be a part of an organization of women only to be met more with the lack of honest friendship and personal interest in who she really is by all but a very few.

Jane is at a crossroads: does she continue her struggle to maintain her façade in order to avoid being ridiculed, perhaps even ostracized by the women in her congregation, or does she allow herself to shine as she feels she was meant to, even if it also means loneliness instead of relationships with other women or even close friends? Jane realizes that this decision won’t only affect her, it will affect her whole family. Her husband fully understands and supports her and will walk the path with her, but she knows her children could be adversely affected. The thought that they will lose friends is a painful one, knowing that it will be, in part, due to the choices of their mother. Teaching her children religious principles is important to her, and she will continue to teach them; but the thought that they should feel unwelcome or be mistreated because of her actions is a large part of what maintains her façade. Jane has no desire to hurt anyone, so how can she address her own hurt? Is there a place where the women love and respect each other, even while speaking candidly about their thoughts and feelings? Where can Jane go to find the sisterhood she searches for?

This is Jane’s journey. This is the beginning of difficult choices.

Soaring Potential

To fly with an eagle is to see sights unseen, as starlings fill the skies.

Even that little brown bird on the ground knows where it’s potential lies.

The ostrich and emu share a common trait, running is their forté.

Other birds, when allowed to be, seem to enjoy their play

A bobbing cockatoo dancing on it’s perch is truly a silly sight.

Now imagine that bird, free with its flock, as it passes in graceful flight.

Have you ever seen a pandemonium of parrots descend upon a tree back home?

For, you see, in reality, parrots weren’t bred to be alone.

The nightingale brings beauty to our ears, the peacock beauty to our eyes.

While all through the trees, where the mourning doves roost, hang the mourning dove’s mournful cries.

The flamingo stands on one leg for hours, while the penguin soars through the deep.

And though variety abounds throughout, they’re all birds from their very first peep.

There are birds that mimic, birds that screech and birds that can sing a soothing tune.

There are birds that welcome the morning as it breaks and birds who serenade the moon.

There is beauty to be found throughout the world of birds. Still, and none the less,

Only a bird, who is allowed to soar free, knows it’s own potential best.

“Do not do what someone else could do as well as you. Do not say, do not write what someone else could say, could write as well as you. Care for nothing in yourself but what you feel exists nowhere else. And, out of yourself create, impatiently or patiently, the most irreplaceable of beings.”

André Gide

"All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education"
- Sir Walter Scott