Redefining his summit

We came to a sudden halt just a few miles from the end of our trek. Why were we stopping?

I was sixth in line, a couple of hundred feet from my son who was in the lead. We’d assumed lightning spacing a mile or so before, remembering the ranger’s advice if we got caught in the middle of one of Philmont’s daily thunderstorms.

“Keep at least 50 feet apart on the trail, so that if one of you gets hit by lightning, it doesn’t jump from one person to the other.”

The sky rumbled and my annoyance grew in concert with the intensity of the rain. We didn’t have time for a break if we were going to beat the storm back to base camp. My son turned to look up the line as I walked toward him, and my frustration became concern as I got close enough to see the fear in his face.

Continue reading →

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The wisdom of a driver named Minnie

I heard her pleasant good evening, how are you all tonight? as I ducked my head into her Chevy Cruze, barely making out her profile in the driver’s seat, that five o’clock view you get of most Uber drivers’ faces. Minnie was our ride from the hotel to a Latin restaurant a few miles away, our short connection a happenstance of supply and demand at the right time, right place. Her voice was as pleasant as the smile that graced the corner of her mouth and her personality filled the car with joy.

Our trip didn’t last more than a few minutes, but we learned that Minnie was born in rural Northern Arkansas, not far from Memphis. She’d spent years in Detroit but moved to Louisville for a new start away from a once vibrant Motor City.

I was there when our mayor smoked crack, she noted.

Ah, good old Marion Barry, I chuckled.

She was quick to defend her former home and her family members that still live there. They’re doing a lot better now. 

She told us about her mother who’d recently passed — the glue of their family, the reason for all coming together on a regular basis. Her family was a United NationsWe had blacks, and Asians, and Caucasians, and Puerto Ricans. And we all came together. She worried that they’d drift apart now that their matriarch was gone.

As we approached our destination One of us commented how upside-down the world seems right now. Minnie paused, and said matter-of-factly, We just need a little more love. Love is easy. It takes effort to hate. 

Her words bounced around in my mind and heart as we stepped out of the car and wished her a wonderful evening.

Love is easy. It takes effort to hate. 

 

 

 

Recognizing Myself, Again

A year ago, I wrote these words of hope on the eve of my 45th birthday …

I look down at my hand and wonder what it will look like in another 45 years. Will it recite the stories of my hard work? Will it show the lines of caring for those I love? Will it tell me that I’ve done my best? Will it look like the hand of the man, the human, I want to be?

I sit here on the day of my 46th, knowing that I didn’t do my best at 45. I wasn’t the human I wanted to be. I let circumstance and the actions of others control me. I let anger and frustration get the best of me. From the grand stage of national news to the most intimate moments of my personal life, most of my year was spent in reaction instead of intent. I felt like a prize fighter swinging out of desperation, punch drunk by a volley of shots to the head, unsure if my corner of retreat existed any longer.

I no longer saw the future clearly. Continue reading →

Finding My Voice in We the People

In the weeks following the presidential election, I felt unhinged. I tried to find my words in posts about being an ally and being told I wasn’t doing enough. My daily stress levels, partially self-inflicted, were unsustainable. I walked away from social media because I couldn’t see straight through the fear that saturated my feeds.

I needed some quiet.

I needed to be quiet.

I needed to let the silence answer a question for me. Where do I go from here? How do I find my voice in our national discourse? Continue reading →

I’ve retired my safety pin

Wearing a safety pin is just a way for white people to feel good about themselves.

I read those words a couple of weeks after the election, while a silver safety pin graced the collar of my jacket. I’d been wearing the safety pin given to me by a friend as a symbol of love for and solidarity with family, friends, and strangers who felt betrayed and frightened by the rhetoric of the victor. So many people who looked like me — white men — had voted decisively against them. I was angry, embarrassed and honestly crushed that so many people who looked like me voted for the candidate who publicly disparaged women and minorities. I wore the safety pin not to feel better, but to somehow say to others, “I’m not one of them.” Continue reading →

A letter to my son on being an ally

Hey, bud. It’s been a week, hasn’t it? My head and heart are still in shambles. I feel broken. The world feels broken. The country I thought I knew feels foreign, like we’ve sacrificed our moral authority.

First, I want to say how proud I am of you. You’re 14. You got interested in this election without my prompting. I didn’t know you were becoming active until I saw a few of your tweets a while back. Yes, your views aligned strongly with mine, but that wasn’t the point. You were becoming active, vocal in your own way. You were becoming a citizen. Continue reading →

An Indelible Reminder

tattooI’ve spent much of my life, the last decade in particular, trying on different skins, looking for the one that felt right. I was searching for the man I wanted and needed to be.

I wanted to both feel right and be in the right.

There are times when I’ve craved a blank slate, a new canvas on which to start over. Blank slates, though, are fallacies. Impossibilities. Figments of our imagination. Our history can’t be rewritten or erased. It’s what lies under our skin.

I thought I was looking for the right skin. Continue reading →