Here’s the part where I tell an embarrassing story about myself.
When I was in ninth grade I went to Chaska High School, Chaska being a town west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the time it was way out from the Twin Cities, and was borderline rural. Lots of cornfields and open spaces. Prince had his big Paisley Park mansion/studio in the area and we used to see if we could find it…on foot.
Before coming to the area, we had only lived in Minneapolis. Not in “the hood” or anything but I was in public school and was around lots of different kinds of people with many different backgrounds.
There were lots of kids for whom English was a new language,
kids from southeast Asia,
kids from Caucasian backgrounds and
African American kids,
Kids with hyphenated names and kids with Americanized names.
(The luckies got to have two names, while I was stuck with mine, unable to change it to Billie like I wanted.)
We were all part of an equal mix of the elementary school experience.
There was no one who was off-limits for friendship on the basis of color — the off-limits were determined by who was mean or ate boogers. Gross, but true.
When we moved out of Minneapolis, the experience was jarring and very different. Diversity was so natural that up to that point.
-Cue the embarrassing story.-
So I was in ninth grade. It was 1989. I think I was in science class. I’d been sitting there — palms sweating, heart racing, — waiting for the teacher to call my name for attendance. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know if I’d be able to make myself do it. What would people say? Would they understand? Would I get in trouble?
It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and there was no assembly.
There were no posters.
There had been no discussions, no required reports, no broadcasting of any famous speeches or reading or famous letters.
There was no marking of remembrance or respect for the life of this great man.
I didn’t care if we got a day off from school. I just wanted there to be some acknowledgement that he had made a difference, a monumental difference in the way we conducted ourselves everafter.
And there was nothing.
So I sat there, waiting for the teacher to call my name.
Then he did.
The room was silent.
I stood up. I gathered my books. I told him that I had to go, that I had to go to a birthday party for someone very important to me.
Somehow I had the idea that the holiday was chosen to mark his birthday, which was actually on January 15, 1929. The legislation that was signed into law in 1983 marked the holiday on the third Monday in January and was supposed to begin being observed by 1986. Find out more here: http://bit.ly/1jblo0n
I picked up my books, walked out the door and down the hallway until I found my locker. I put away my books and sat on the cold tile floor until it was time to go to my next class. My statement had been made.
No one walked out after me.
The teacher didn’t chase me down. There was no follow-up, no meeting with a school counselor and I got into no trouble.
I don’t remember if I went to my other classes. I must have, because I didn’t have a car and so couldn’t have left school. I only remember walking out of one class that day. I remember being scared but feeling that someone must do something to get attention on the issue. The administration should know this was important and they should be teaching about Martin Luther King Jr, even if there were no kids of color at the school — it was even more essential to teach about him so that the discrimination of the past wouldn’t continue to be the unspoken norm of the present.
Telling this story, I realize now that my actions did not result in any external changes. The only thing that happened was something in myself.
Do you have any memories specifically tied to Martin Luther King Jr.? What impact do his teachings and life have on the way you view the world?
Thrift stores are a treasure trove, especially for those things families outgrow like books, toys, sports equipment, and games.
I walked out of a local thrift store with Boggle Jr., Clue Jr., Sorry, and Chutes and Ladders, in addition to a new green splinter-less butterfly net, a hot commodity at my house.
You probably grew up playing Chutes and Ladders but this week was my first time. My whole crew sat around and played it together; I think my kids are at the perfect ages since they are five, seven and nine years old.A quick refresher on Chutes and Ladders; you spin the…spinner (is there another word for it?) and move your piece on the game board. The great twist to this game is the addition of chutes or slides, and ladders. If you land on a chute, it takes you back a bunch of spaces. If you land on a ladder, you get launched forward a bunch of spots.
They could have stopped there, but the game creators took it one more step. They incorporated drawings to indicate cause and effect. If you mow the lawn, you are rewarded with a trip to the circus. Pull the cat’s tail, slide down the chute to the picture of you with all sorts of Band Aids and the cat licking its paws. Do this, and that will happen.
I don’t think that every moment in a child’s day needs to have a moral lesson, but this game makes it SO easy. The next time we play I plan to use specific, real-life examples from my kids’ lives to illustrate the cause and effect lessons.
Wouldn’t it be great if it was as obvious for us adults?
Many times it seems like there aren’t the immediate consequences of childhood, positive and negative.
Pad the books, and you will probably get away with it for a while before anyone notices.
Stay late and help out your fellow workers, and it can take a superior a long time to pay any attention to your extra efforts.
The cause and effect is delayed.
I really believe the strength of character required to do the right thing makes it worth it because of the internal reward. However, it is important to weigh our motives, because even something that can sound like a good idea, if not done with the right motive, can be less than noble.
Allow me to give an example:
My sister and brother in law and my parents hit a rough patch about a year ago. They’ve been working to make things better, but there have been moments of tension. At one point my sister and my mother were both talking to me about the situation, from their respective points of view. This was a tricky position for me, as I usually tried to maintain the peace as much as I could.
That’s the background. So then when I learned there was a potentially volatile issue that was probably going to come to a head in the next month, I felt compelled to bring it up with my lovely sister. My excuse? That I wanted her to be aware of the opposing point of view (that of my parents) so she wouldn’t be caught off guard when they were upset.
The real reason?
I wanted to talk to my sister about it so that when it blew up, I could say I had tried to do my part, had fulfilled my role as peacekeeper, to head off the impending storm. Upon further reflection, however, I came to a different conclusion.
Basically I was trying to cover my butt.
Luckily, there was no storm and things remain amiable. But sometimes the things we do that are good, are only good insofar as they don’t cause harm but the motive behind the action is sketchy. I don’t really enjoy examining my motives, but as I get a little older and my behavior is less obviously “bad” I find that the purpose behind my actions is important to consider.
Enough of all the heavy. Here’s a hilarious (and mostly clean) version of a super fun song, to round out this post. Enjoy! http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/macklemore-and-ryan-lewis-thrift-shop/n33498/