Thursday, November 22, 2018

2018.11.22 Thanksgiving—a Short List

Today is Thanksgiving Day. In the face of so much to decry in this world and church, I am grateful for love, prayer, beauty, and children. Such things keep me alive and well. I am also grateful for hate and ugliness, because such things keep me humble.

     For love, because it is as basic to the viability and vigor of my soul as food and water are to my body. When I am not well enough fed I cannot feed others.

     For prayer, because it is what consistently connects me to my inner self and the truth of my  own feelings, desires and needs. This is my baseline. I address my prayers to God, say AMEN, then go on with my life to the best of my ability and grit. Self-knowing and God-knowing are correlative. I don't know what God does, but prayer keeps me alive and alert to signs and wonders all around me.

     For beauty, because it is all around us if we would but expect it, then notice it, then praise it. It's in human faces, tears, laughter, frown, fret, puzzlement, terror, anger, awe, and wonder—also spoof and surprise. It's in Nature—animals and plants, in every form and shape.

     For children, because I grew up with my own four beloved children, now adults, yes, but also because all young children exhibit uncontrollable impulses toward play, toward joining, delightedly and without prejudice, with other children in the romp of play, the best play being the disorganized  spontaneous play for its own sake. They make it happen together—in conversations with stuffed playmates, at tea parties, and on play grounds with lively playmates.

"One afternoon your mother and I took you to visit a preschool. Our host took us down to a large gym filled with a bubbling ethnic stew of New York children, The children were running, jumping, and tumbling. You took one look at them, tore away from us, and ran right into the scrum.      .  .  .  I watched you leap and laugh with these children you barely knew, and the wall rose in me and I felt I should grab you by the arm, pull you back and say, 'We don't know these folks! Be cool!' I did not do this. I was growing, and if I could not name my anguish precisely I still knew there was nothing noble in it. But now I understand the gravity of what I was proposing—that a four-year-old child be watchful, prudent, and shrewd, that I curtail your happiness, that you submit to a loss of time. And now when I measure this fear against the boldness that the masters of the galaxy imparted to their own children I m ashamed."

This passage is from a memoir, Between The World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the form of a letter to his son. Coates has described the terror many black people feel for the precious children they love as much as white people love theirs. These parents love their children with such ferocity that they have to train them into fear rather than confidence, teach them how to protect their black bodies, to be "watchful prudent and shrewd" always, just because their skin is not white. The contrast with what white parents teach their children about how to walk in the world—confidence and boldness according to the respect they expect to get—is tragically stark. 

In this scene above, however, the high value of child's play for the spiritual well-being of a child supersedes racial profiling and all the lessons that go with it. Coates's son, he acknowledges, is naturally extroverted and uninhibited, but play is shaped by its toddler participants according to their personalities—not the color of their skins. When I read the anguish of this father who for a moment dropped his own fears to let his son play freely, my heart broke open.  I believe God's does too.

My God, my God, what have we done?  My God, my God what are we doing?

Scriptures tell us that a little child will lead us. Will we follow?