The Thing About Silence

I always loved walking my kids home from school. Now that they are older and independent, I miss those sweet ten minutes of undivided attention where we would talk about their day as we walked the 3-1/2 blocks home. One day, we were walking behind another group of kids, and I couldn’t help but overhear one kid bullying another. Though this happened years ago, I remember their faces as if it were yesterday. His sweet round pudgy face, ringed with dark curls, eyes down on the road, while a younger boy with large brown eyes and similar dark curls was laughing loudly and calling him gay.

As we turned to walk down our alley, my inner conflict was roaring so loudly, I’m surprised my kids didn’t hear it. I’m a quiet person and don’t like to put myself into other people’s business. I most certainly do not like to tell someone that they are wrong.

BUT his eyes and his sweet little face!

AND my kids were watching and how did I want them to treat people?

AND I was convinced that God had created each person and loved them so deeply and that was all that mattered today.

So I turned around and marched up to the little taunter and we had a conversation loud enough for everyone around us to hear. I gently but firmly told him this was not okay. That God had made and loved each person so deeply that it doesn’t matter if this boy was gay or not. No one deserves to be treated this way.

There is a lot of hatred, bullying and racism being spoken loudly and publicly these days. Listen up big people, little people are listening more than you realize. What you say is important but don’t forget that your silence speaks volumes as well and right now, it shouts a message to those around you. Choosing to be silent when witnessing racism and bullying has the same effect as being overtly racist or a bully yourself. You communicate to your people, including your children, that your race is superior and that bullying others is okay. Silence makes you an ally of one side or the other. There is no happy medium with silence.

We choose life by choosing words that give dignity. We bring healing to a broken world when we choose words that give hope. Choose words, instead of silence, because our little ones are listening.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Gerber Photography.

Polar Bear Island

This beautiful story book has captured my heart. I remember mindlessly reading the same few favorite books to my kids, over and over when they were little. This is a book I would have gladly read and reread.

Using the power of story, author Lindsay Bonilla weaves words together in a simple way that even little ones can understand. Yet this story’s message is timeless and will warm the heart of the eldest among us.

Set on a snow covered island inhabited by polar bears who want to keep everyone else out, a lone penguin enters the scene and asks to stay just one night. When she gets out her Flipper Slippers, all the penguins want a pair. She freely shares her skills and soon everyone, but the mayor, wants her to stay.

Eventually she is joined by her family, much to the mayor’s chagrin and he plans to kick them out. But before they leave, each of them shares their skills until the whole island is having such a good time that no one wants them to leave. Their lives are so enriched by what these new creature brought to them and even the mayor ends up benefiting from their their gifts. He decides that they weren’t taking over the island, but were making it a much better place.

This book provides  the perfect medium to let the kids in your life know that when we love and welcome people who are different, our world becomes a better place. It is a beautiful reminder that each person has something unique to offer and if we try to keep others out, we are the ones who lose the most.

You can visit Lindsay’s website here. You can buy Polar Bear Island on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles or you can visit Indie Bound to find a Retailer near you. For wholesale inquires, contact Sterling Publishing at specialsales@sterlingpublishing.com or (800) 367-9692 to obtain pricing quotes.

The book also pairs nicely with Pebbles Penguin Rattle and Ornament.

Arrived

It was on the third and final leg of our flight to Dhaka that reality sunk in – we were almost there! Only a few white faces dotted the landscape of the large aircraft that carried hundreds of us to our final destination. Exhausted, I could barely keep my eyes open until, near the end of the flight, the din of excited passengers rose and the aisles began to fill with travelers calling out to each other, though I doubt many of them knew each other before the flight. My friends were all awake by now and kept looking around in bewildered astonishment at this happy party bus that was hurtling us through the air. The entire row in front of me was filled with women wrapped in colorful hijabs, passing their passports and landing card to the man across the aisle from us, so he could fill it out for them. The realization that these women were illiterate struck me deep and hard. When they figured out that I could speak Bangla, the woman in front of me struck up a conversation, and showed me snapshots on her phone. What I learned astounded me. She and her friends were returning to Bangladesh from Jordan, where they had spent that last three years working in a garment factory. She had a seven year old son, left behind in her home village of Bangladesh that she had not seen in three years.

Three years! I cannot imagine leaving my baby for three years, to go work in a foreign country. Three years of living among strangers and working long, hard days, stitching disposable clothing for the rich of the West, just so I could send enough money home to support my parents and child. I wanted to curl up in a ball on the floor of the plane, to pound my fist and weep, to bring a little bit of justice to this very unjust reality that this woman, and no doubt the friends accompanying her, were experiencing.

We soon touched down in Dhaka and a few passengers began to stand up before we reached the gate much to the chagrin of the flight attendant who tried, in vain, to get them reseated. As her calls went unheeded, I thought to myself, “Good luck!” These people are among the strongest and most determined people on the planet! And they are coming home. They may have endured hell out there, but they found their way home. Their excitement oozed into me and I felt like I, too, had come home.

To read more about garment factories in Jordan, check out this article and this one too.

Just Breathe

The sweet wild ride of summer is slowing down, grass crunching beneath my feet as I  stoop to pick the daily offerings from my tomato plants. The black-eyed susans have all but given up and it looks like the ground hog ate the last of my rose buds. My firstborn moved out a couple weeks ago, which means my middle child has his own room for the first time in forever, and my baby started high school.

Endings are all around me.

But it is okay. You gotta walk through the endings before you can get to the sweetness of the next stage. Like packing up the childhood memories of my son before he walks back into my house as a grown man with not only a place of his own, but his own beautiful identity and calling. You can’t get to the grown-up conversations with your kids until you’ve said good-bye to their sweet baby cheeks and crazy toddler antics and the wild emotions of the tween years.

One of my boys had an anxiety attack recently, surrounded by his new clothes and shoes for school. Suddenly all the unknowns were too much to bear.  I helped him breath through it, and tried to talk him through the fear that wrapped itself around his stomach (quite literally) for the rest of the evening. It was kind of an epiphany for me. Sometimes you just have to breath through all of it, be honest with yourself, take it in and let it go. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. The exhaustion, the endless need, the nonstop questioning, the belly laughter, those moments when they think you are the best mom ever and the moments they seem to hate you.

Breathe in. Hold it for a moment. Let it out. You are going to be okay.