Long Days and Short Years

just trying to pay attention so I don't miss my life

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Walking While White

Note: This story, in its entirety, is published at http://www.youareherestories.com/?p=663

Here is how it all began…

Trembling, I stood up in church on a sweaty summer morning. It was prayer time, and the requests and testimonies had been weighty thus far. There were loved ones awaiting parole hearings, babies in the NICU, and the ever-present lure of the streets growing in intensity as the weather warmed. I looked at the worn faces of grandmothers who had been praying for decades, and my own request seemed trivial. They waited, nodding encouragement and softly chorusing “Help her, Lord.”

The Lord helped, and I spoke. “I would like to ask for courage so that I could walk in my neighborhood this summer. I’m not afraid for my safety, not physically, but I just get so tired of being ignored when I say hello to someone. The angry glares are hard for me. And it’s hard, well, to stand out all the time. Please pray that God would help me. Thank you.”

I sat down quickly and wished that I could sink into the pew. Really, did I just ask a congregation of African-Americans to pray for a poor little white girl because she couldn’t handle a little unfriendliness? Did I just complain about standing out to a group of people who had experienced prejudice since their births? Did I really just say all that?

Staring hard at the songbook in front of me, I heard the murmuring begin again. “Oh yes, Lord.” “Thank you, Jesus.” “Help her.” Someone squeezed my shoulder, and my husband covered my hand with his. The murmuring grew, and a middle-aged black man in a crisp white shirt stood on the other side of the church.

“Thank you for sharing,” he said. “And I would like to say something. I also take walks, and I understand what you mean. But here is what the Lord helps me to do: I always say hello and smile. If the person says hello in return, I thank God for that person.

“But,” he looked at me, “if they are rude, I know God has given me a special job. He has given me the job to forgive them and to pray for them. And so that’s what I do. That’s why I haven’t stopped walking. They need my prayers.”

He nodded for emphasis and sat down.

There was a communal breath of silence before everyone began clapping. It was if a door had opened and we all felt the breeze.

“Yes, Lord! Thank you, Lord!” We weren’t murmuring anymore.


Read more at http://www.youareherestories.com/?p=663


Beware of White People with Chickens

Yes, I know what some of you are thinking.

“I am a white person, and I don’t have any chickens.  None of the white people I know have any chickens.  I even used to have a Latino co-worker and her parents had chickens.  Isn’t the linking of skin color and poultry ownership just a stereotype created by an impertinent blog-writer in order to get people to click on her post?”

No, people, no.

This is a scientific statement, and I stand by it.  I will now present my evidence.  On my very own street, which happens to be 5 blocks long, there are a total of 30 people of predominately European-American heritage.  30 white people out of like hundreds of people total.  Now.  TWENTY-THREE of these people are chicken owners.  Twenty-three out of thirty, that’s SEVENTY-SEVEN PERCENT.

(I figured out that percentage all by myself.)

Even accounting for the fact that thirteen of these poultry proprietors are under the age of eighteen, there is still a trend in our midst, and I feel that it is my duty to present this warning.  White people who live in predominately African-American neighborhoods are sometimes regarded as harbingers of gentrification, conquering houses and then blocks one L.L.Bean catalog at a time.

But oh no, none of my Caucasian neighbors can afford L.L.Bean.

We are not the wealthy.

We are the wanna-bes.

We are the wanna-be farmers who also wanna walking access to good Mexican food, Vietnamese soup, and locally-roasted coffee.  We are the wanna-be farmers who don’t really wanna a barn full of smelly animals, just a small coop of chickens-with-cute-names.  Wanna see their pictures on facebook?

We are the wanna-be farmers who wanna our children to be exposed to real agriculture and gain some good immunities to boot.  These are ideas we got from NPR and Michael Pollan books.  These are ideas we like to talk about over 5 dollar bottles of red wine or scones that we bought at the farmer’s market.

These are ideas that we will clean out a chicken coop for.

And so beware, my neighbors, my dear friends with more melanin that I.  Beware, because we are a bit naive.  We will order baby chicks in the mail because our parents wouldn’t let us have them for Easter when we were seven. We will coax them though their oh-too-brief chick-hood, but then they will grow up, and then they will escape every single day.  Multiple times.  We will chase them down your very own city streets.

(It is really a miracle that they haven’t been eaten by your pit-bulls.)

Thank you for your patience.  Thank you for your phone calls (“Um, Miss Jen, your chickens are out again”), your knocks at the door, your forbearance with the early-morning noise (they’re not roosters, but still…), and for feigning excitement when our children show you how they can catch them for the twelfth time.

I wish that we could give eggs to everyone on our block.

But the darn chickens keep hiding them in the bushes.