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30 Oct

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Hunger in Haiti

26 Sep

My spouse works for an organization called Lutheran World Relief, who has community development projects in many countries, including Haiti.  The entire staff decided to try to eat for a week under the average food budget in Haiti.  The highly disputed number, after converting it to US dollars, was $34.33, about $5 a day.  This seemed shockingly doable at first, although it became abundantly clear that I would be drinking only water and could not eat out.  The project is not about succeeding primarily, but raising awareness about how other people live.  Here are some of the things I thought about as the week went on:

–I got to pick which day I started and which day I stopped.  Privilege.  I knew it would end.  It was not my perpetual existence.

–No wine, beer or even pop.  The quickest shortcut was to drink water, which for me is free.  That made me wonder, How is the water in Haiti?  Is it drinkable?  Is it overly privatized?

–I was offered free food all the time during my week.  A student bought me a Jamba Juice one morning.  On a teacher inservice day, the staff ate for free.  Was accepting this food breaking the rules? Is free food a reality in Haiti?  How are social services?

–I decided to spend part of my food budget on medicine because I got so sick that I could not taste my food anyway.  I am assuming that it would be similar to the average person in Haiti.  Getting medicine may mean not eating as much.  How is their health care?  Do people in Haiti have to choose between medicine and food?

–Gotta love the carbs.  Rice, noodles, bread…I am a vegetarian, so I am used to not having meat.  Is this diet sustainable for them?  How is the nutrition when $34.33 is not just one week, but forever?

The best part of the week being over was just not having to be as vigilant.  It is so nice not to have to plan ahead, count dollars and follow rules.  My spouse and I do not eat like royalty by any means, but I was ready to not put so much time and energy into surviving the week. I do believe that all people deserve a dignified life that is not consumed with where the next meal will come from.  It was a good exercise in awareness building about my wealth, one that will stick with me as I continue to take steps toward naming my role in making the world more just.

Continuum of Violence

12 Sep

Disclaimer: This may not be very coherent or well written.  I attribute it to simultaneous shock, outrage and deep gender fatigue.  Some things just need to be said, even if they are not said well, until things change.

Thursday was the first Vikings game of the season.  I like watching football, and I like the people I watch football with even more.  But no matter how much football I watch, I never get used to the blatant connection between sports, sex and violence.  On one hand, there is the violent, testosterone- driven, physical, at times warlike game of football.  Then there are women standing in leather boots and sequenced bras sharking their hair and pom poms on the sidelines.  NFL cheerleaders do not even attempt to be athletes by doing gymnastics or leading the fans in cheers, as their title would try to convey.  They are simply there to be looked at, sexually objectified, in between cheering on hard hits, facemasks and sacks.

For my friend’s birthday, she unfortunately picked a bar called Sneaky Pete’s to celebrate.  The walls were covered with TVs showing Ultimate Fighting Challenge.  Men were lining the bar, sipping beer, cheering on brutally violent and bloody matches.  In between matches, they could spin their bar stools and look at the bachelorette parties of drunk women, sliding down the stripper poles provided on the dance floor.

I just recently learned that Minneapolis has passed the zoning to have a topless sport bar outside the newly built Target Field where the Minnesota Twins play baseball.   Baseball fans can enjoy a game and then enjoy looking at women’s bodies.

Can’t we all see the connection between sports, violence, objectification of women’s bodies and violence against women?  How can it be so pervasive that we do not even get outraged?  Where do I place my pain?  To whom do I direct my anger?  We have so far to go.  How do we get there?  Where do we go first?

Meticulous Scarring

4 Apr

In early February a piece of gymnastics equipment crashed on my hand during a meet I was coaching.  It resulted in an open wound on my right palm and ring finger so gruesome that my spouse vomited twice in the Emergency Room.  Two months later, I am going to occupational therapy twice a week to break up a piece of scar tissue on my palm that slightly resembles a sixth finger.  The unwelcome growth is sensitive and changes color like a mood ring.  I want it to go away.

Last week while my therapist was doing ultra sound on the bump my co-worker has affectionately named Bessie, she looked at me and said simply, “You must be a good healer.  This closed up fast.”  Initially, I took this as a compliment.  Being a former gymnast myself, I have always been in complete awe of the body and the power it has to put me back together with no permission or motivation or oversight from my conscious brain.  And I like being good and thorough and efficient at everything that I do, including healing.

But I don’t think she meant it as a compliment.  There is, after all, such a thing as healing too quickly.  The bump of scar tissue on my right palm is now a constant reminder to me of one truth: If we do not take our time healing, the scar can hurt more than the wound itself.  Healing, physically or otherwise, cannot be rushed.  It must be tended to patiently, nurtured with great care.  The only way out is through.  There are no shortcuts as we emerge from pain.  We must sit in the suffering, dwell in the brokenness, live into the healing without controlling or coercing.  If we heal too rashly, the scars will be treated like foreign appendages instead of character that tells our story.

Forgiving my Father

17 Jan

My father came over the other day to make peace after a decade of distance.  Why now?  I have no idea.  But I am finding that I don’t want to reach out.  There is anger there, and a need for forgiveness.  But he does not know for what, so he cannot ask.  And for what again, am I forgiving him?  For marrying my mom, for not leaving her?  For being Republican?  For never calling or asking about what is important to me or learning how to treat me like the adult I am?  He once told me that when I give him unexpected hugs, those are the happiest moments in his life.  I can’t remember the last time a piece of me touched a piece of him.  I don’t like making him happy, and that cruelty is not like me.

If I forgive him, then what?  What would I have left? Has he forgiven me?  I know he does not know me anymore or care, for that matter.  He used to know me better than I knew me.  He would tell people about me in front of me, like he had been watching me closer than I watched myself.  It was odd that he knew what I needed.  Does he know now?  Does he care?

He never hit me or raised his voice.  He never drank or was dumb with money.  I have so little to forgive him for, but I can’t do it.  I don’t know how, and part of me doesn’t want to.  What twisted part of me is that?  Wouldn’t reconciliation feel good, a big hug laced with tears and relief?  But then what?  Would anything change?  Do I fear the awkwardness?  The hard work?  The vulnerability?  The possibility of disappointment?

He brings up sports sometimes.  That is what he was best at.  He coached me, came to all my meets and games and marathons.  He remembers my great moments better than I do.  He tries to rekindle what we had when he was on his pedestal, not realizing he could be my friend if he could just redefine dad.  He wants me to still need him for money or advice.  He wants to still be able to teach me things.  He still wants power and control.  But I am an independent woman.  If I need anything, I need a mutual relationship.  I need him to acknowledge that maybe he has something to learn from me, too.  He is not less as I become more.  Or is he?

He embodies what I fight against- unacknowledged priviledge.  A culture of power that will not admit or work to change wealth, old money, the comfort of systems handing us things.  He does not like being uncomfortable.  He does not much know what oppression feels like.  He is a benevolent dictator who will not let my very story change his heart.  He is the man.  I benefited from that man, from that money, from those opportunities.

The conversation ended with him yelling and swearing and me shutting down and asking him to leave.  I am a survivor of an emotionally abusive relationship.  I refuse to respond to men who yell at me.  He called the next day to say he thought the conversation went well, that we were making progress.  I have retreated, oceans away.

A friend reminds me of a wise Buddhist saying that anger is like trying to pass on a burning coal.  It is your hand that is getting burned.  Is holding the coal burning me more than him?  Do I need to forgive him for my soul?  For his?  Or do I leave him on the ground with his full pockets, standing next to his pedestal, to find my own terrain?

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