A Place At The Table

28 Feb 2014

2/16/14

A Place At The Table

I didn’t have an active role in the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. During Reverend King’s March on Washington, I was a twelve year old white girl. I didn’t understand the implications of that march: I hadn’t felt the blows of discrimination that lay on the Colored race, as I had been taught to call them. But I did know it was important, for I had seen the chains of “otherness” that kept any person of color from going to the same places I walked. I had seen the “Whites Only” water fountain in the town where my family went to the doctor. I had stood on opposite sides of the country road from my colored neighbors and watched them get on a different school bus then I did, to go to a “separate” school. And I had wondered why.
I was in a math class with the boy who integrated my Prince William County Virginia junior high school. I came to call him my friend. I was student teaching when Norfolk City Schools integrated, and I saw the fear to opening up an equal place at the table for all children exhibited by thirteen and fourteen year old white boys.
I taught in what were predominately Black schools from my first teaching assignment (Blair Junior High School in Norfolk) throughout my complete teaching career (Suitland High School and William Wirt Middle School in Prince George County Maryland). Each child who entered my classroom enhanced not only the class, but me as well.
I never joined a sit-in. I never marched with Reverend King. I never put my life on the line. But I cheered and embraced each step toward equality that was forged. I supported the NAACP in its efforts to change our society’s views on race. I thrilled when the United States of America elected our first president of color. Part of me said, “At last we have put it all behind us and equality is achieved.” But when racism reared its ugly head in comments made by my white students about President Obama, another part of me said, “We have a ways to go yet.”
So we come to today. There is still rampant racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) within secret pockets of our society. I decry any act or law that keeps someone from living a life equal to every other person in society. Using a broader brush, I condemn laws that seek to control women’s reproductive rights; that still view young Black males as thugs and threats to the mainstream white population; that allows any business to refuse service to a customer because of their cultural attire or their sexual preference or the color of their skin; that refuses to allow two people of different races (as Virginia did until 1966) or two people of different religions or two people of the same sex to join their lives together in a legal marriage; that allows the police to stop and question someone solely because of their skin color or ethnic dress; and that in any way keeps one people, group, culture in a “less than” position in our country. We are the land of opportunity and equality. Let’s live up to it.

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Sun Rise

24 Feb 2014

2/23/14
Sun Rise

Fingers of light creep through the trees
Like first stirrings of forest fire.
Blazing ruby red. Rosy glow.

Gradually fingers become
Orange, then yellow, as the sun
Lifts itself out of the woods line.

Drifts into the trees, tenderly
Draping each branch with lovely light.
Caressing naked limbs gently.

Then in a bound, the sun appears
In all his power and glory.
A blinding bright orb hurling light.

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Sun Shift

24 Feb 2014

2/24/14
Sun Shift

I wake to grey dawn. Morning is aborning as I get up. No more rising in the nighttime darkness, stumbling around waiting for the sun. As if by magic, the first faint blush of light now appears before my alarm clock comes awake. The tide of Winter has turned, and Spring is on its way.

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Snow Morning

24 Feb 2014

2/14/14

Snow Morning

The field stretches forth like a blank canvas, smooth, white, and untouched. By night it will be marked with the brush strokes of little bird paths, galloping dog paw prints, and the side-by-side trails of human feet. Slowly the smoothness will settle to reveal the spiky heads of sleeping grass blades and the undulations of the land.

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2/7/14

The Affordable Care Act: Act 1

I have watched the battles waged over the Affordable Care Act, or “Obama Care”, as some label it. I support this act because over the nearly forty years I worked in education I knew many parents who wanted but could not afford health insurance for their children. They sent their sick children to school because at least there they would be given an aspirin or Tylenol and allowed to rest in the nurse’s office. If they stayed home, either the parent had to miss work, i.e. no pay that day, or the child would be home alone with their illness. In dire conditions, the emergency room was their doctor’s office. I see this act as a gift to those parents and a road to a healthier population.
The latest naysayers’ reports state that ACA will cause an estimated 800,000 workers (Editorial on 2/6/14in the Daily Progress) to forgo full-time jobs for part-time jobs in order to gain cheaper health care. While this may be true for a segment of the population, I think most people, when offered a fulltime job that would improve the quality of their lives, would not reject it because their health insurance would be higher if they took the job. To them, paying their bills, providing for their family, and being a productive member of our society would weigh more than cheaper health care costs.

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Pregnant Sky

24 Feb 2014

2/9/14

Pregnant Sky

The sky squats pregnant over the earth, waiting to give birth to snow.

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1/26/14

Adolescent Mental Health Care

Referencing an article, “A child’s struggle won’t just go away”, in the Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1/26/14.

Gus Deeds’ attack on his father, Creigh Deeds (Virginia state Senator) and his subsequent suicide, has brought the shortage of mental health facilities in Virginia to the public awareness. What should be more shocking is that if there is a shortage of beds for adults with emotional distress in Virginia, beds for children and adolescents are even fewer in the state.
When my child had a breakdown in 2006, I was shocked to be told there were no facilities for adolescents in Charlottesville. None. With UVA Hospital touted as a state of the art medical facility, why is there nothing there for the child in a mental crisis? The closest hospital was in Richmond, and it had no open beds. Only Fredericksburg and Virginia Beach had openings. Virginia Beach would have prohibited us visiting daily, so we chose Fredericksburg. Each day we drove the one and a half hour trip to see our child, and the one and a half hour trip back home each night. We were lucky that we found a bed that close.
My family was blessed that we had insurance that covered the ten day stay in the hospital. We had insurance that covered the intensive psychiatrist’s sessions she underwent when she was released from the hospital, plus her personal counselor’s meetings once a week. What would have happened to a child with no insurance to cover any of that? Would the family have to stop therapy, something that would never be a part of their limited budget?
The article in the Progress made this statement:

Treatment of children is simply not cost-efficient. So the answer has been to
eliminate mental health facilities and services for children, not only in Virginia but
across the country. One can only suppose that the rationale for these budget cuts and
elimination of services for mental health treatment is the assumption that children
will eventually grow out of their abnormal or maladaptive behaviors.

It seems to me that parents, schools, and society as well, believe that a troubled child will “outgrow” their emotionally problems. How often has that been proven wrong. How many mass shooting does it take before we all say, “Enough!”
As a former teacher, I know that remediation early heads off future educational problems. If a child cannot read, don’t send him on to grades where more reading is required. Deal with it early, and the child will not learn to hate school, become a behavior problem, and feel like a failure later. Likewise, children with emotional issues need to be dealt with early. Start working with the source of their problem when it is still a tiny root. If you wait, the root sprouts other roots and stems and leaves, and soon you have a tree to deal with, not a root
Of course treating mental illness is not simple. If it was simple, there would be no mentally ill people. We’d be a healthy, perfectly sane society. It costs money to treat a person’s personality disorder. Money for individual therapy. Money for family therapy. Money for medications. Money for hospitals, if it comes to that. But doesn’t thousands of dollars weigh less than the death of innocent people? Or one, when the mentally ill person kills themselves? When they take their life in either one second’s violence, or over years with drugs and alcohol abuse.

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Diamond Morning

10 Feb 2014

2/9/14

Diamond Morning

The sun dances in swirling and twirling splashes across a sparkling diamond studded field. It is as if Cinderella, running by at midnight, had hastily sown her jewels in a wide swath behind her. And now gallant Prince Sun is following her glittering trail.

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A Man of Courage

06 Feb 2014

1/28/14

A Man of Courage

The nineteen-sixties.
The phone rings.
A co-worker of his wife.
Fleeing violence
in the house where
she and her
daughter live.
Nowhere to go.
He looks at his wife.
So much to
consider.
His people will
disapprove.
The “white man”
could burn, bomb,
his house;
his business:
Lynch, murder.
His own family
in the balance.
But he opened the door
to a white woman
with a white child.
Gave them his own
son’s bed.
Followed Christ’s
call to see Him
in all who need.
He chose courage.

Dedicated to Willie Thomas, Sr.

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