“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in
unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”—Teddy Roosevelt
Two stories. One lesson.
This past week, Laurie (my bride) and I took time to tour the Center for Civil and Human Rights. We sat down at one exhibit that replicates a lunch counter sit-in. With our hands placed on the counter, the headphones situated securely on our ears transported us to the 1960’s. To a time when people took a seat to make a stand about racial prejudice and discrimination.
We sat listening to the hate-filled voices whispering—and then yelling—in our ears. They hurled threats. We heard thumps, bangs and loud noises. At one point, we both jumped a bit from our seats at the counter. While we were never in any physical danger, we felt (at some limited level) the fear that those brave protesters felt. To say the exhibit moved us remains a gross understatement.
By the end of (only) two minutes, our “demonstration” ended. The docent handed me a tissue. I dabbed my eyes, truly moved by the experience. I remember the words of M.L.K., Jr. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Those young 1960’s protesters came together, tired of being buffeted in a sea of hatred. They might have been on an island, but they came together on that island and led the way. Silent no more, perhaps another M.L.K., Jr. quote rang true to them: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
A few days later, we drove to the other end of Georgia to take part in the annual Valentine’s Day Renewal of Vows in Savannah’s City Market. We have participated in the annual event since the late 1990’s. The Reverend Billy Hester and his wife, Cheri, officiate. Hester has led the Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church congregation since the early 1990’s. When he arrived, the church was by all appearances on its last legs. Membership languished at about 25 souls. The average age hovered around eighty years old.
The last time we visited the church for a Sunday service, the pews were full! Hundreds of people gathered for praise and glory. Why? The stewardship of Hester and his wife. The inclusive nature of their authentically positive message resonated with the surrounding neighborhood. They held a lamp of humanity for many who felt alone. Each member helps build a resilient community.
They created an island of souls, so that individual souls would not have to struggle on their own islands.
And while my descriptions above capture but a small piece of the sacrifice and courage, both stories show the power of a community coming together for protection and support. Collaboration, growth, and resilience.
The subtitle of my latest book reads No Need to be an Island. I emphasize the power of collective group. It can help each member recognize and build his and her own capacity for growth and change.
The congregation and the museum teach us the value of coming together, appreciating, and accepting (not simply “tolerating”) our neighbors.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.
It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.”—
Video recommendation for the week:
This week, I offer a short meditation video from Belleruth Naparstek. The actual meditation begins at the one-minute mark of the video. She brings in the power of community near the 4:52 marker. Treat yourself to a little quiet reflection time today.
Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.
For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.
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Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).
(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.
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