Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm scared

Kids say this to us all the time. In fact, we worry when a child seems fearless, seems to take risks without thinking of the possible consequences. We want them to be brave, to try new things. But we also want them to be careful and stay safe.

Life can be pretty scary. New things. Or unexpected surprises. Or big loud dogs. Or the dark. It is so important to acknowledge a child's feelings, no matter what. A child's fear may seem silly to us, but the fear is real to them. Children need caring adults who will really listen to them, and not always be so stuck on needing children to listen to the adult. Yes, children hear us, but so often our talking is lecturing and after a minutes it sounds like, "Wah, Wah, Wah Wah, blah blah blah." One of the best gifts we can give is taking time to listen. When they trust we will listen and accept their feelings, they are more likely to be willing to tell us about them when it really matters.

I'm scared right now, too. I'm scared for the future. What will it be like? Will we be able to manage? Will our children and our grandchildren be able to take care of themselves? Will there be resources to go around? Will we finally learn to live in peace and share this planet? Will we have clean water and blue skies and fresh vegetables?

My questions and concerns could go on and on. But in this moment, I am also very grateful for my friends and family who listen to me. They help me come back to right here and right now. This is the only time we really have, so I'm going to take a deep breath and express my gratitude. This moment of being present to my own fears is what I needed. And that breath. Kids need this, too. They need us to listen and acknowledge and bring them back to right here and right now and the things we can do to make today a little less scary.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Service to our country

I was walking past a grocery store today. And seated on a chair near the entrance with a big sandwich in her hands was an elderly woman with a sign. She was collecting donations for AmVets. I asked her if she had served. She proudly told me that in 1942 as soon as women were allowed to volunteer, she joined the US Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) and served until the end of the war. I thanked her and gave her a donation. As I walked away, the tears surfaced. I was very moved that this probably about 87 year old woman was so proud to have served our country. And I was proud of her.

I am probably a pacifist. I say probably because I'm not sure what I would do if I felt my family members' lives were at stake. But I believe in diplomacy, a difficult, yet sincere, tireless effort to understand people with opposing views and work for compromises that consider the needs of all. For many, many years, the mighty have prospered and the little guy has had to follow or die. At the same time, I have always appreciated those who join the military to defend the rights of democracy. And though I don't believe war, or fighting is the answer, I believe our military and their family members should be well taken care of. Like Michelle Obama, I am deeply saddened that many of our military families are on food stamps. A military enlisted salary is not enough for one person, let alone a whole family. Our military personnel deserve a greater quality of life than they are given.

So this woman today made me think about all those who serve. How do we treat them? What kind of resources are available to their spouses and children?

And what are we teaching children about the value of offering service to others? I believe in a youth corps in which every 18 - 20 year old, male and female, would serve the country in some capacity for one year. This would not just be for military service. They could also choose to work in the cities, in parks, fight fires in the forests, offer child care to inner city families. Our country needs the help of strong young people to rebuild decaying communities.

Thank you to all those who have served our country - in the military and in countless volunteer positions throughout our communities. Bless you all.