A Little Learning Goes a Long Way

What we thought we knew . . .

Evolution of our planet seems to be happening at warp speed, and in a sense, it very likely is.

I was thinking back on my own life and the values people held vs. the values we hold today. People, families especially, seemed to be one of the most important values any of us had. We had just come out of one war, and would soon enter another one, and then still another one through my own lifetime.

I have been mourning the loss of what once seemed it would last forever. Those long summer nights when we children could play safely out in the neighborhood streets and parents never had to worry about where we were, or whether we might perhaps become victims of human trafficking. The thing we played with first and foremost was using our minds to create fantasies such pretend forts or capture of the enemies, or “Red Rover.” Then we had boxes, which played a multitude of roles. Bicycles and skates and going swimming in the summer were big thrilling activities. And at Christmas, we got such simple but yet such beloved gifts – a B B gun for boys, or perhaps a new collectible doll for a girl.

TV was new and it was a thing that was already changing the family sitting down together for dinnertime. Instead, people sat around with TV trays, ate TV dinners, and no one was sharing the events of the day. I remember the family sitting around the TV, entranced by the amazing wonder of the Test Pattern. Families had only black and white, and I think it was later in my life when color TV came into being.- It was the age of “things.”

Young people called Marijuana “Mary Jane,” and in our youth we avoided those people as bad people. Getting high meant taking an aspirin and swallowing it with Coca Cola, and then spinning around until we fell down. We went to school and had really healthy lunches, and no one had to be shamed if they did not have one. They just got in line with everyone else and got a filling lunch. Teachers could make us write something on the board 100 times if we were bad, or have us sit in the corner with a Dunce Hat, or chewing gum on our noses. And they could even hit our hands if we did something wrong (or use paddles on our bums). And if we did something unthinkable like throwing spitballs, we might get sent to the dreaded office. That meant our parents would be notified, and we might even get “grounded.”

But things were changing. Parents didn’t talk about marital problems such as domestic violence or abuse of children. No one went to a psychologist; it was the psychiatrists who dealt with problems based on strange theories that not many understood. Only society’s very well-to-do went to them. Women really did not talk to each other about things that were private to their families. Perhaps some families went to their priests or their pastors, but we never heard or read about those things.

Suddenly, people were going to Space, and just as suddenly, we were frightened of nuclear power. Families everywhere were building bomb shelters, and we endlessly practiced in school how to duck under our desks in the event of a bomb. Suddenly your next door neighbors you had known for years were suspicious of you and not open to having you see the insides of their bomb shelters. There were these people called Communists, and we did not exactly know who they were, but they were people to be feared. More and more people were identified as those horrible Communists, and then they had to face having hearings on TV, that place we had once thought something so simple and so fun. Now it was full of things no one really understood, and they spoke of those people in whispers within a family, but not shared outside. We really did not know WHO to trust anymore.

And today, here we sit, almost with the same amount of fear of things not seen, but believed. Things we cannot understand, so we fear those things. And suddenly we are grasping to hold onto things that make about as much sense as ducking under our desks or building bomb shelters.

Life is moving way too fast with way too many things going on all at once, bombarding our senses as they did before, but now with warp speed unseen in our lifetimes. One day we hear a scary word that none of us understand and the next day it is killing people all over the world. Should we hide under our desks, fear everyone anywhere near us, or perhaps even kill them because they have more of something they believe will save them than we do?

Will we ever see life as it once was again, or was it simply that we we never really learned anything of lasting value in the time we have been here? How far will a little learning take us?

The Invisible People

Thelma Smith, “Capoeisitera”

My good fiber arts friend of many years, Thelma Smith, made this series of homeless people she met up with when she was searching for her son, Norman, who suffered from mental/emotional issues probably stemming from a developmental challenge. She generally made the quilts bigger than real life, painted them and then stitched them. She also put very few facial features on them in one way giving them dignity, and in another way showing them as the invisible people in our society. This series of quilts always held great appeal for me and I always wished she could have put it out into a public gallery where a lot of people could see it and realize how important and unaddressed this problem is today.

Left Turn Lane Series Quilt by Thelma Smith

I think of the homeless people all the time. I have had young people show up in my classrooms, and when I offered them food that I used to bring for my teens who were in my study class, they would come back everyday just to get a breakfast/lunch though they were not actually in my classroom. They would come during a break when the other children were gone and always would talk to me. I remember one boy who told me his folks and he and his sisters and brothers were sleeping on the floor in a store owned by someone who knew them. I always made sure he took extra food. I cannot begin to imagine what a child who is homeless must go through emotionally, having to keep it a secret to prevent being bullied, and arriving at school hungry in the morning. The homeless are “cracks in the pavement.” We see them, but pass right by them as we would step on those cracks.

Thelma Smith – Left Turn Lane Series

I’ve seen and tried to help a lot of homeless people in my life. Sometimes the people are clearly suffering so much, I could not possibly help but cry. How sad is it to see an elderly woman in barely enough raggedy clothes to protect her from the cold, pushing a recycled wheelchair likely from a garbage throwaway, with her husband in it, and the only blanket covering him as she tried to protect and push him to the free clinic near where I used to live. But the saddest thing is how others turn away from them, pretending they don’t exist.

Left Turn Lane Series by Thelma Smith

All of these people at one time or another were probably just like you and me. It may have been only for a very short time when they were very young, but we need to remember that they are human beings just like us. We cannot know what happened in their lives to make them into homeless people, but it had to be dramatic. No one wants to live out in the rain or snow, and to sleep on concrete or on the cold ground, to have to find food in trash cans, or to go to the bathroom out wherever they can find a place, and have no way to clean themselves at all. And no one wants to get hurt, tortured, raped, or murdered perhaps for as little as the blanket they are using to keep warm.

Wild Bill, Thelma Smith’s Left Turn Lane Series

Their need to communicate is no different than ours. I remember when I was out of work from one of those jobs with a big title, and could not find a job, not because I was not qualified, but I was overqualified. I too had a short period of semi-homelessness. Luckily I had a lot of friends who would let me stay a night or two at their home and feed me and my pets, and I did find another job quickly. The time was never wasted. I was working as a volunteer at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, a teaching hospital, and if I worked four hours, I got a free lunch in the doctor’s cafeteria, which had the best food. I would get a salad, a full meal, and dessert. So I would eat my salad for lunch, wrap up my dinner and desert and have that later. I could go to the free clinic and get in quickly since I had my volunteer vest on, and I could also get needed shots downstairs in the hospital. I quickly taught myself how to go in the library and do my own medical research to determine pretty much accurately every time what I had, and the doctors in the free clinic always looked forward to treating me because I saved them time and always made the correct diagnosis. It is a habit that has followed me thru life, and I have made the right choices every time by doing my research.

I had the priviledge of working as a volunteer in the Neonatal Section of the hospital, where we treated hundreds of women with all manner of issues – homelessness, drugs, poor prenatal care, etc. I was responsible for the Newborn Hearing Screening, and I did my job well. The people I worked with actually wanted to hire me, but as hospitals tend to do things, they decided to hire a service instead so that they would not have the expense of an employee (i.e. benefits, etc.) to deal with. I also taught the women in the Neonatal Section about the benefits of breastfeeding when it was possible. The drug addicts could not nurse their babies, and it was heartbreaking to watch the babies shaking and crying all the time from the damage done to their tiny systems.

One night a Hispanic young lady came in and had her baby. It was premature, and would have to stay in the hospital, but she wanted to breastfeed her baby. I suspect she came over to the U.S. as a mule, or person who came over with drugs inserted somewhere in her body, a very common thing. We fixed her up with the equipment to pump her breasts for the baby, and she left for the group home she was staying in. She was NOT one of the drug people at all, and a very sweet and very young woman. I doubt she was older than 17, and possibly younger. She never came back to to the hospital, and we suspected that she was picked up again by the men who watch out for the mules, or some other form of human trafficking. So the problem was that the police could not look for someone they knew absolutely nothing about. She was literally an invisible person. Now a child will potentially grow up without ever knowing its mother, and a mother somewhere might be mourning her loss, or perhaps be even dead. We will never know. I send prayers for the homeless, and I am glad that Thelma Smith gave them dignity by not painting their faces, and making them bigger than life.

Mending the World One Stitch at a Time

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Life seems ponderous at times, and definitely overwhelming with so many negative things happening in the world. But doing one little thing CAN help make a difference. Find one small thing you can do to change things for one person or for a few and do it. There is no lack of choices to help you find something that fits your skills, knowledge and abilities. Do it today.

Weltschmerz

pexels-Statue of Liberty

Photo courtesy of Pexels

This is a state of depression or apathy caused by comparing the actual state of the world with an idealized state. – Merriam Webster Online Dictionary

One day

One Breath

One Moment

And it is all gone.

How did humanity

survive through the centuries

With so much destruction,

violence and hatred?

We keep learning geography,

spelling and math.

We learn how to write

and how to graph.

But we never seem to learn

how to appreciate

the moment.

How to be happy

where we are

with what we have,

or what we don’t have,

who we are,

and who we are not.