Sunday, July 10, 2016

Opening Our Eyes

I have a love/hate relationship with The New York Times. A friend bought me an online subscription this year - awesome gift. On my phone I now get push notifications for the paper. Many times I will click on the home button to check the time and see a notification that makes me smile like, "Job growth in the U.S. roared back in June with a gain of 287,000..." Unfortunately, of late, that is often outweighed with notifications that tell me of violence. 

Sometimes I wonder if my heart can handle much more. The violence worldwide seems to only be escalating, yet I know the world is much safer than even when I was growing up. I have to wonder why I feel that way. If it is just the constant news, if the media spins everything, or what. And then I realize it doesn't matter if it's safer, we still have so much work to do.

My Facebook feed for the past week has been filled with Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, and Police Lives Matter posts. As I've read, I grow more and more thankful for Carolyn Shields. I've mentioned Carolyn before. She was a professor in a social justice class I took for my administration degree. Before taking her class I think I would have considered myself "color-blind" that I saw people equally. Through uncomfortable and hard conversations with both Professor Shields and my classmates, I began to realize that I was saying that from a point of privilege. Of course we see color. 

My friend posted about this on Facebook yesterday. He mentioned that he can't "keep calm", he has a black son. And while not everyone in my community gets it, I do. Since reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates I keep thinking about race and raising children. Recently I was listening to Luke and his friends playing in the backyard. He had a Go-Pro strapped to his head because they were making a movie. The other boys had hoodies on with their hoods pulled up. There were Nerf Guns galore splayed across the backyard. The boys would gather together, discuss the next scene, and begin racing around the backyards of our neighbors. Shouts rang out, fake fights were scripted and taped, and they made their movie. I stood at the window watching them from our kitchen, tears running down my face. I had no fear that they would get in trouble for this moment, and neither did they. If their skin was darker, if we lived somewhere else, I don't know that I could have felt that way. We absolutely live in a world of privilege. 

This afternoon I'm driving several hours to get to Michigan for NerdCamp. Tomorrow I present on building our classroom libraries. For that presentation I purchased some books to hand out to folks attending. When considering what books to buy I picked three that were part of my library last year, that I felt were important in some way. Picking these books made me think once again about the importance of books as windows and mirrors. When I want to scream in despair as I read Facebook posts, I'm reminded that screaming isn't the answer. Sitting in Carolyn Shields class, I was ignorant, but didn't realize it. She didn't yell at me, but showed me the way. The different was I was willing to open my eyes. So many seem to only see their own side, not willing to consider others. That is dangerous, but we can't yell, we need to have conversation.

Reading the news makes my heart hurt for so many communities. Looking at status updates, I wonder if we can just open our hearts, and our minds, a little bit. In my tiny corner of the world, diversity is minimal, but it's changing. The conversation I've seen online has had bright spots. More and more people have come together as I did in my class, ready to learn. Ready to grow. Stories will save us, of this I am certain. Stories can teach us empathy. Stories can bring about understanding. Let's keep sharing and keep the conversation going.

For further reading, please check out Franki Sibberson's blog post from yesterday. (HERE) Not only is the post great, but she has a curated list of online reading that is amazing.