People

Speak Out

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We are trying to raise kids who are comfortable navigating in their world.

With that in mind, there was an opportunity this week that we simply couldn’t pass up. The kids and I attended a rally at the Texas Capital, and I have some thoughts I’d like to share.

The rally was kid-oriented; two Representatives, Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) and Wayne Faircloth (R-Galveston), read The Lorax, and we then discussed the bill in question, HB70, which prohibits all political subdivisions from creating any regulations regarding trees and other vegetation. I had already told my kids about the bill, and what it meant, and we went to this event only after they agreed it was something they’d like to speak out about.
Texas Campaign for the Environment then had some lobbyists delivering copies of the book to different Representatives. We tagged along, and though the House was still meeting, we did get to speak with some staffers. The whole thing was an interesting experience, and I know that not everyone shares our viewpoint, but I think there are some things that apply to everyone, and I’d like to share what we learned.
This experience taught me – and the kids – that speaking out about your opinion doesn’t have to be scary – even if it WAS intimidating at first. We went to five offices, and everyone we spoke with was quite pleasant, and even welcoming. It was a wonderful opportunity to remind my kids that we have every right to be there, and speak to the people who represent us.
We learned that sometimes, your allies might surprise you, or even hold a slightly different opinion. Some of the people protesting this bill were doing so because they love trees; some were protesting because they thought it was a slippery slope to other environmental issues, and some protests were not about trees at all, but were people who want to preserve local government’s right to regulate local concerns.

It was also a very neat way to remind the kids that if you don’t tell people – or your government – what you are thinking, then they don’t know.Aside from our gentle little foray into political activism, we made a whole day of it. We spent the day walking around the capital city, riding public transportation, and talking to people and taking in the public art, all of which goes back to the goal of comfort in navigating your world. (I realize that there are places where this is not a big deal, but for those of us in Texas: we love our cars, and we are well out in the suburbs. Public transportation and learning how to safely walk on a city street are experiences that we have to actively seek out!)

Go out and be brave! Ride the bus, talk to a stranger, voice your opinion!
Speak your mind even if your voice shakes. — Maggie Kuhn
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My Spiritual Adviser is a Grocery Clerk

There are two ways of spreading light – to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. – Edith Wharton

I cannot count how many times I’ve heard phrases in the family of “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Or, “God is bigger than your worries,” or “Give God your weakness, and he’ll give you his strength.” There are probably 10 different memes telling me this on my facebook news feed, right now. Sometimes, it feels kind of aggressive, to tell you the truth. Have you ever just tried to vent a little bit, and gotten a very assertive affirmation that if you just “Give it to God,” it’ll all be okay? Many times, I would rather sit for a few minutes in a quiet, empty church on a random Tuesday, than be told it all again. (My youngest child and I are alike, in that. We find our peace in quiet places.)

The thing is, there is a clerk at my local grocery store who says the same thing. But there is something about the way she says it – I believe her.

Perhaps the other folks I’ve heard the same message from are just not the people I’m meant to hear. Perhaps Ms. J doesn’t resonate with everyone, and there are folks who find her as jarring as I find some people. But she resonates with me. Perhaps because she’s quiet, like my favorite churches. She’s a very soft-spoken woman.

She’s not a trained theologian. (At least, not that I know of.) She’s a grocery store clerk. An elderly woman, whose son and his family have just moved in while they build their own house. Who raises chickens, but because the rooster is just too much of a character to get rid of, she sells chicks instead of eggs. Who cannot manage to keep her kitchen garden alive. Who loves to go camping. Who remembers her regulars, and asks after my kids and how they’re doing in school, and lights up on school holidays, when they go with me to the grocery store and she gets to see them.

I will wait in a longer line, just to be checked out by Ms. J. It is entirely possible that I have decided to cook a dinner I do not have all of the ingredients for, as an excuse to visit with Ms. J. (I’m not saying it’s absolutely true, but it’s possible.)

Does she know? Does she know that she has customers who prefer her? (I know I’m not the only one. I’ve spoken to other customers who agree that “Ms. J is worth waiting for.”) I hope so. I made it a point to tell her, today, that she brightens my day.

I want to make it a point to tell people that they matter.

We’ve had some losses this year. Our own family is missing some loved ones, and friends (both close friends and developing friendships) have lost people, too.

Tell people they matter. Tell the grocery clerk that she brightens your day. Tell the guy who patiently walks the limping dog every morning that you look for him when you drive the kids to school, and were happy and excited to see the dog running yesterday. Tell your kid’s teacher that for the first time ever, your daughter thought the math homework assignment was fun. People are surprised, when they find out they did something that matters to you. And I’ll bet you don’t know the impact you’ve had on other people, either. You and I, we may never know.

I don’t know if Ms. J knows that she is special. How many other people don’t know? It’s time to go reflect some light back at them.