Saturday, January 10, 2015

What I Want For You in 2015

 Life that was holding on in my neighborhood in France even as winter was closing in

Sometimes it seems the whole world is on fire. Last month I had vowed to turn off the news and change my home page on the Internet from an aggregation of news horribleness to I Can Has Cheezburger, the home of snoring bulldog puppies and cats who are not amused by their owners. Each day I’d obsess over yet another example of inhumanity worse than before and there was nothing that I could do to change it simply by watching television or reading every online article about every injustice or attack. Just a couple of weeks ago, a crazy person in my adopted city of Dijon drove through my own neighborhood – a block from my apartment building – running over people on the sidewalk in the name of his religion. It turned out that he was certifiably mentally unstable, so that incident seemed like a one-off. Whew.

This week, though, I found myself glued to cable news reports again. The attacks by home-grown French jihadists on cartoonists at the French satiric magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has left me worried about friends living in Paris as well as peaceful people I know throughout the world who just happen to be Muslims. Will my Paris friends be safe? Will the world be able to distinguish between Muslims who want to live in peace to raise their children and coach the grade school soccer team or work endless hours at my local kebab sandwich shop and those extremists who think they can kill everyone who doesn’t agree with them? Just as relevant -- is it necessary to direct such sharp humor toward something so sacred to a large part of a country’s population? With free speech also comes responsibility.

At home, my own community of St. Louis still wrestles with the death of Michael Brown and whether those in authority are setting up a system that privileges those in power and continues to oppress those who are disadvantaged by race, economics, or education. About the only change that seems to occur is that people “unfriend” others on Facebook because they disagree over another’s position. Or someone shows himself so rigid and outspoken about his own view that you can’t even begin to start a reasonable discussion about the issue and search for common ground. Why do we still seem to be fighting the same fights in my own country we fought last century? From which direction will the next protest come? Peace and Justice seem to require an eternal struggle.

And so I’ve gained an encyclopedic knowledge about cat videos as an escape.

But what I know about the world is that there are more people who work each day to build it up than there are people trying to tear it down. I think of the Ferguson Library, which, during the worst days and nights of protest in St. Louis, kept their doors open because children needed a safe place to go since the schools had closed down. I think about those people out there on these frigid winter nights searching for people who need a warm place to stay. I remember the wonderful people at my vet’s office who loved and helped my dog until her last day. I think about the people at the farmer’s markets my husband frequents who work so hard every day to be good stewards of the earth. I think about every teacher I ever had in public schools and every single one I know who stands in front of a classroom, willing to fight ignorance in children and over-interference by politicians. I think of the checker who I only knew as Mary who worked the early morning shift at my grocery store (and who died much too soon) and said to me at the end of every transaction, “Now you have a blessed day.” I think of all the people I’ve met as I’ve traveled who welcomed me and who’ve been open to all that was new and different, not taking new and different as an assault on who they were (although my French friends and I will eternally disagree about stores being open on Sunday).

In the medina of Hammamet, Tunisia.
What beauty we find when we open ourselves to something new.

--> The year 2015 has not begun on a great note. It’s probably still a good plan to wean myself off of cable news and do more than exchange it for cat videos. This will be a writing year for me because my MFA thesis is due this spring (yikes, I have to finish a book, not just talk about finishing one!). I miss writing my little stories for all of you on the Internet and connecting with you through them. It’s time to exercise more than the finger that pushes the “like” button on Facebook. I need to push many different keys on my keyboard to see what I can bring to the world. For now, though, what I want for you in this new year is that you find kindness everywhere you turn and that you have a blessed day. I’ll see you back here soon.

Yet sometimes it's good to rest your heart with the internet

How has your New Year been going so far? What are you most excited about in 2015? Are you a resolutions-type person? Tell us in the comments box about what 2015 will mean for you.
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