Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Hopelights in a dark time

Last night Whitefeather Peace House, where I live, hosted a full house of dinner guests, most of whom hadn't met each other, or, if so, only once a while ago. It started with the idea of a former student of mine to just have a conversation, maybe coffee at Portland State University, but I knew he had two young girls and we have one here at our Peace House, so, hey, let's have some playtime with the kids and some dinner. Then I asked my favorite Grandmother, who is raising several of her grandchildren, to come too, with her young charges. Finally, I invited a wonderful young couple, one of whom works all day with three-year-olds and one of whom is a psychiatric translator for refugees.

By the end of the evening my faith in humankind had received several repairs.

Almost every one of these people started life in poverty, including coming very young from Vietnam, coming from Jamaica, coming from an adobe house on the most primitive part of a southwestern reservation, and coming from farms in rural California and Nepal.

All families were racially and culturally mixed--African Caribbean, African American, Native American, Vietnamerican, Nepalese and a smattering of Euro American. Each and every one of the children are amazing little (and a couple of big) people--smart, respectful, sweet to each other and to the younger ones, sharing, and athletic. The Pima boys, all three, race on a cycling team and are all ranked in Oregon in their divisions, one of them ranked number one. The JamaicanVietnamerican girls were the tiniest and too sweet to even believe. They immediately began to play with our great little resident five-year-old. Pima Grandmother Gail said a long and beautiful grace in her Native language to begin the meal.

All the parents and grandparents who were there do excellent work with their families and in life. All of them overcame many hardships, have no sense of entitlement, and are generous and loving adults operating in a pancultural fashion. They are all studying how to make this world more nonviolent and more accepting of each other. They are all proud of their own identities and happy and loving toward others with very different identities, which is one of the definitions of maturity in this conflictual, biased world.

Some days, when I read about burning Korans by bigots in the Deep South, I cringe and feel very intolerant myself, especially when I then hear that those who love the Koran would actually kill someone who burned a book, pieces of paper. The cultural bigotry of the first group is only trumped by the outrageous violence of the second. The profound irony and grand temerity of the US military disapproving of burning the Koran--after causing approximately 25 times as many deaths as this country suffered on September 11, 2001--is stupendous. I throw up my hands in despair.

But then these wondrous friends arrive for dinner and fix my heart and give me so much illumination on the path ahead. They are hopelights, and the world needs so many more of them.

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