Assumptions and Misunderstandings

Assumptions and Misunderstandings

May 1, 2016  |  Sixth Sunday of Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Assumptions and Misunderstandings
Thank you Eric Yamani for revitalising our garden!

Grace and Peace to you …

So the other day I was in a meeting. Well actually a couple of meetings. The first meeting was with a person who was the leader of his organisation. A group of us met with him. We had contacted him directly requesting to meet concerning a matter of mutual concern. The meeting began. The meeting ended. All fine.

Then I had another meeting. This second meeting was with different people. During this meeting a person informed us that should we ever want to meet with the leader of the organisation we had met with in the first meeting in the future, we should go through him first.

Okay I thought to myself … we have ourselves a bit of a power struggle going on here.

Then a few days later we had a third meeting. This third meeting included both the leader of the organisation from the first meeting as well as the person who said we must go through him from the second meeting. So I was all eyes on the dynamics between these two – wondering how the power dynamics were going to play out. To my surprise there didn’t seem to be any power dynamics at play between the two of them. In fact just the opposite – they complemented each other throughout.

I was a little confused until all light was shed on the situation by the person from the second meeting who said we must go through him to get to the leader of the organisation. In short, it was more about protocol than power.

I made an assumption based on what I thought was obvious but which in fact was incorrect. Not only did I carry in my mind thoughts about these two people that were not true, but it also influenced how I prepared for the third meeting, namely, less open and more guarded.

This got me thinking how often we may assume to know the reasons for things when in fact we don’t. Making assumptions so often leads to misunderstanding which in turn leads to hurt. As Mr. Wesley said in his “Rules of a Helper: Believe evil of no one unless fully proved; take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction you can on everything. You know the judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner’s side.”

Grace, Alan


“You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. That is where you came from and where you’ll return. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of messing up. Often. You didn’t come here to be perfect. You already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And then to rise again into remembering. But unconditional love? Stop telling that story. Love, in truth, doesn’t need ANY other adjectives. It doesn’t require modifiers, it doesn’t require the condition of perfection. It only asks that you show up. And do your best. That you stay present and feel fully. That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU. It’s enough. It’s PLENTY.”

~ Courtney A. Walsh

 

Embrace Vulnerability

Embrace Vulnerability

Apr 24, 2016  |  Fifth Sunday of Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Embrace Vulnerability

Eastern Cape Pensioners looking for justice from Parliament.
Photograph: Rebecca Davis

Grace and peace to you …

Many of us have grown up hearing the words “Almighty God …” spoken by one leading a congregation in prayer. The following beautiful prayer is an example:

Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known
and from whom no secrets are hid:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy Name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

In recent years I have struggled to connect with God as Almighty. I am more inclined to relate to an “All-Vulnerable God”. I see “All-Vulnerable-ness more clearly than “Almighty-ness” in Jesus. And didn’t Jesus say: “The Father and I are one” [John 10:30]?

Brené Brown, who has become famous for her work on vulnerability says the following:

“Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability.”

Doesn’t this sound like Jesus to you? Doesn’t this sound like God to you? Doesn’t this sound like Love to you – the real nitty-gritty-ness of love? Love by definition is vulnerable. God is Love therefore God is vulnerable.

Sadly too often we mistake vulnerability for weakness. Yet it is just the opposite. Vulnerability is the fiery furnace that gives love its enduring steeliness.

Followers of Jesus must learn to embrace vulnerability.

Or as Brown puts it another way:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

Trying to get on to the path, Alan


This week CMM has had the privilege to offer hospitality at night to pensioners from the Eastern Cape who have been protesting outside of Parliament.

An article: “Desperation, Inc: Eastern Cape pensioners looking for justice outside Parliament” (click on link) written by Rebecca Davis (published on Daily Maverick) speaks to this matter in a forthright manner.


“The more I love, the deeper I love,
the more I see what that love is,
the more I can become love.
The more intimacy I allow,
the more I give and share and open my heart,
the more vulnerable I am,
the more I experience the sacred in me.
The more I am able to love.
The more I learn where I hold back,
where I struggle, where my pain is,
where I can’t receive.
I love because of what you allow me
to be in loving you.
No such thing as altruism.
But like a candle that lights another it loses
nothing in giving away its light.”

~ Anonymous

 

Who will move the stones?

Who will move the stones?

Apr 17, 2016  |  Fourth Sunday of Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Who will move the stones?

Grace and peace to you …

If you are familiar with Fruit and Veg City in Roeland Street you will know that for years the immediate surroundings alongside the building were rather an eyesore. Strewn with litter, rubble, huge rocks and always with a horrible stench hovering. There were many complaints about the people who hung out there and the CCID were endlessly called to sort things out, but with no helpful affect. So then…

Who will move the stone/s away for new life to come?

In 2015 Jesse Laitinen, strategic partnership manager at Khulisa Social Solutions (KSS) began to plant the idea of addressing chronic homelessness on the streets of Cape Town through food gardening. The project is called Streetscapes and believes that enabling people to be productive and add value, addresses social problems much more effectively than welfare projects.

For the last five months, Rachel Harvey (who sits in a pew near you on a Sunday :-)!) has worked tirelessly in developing the site together with many, many hands – hands that were unemployed previously and ignored. Hands like those of Zoleka Kakaza, 24, who has been on the streets for several years. She says she loves working in the garden. “Garden work is good for me. It brings me peace of mind. Though I am paid R1275 per month, I find it better than begging,” she said. And hands like those of Zamuxolo Masabalala, originally from the Eastern Cape, that have been without work since 2010. He said, “I was married, but we had a dispute and so I was kicked out of the house … I decided to be in the streets.” In his childhood, he used to garden, and thanks to the project, he is again using that experience.

The Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape is involved in kick-starting the project and the City of Cape Town pays small stipends to those working in the garden. Reliance Organic Compost helped too as did Michells Wholesale Nursery.

Last week a box containing 7.8 kgs of beautiful brinjals and 18 bunches of lovely leeks went to market to be sold.

Sounds like resurrection to me! Instead of the CCID removing the homeless people, the homeless people removed the rubble and rolled the stones away, bringing new life to the city. New life always comes through people who love people. To love people is to believe in people. To believe in people is to trust that every person is a gift longing to be appreciated and opened.

 

With gratitude for the “resurrectors” in our midst, Alan

Pictures courtesy Streetscapes and Oranjezicht City Farm

 

How to judge

How to judge

Apr 10, 2016  |  Sunday Letter, Third Sunday of Easter  |  Comments Off on How to judge

Grace and peace to you…

Corruption scandals abound: From Nkandla to Panama. By Panama I am referring to the 11.5 million “Panama-Papers” released this past week exposing how over 150 politicians in over 50 countries (together with many more rich and powerful people) hide “their” money in “shell” or fake companies located in off-shore-tax-havens.

I am always amazed when some people respond to corruption, inequality and injustice by saying: The Bible says: “do not judge”, so who am I to judge? This (mis)-use of Scripture promotes an abdication of responsibility of our collective living. It attempts to turn the vice of apathy into a scriptural virtue.

Of course we are called to judge. We are called to judge what is right and what is wrong. All ways of doing life are not equal. Some ways of living bring life while others bring death. We are called to choose life and this means we are called to expose and resist the ways of deathliness in the world.

BUT while judging what is right and wrong; life-giving or death-bringing we are NOT allowed to judge ourselves to be better than others. We are not allowed to judge Mr Zuma and the Panama-Paper-people as worse than ourselves. To judge in this regard is a denial of Jesus’ teaching that the splinter in another’s eye is of the same substance as that which is lodged in our own eye. This denial therefore places as much distance between the guilty party and ourselves which is convenient but less than truthful. The truth is that many of us have our own little Nkandlas where we have used our power and influence to secure undue benefit and our own Panama-shell-companies where we hide our excesses.

To know that we carry the same corrupt substance within us doesn’t however mean that we have no right to say or do anything. All it means is that whatever we say and do is said and done with due humility and mercy. Our aim should always be more redemptive than punitive.

Should Mr Zuma step down? Of course he should because the integrity or lack thereof within individuals in positions of power makes an almighty difference to all of our wellbeing. But let it be said that the removal of the likes of Mr Zuma and others without changing the systems of power that enable and protect and unfairly benefit a few at the expense of the many will mean little. Systems outlive people. Remove the individuals without addressing these systems and corruption is certain to continue by the next crop of head-honchos that take their place. And some of these systems are in fact legal – but sadly legal does not mean that they are just, e.g. Apartheid was legal and unjust.

One of the issues facing the world all over is the relationship between money and politics. Ensuring greater transparency in this area with stringent mechanisms of accountability is imperative for politics to be more life-giving. This is true for each of us too. Greater transparency about our own relationship with money will bring us and others a deeper fullness of life. Therefore I hope we will allow the Nkandla and Panama scandals to be a mirror to help us to see ourselves more clearly. And that as we call others to rightfully step down, we will address ourselves with equal passion.

Grace, Alan

Excruciating Vulnerability

Excruciating Vulnerability

Apr 3, 2016  |  Second Sunday after Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Excruciating Vulnerability

Grace and peace to you …

During our Three Hour Service on Good Friday the reflection entitled The Cross as Excruciating Vulnerability seems to have touched a nerve. You can find it on www.cmm.org.za if you missed it. One email response I received articulates so crisply what I think so many of us feel:

“Your sermon made me think lots today, which I try to avoid, really. Part of the numbing maybe. But when I think I tend to get to a horrible place that I don’t know how to get out of.

My biggest challenge is changing my self beliefs so that I believe I am enough, that I am worthy. I battle to connect because I feel I am not enough, that I am actually that miserable sod you mentioned! My perspective is that the relationships I have had with people are proof of that. And if anyone thinks differently it is just because they haven’t got to know me enough, got to know the real me.

I think I have backed away from some connections with people because I believe I am not enough in all sorts of ways…People deserve better or more than what I am.

So I ended up in a marriage that started when I was in an extremely stressful place. I was exhausted. I needed the connection with someone more than ever. But I still struggled with my self beliefs. Thinking I didn’t deserve better. A bad connection is better than no connection. Feeling the shame of who I am…thinking I should recognise and at least be grateful for what I do have. But then the connection never felt safe. I didn’t feel like I could be vulnerable. I wasn’t heard…I couldn’t share. If I tried it would be dismissed. So I felt like there was something wrong with me. It reinforced what I thought about myself in the first place.

The point where I get stuck is how to change my thinking, to start believing I am enough, I am worthy, I am not a miserable sod! And knowing that I need to believe it for myself, not feel that I am getting that self belief from others. If I don’t feel worthy to be loved how do I break the cycle? If we do not feel loved into worthiness and believed it to be so, what do we do?”

This is the question that propels us on our long walk to freedom,
Alan


President, do the honourable thing says Methodists

The Methodist Church of Southern Africa welcomes the unanimous judgement by the Constitutional Court on the Nkandla matter. Of crucial importance is comment by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng that “ours is a genuine and vibrant constitutional democracy capable of self-correction and self-preservation… and that the rule of law is imperative for the survival of democracy.”

The clarification of the powers of the Public Protector is also welcome and will hopefully serve as a deterrent to any who would want to undermine any Chapter 9 institutions. The remedial action articulated in the Public Protector’s report and those expounded by the Constitutional Court must be implemented without further delay. The public resources that were wasted on unnecessary investigations are regrettable.

The judgement found that the President violated the Constitution and his oath of office in that he “failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the land...” Furthermore, he defied the orders by the Public Protector to pay back a portion of the money for the non-security upgrades to Nkandla, backed by the National Assembly which too was found to have acted unconstitutionally and in flagrant violation of their duty to protect the constitution.

These events call for President Zuma to do the honourable thing and resign to save himself, the ANC and the nation as a whole from further embarrassment and ruin. This will go a long way in assisting his supporters to accept his exit, without the polarisation of society. If this does not happen, we the people of South Africa must put pressure on the ANC and Parliament to ‘assist’ the President to vacate office peacefully and constitutionally. The president’s embattled term of office has been marred with too many unresolved claims and scandals including Nkandla, the Arms deal debacle, and the recent revelations of alleged State capture by the Gupta’s and the time has come to put the country first.

We further call on the South African public to learn from these unfortunate events and rally together towards the building of a future that promises hope and well-being for all. We have a duty to protect our constitutional democracy for the generations to come.

We further pray that the National Assembly will in future act in a manner that demonstrates that they put the interests of the country first, uphold the trust placed in them by the electorate and are not just blind pawns and protectors of any individual.

This is the time to soak the nation in prayer and the MCSA calls on all people of faith to join together in prayer for peaceful resolution and possible transition into the post-Nkandla era.

Statement released by Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa
Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa

The Gift of Life

The Gift of Life

Mar 27, 2016  |  Resurrection Sunday, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on The Gift of Life

Coffee has a sweeter taste on Easter morning. The air is electric and the flowers seem to whisper, “Did you hear it? Did you? Everyone is talking about it. He is not dead. He is risen. He is ALIVE! Pass it on, pass it on, and don’t let the story die.”

We breathe in the news with breath that reaches our depth and Mary Oliver’s question seems an important one, “Tell me,” she beckons, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The news that Jesus lives is invitation for us to live too!

It was about a year ago that I was selling all my possessions and preparing to move to South Africa. It was a beautiful process of examination. My sister had almost died with Dengue Fever in a remote village in Tanzania. After hearing the news that she had been airlifted to Kenya and would survive, I found myself reflecting on the fragility of life. In the midst of my reflection, I asked myself “If you were to die tomorrow, what is it that you would regret?” The whisper that rose up was not new; I had heard that hope in the recess of my mind many times. Following the faithful next steps in the wake of that whisper is what led me to serving at CMM with all of you. No one in my life was shocked when I named I wanted to serve in South Africa. Almost everyone said, “It seems exactly the thing for you to do.” Yet, what a leap it was. The only things I have in storage in the US are my theology books.

I had not been in South Africa long before I heard of a Healing of Memories talk that would be held at the District Six Homecoming Centre. In that talk, I heard a man speaking of my grand-father’s people – the Lakota Indians in Canada. He shared about the practice they have of naming everyone they meet a relative. Tears welled in my eyes, for I was sitting in the country I wanted to be in and learning about a truth my grandfather lived faithfully. It was a beautiful moment.

Father Lapsley, the director of the Healing of Memories Institute, is someone whose work I have followed for years. He utilizes circle processes that trace back to Native American practices to help communities who have experienced collective trauma begin the process of healing. I have never formally been trained in circle processes, but I have participated in them. I leave to experience a circle process led by Father Lapsley in one of the communities here and to receive training in that work in just four days. There is something in the elemental part of who I am, my blood, which recognizes this as a gift that will go on giving in my life and ministry. I am thankful.

After this training, I will be in the US visiting with family and with the communities who are supporting my salary. So, I wanted to take time to share with all of you that I am truly grateful for this time here in South Africa, for the journey of each moment of struggle towards the next faithful step, and for the gift of standing witness to what God will unveil in each of our lives as we continue to answer the question “How do I live the life I have been gifted with boldly, generously, graciously, courageously in a way that gives testimony to the belief that Jesus lives?”

I invite you to reflect on questions that have been alive in our community with new Easter light:

  1. What about the world around you evokes a sense of holy discontent?
  2. How might you engage in these areas of discontent with your one precious life?
  3. If nothing held you back, how would you live?

Easter reminds us to release our fears and live!

With you on the journey,
Michelle

Carve out a holy space

Carve out a holy space

Mar 20, 2016  |  Palm Sunday, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Carve out a holy space

Grace and Peace to you

This is a sacred week. A Holy Week. This week invites deep attentiveness from each of us. Attentiveness to what it means to be human for in this week we witness the heights and depths of the human person. In Jesus we see the heights and in the crowds, rulers and scattered followers we see the depths. In Jesus we see who each of us is called to be and who we were originally designed to be. In the others we see our brokenness and waywardness – the people we too often are. In Jesus we see strength and courage against oppressive power. In the others we see expediency – a fickleness of character and the crucifixion that inevitably follows from such cowardice. In Jesus we witness a fullness of life even in his dying as he lives for something greater than himself. In those who surround him we smell decay – their humanity has died even as they continue to breathe.

I invite you to read Luke 22 – 23 every day this week. Allow the story to seep into your inner being. Go deep into each of the characters. Each character is a mirror into our own lives. To be attentive – really attentive – we need to carve out space – un-cluttered space. Turn the TV off for the week. Ditch social media. Be still. Be quiet. Go for a slow walk. Muse! Turn off your lights and light a candle. Honour this Holy Week with your attention. In our busyness our mind becomes “dull and domesticated”. So we should fight for free space and free time. As Rebeca Solnit writes:

“Musing takes place in a kind of meadowlands of the imagination, a part of the imagination that has not yet been plowed, developed, or put to any immediately practical use… Time spent is not work time yet without that time the mind becomes sterile, dull, domesticated. The fight for free space – for wilderness and public space – must be accompanied by a fight for free time to spend wandering in that space.”

~ Rebeca Solnit: Wanderlust: A History of Walking.

Grace, Alan


We are not perfect. We need forgiveness.

There is no perfect family. We don’t have perfect parents, we are not perfect, we don’t get married with a perfect person nor do we have perfect kids. We have complaints of each other. We were disappointed in each other.

Therefore, there is no healthy marriage or healthy family without the exercise of forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital to our emotional health and spiritual survival.

Without forgiveness the family becomes a theatre of conflict and a bastion of grievances. Without forgiveness the family gets sick. Forgiveness is the sterilization of the soul, the cleaning of the mind and the liberation of the heart.

Who does not forgive has no peace of soul nor communion with God. The pain is a poison that intoxicates and kills. Having a wound of the heart is a self-destructive gesture. It is autophagy [a self-degradative process]. Who does not forgive sickens physically, emotionally and spiritually. That’s why the family has to be a place of life and not of death; territory of healing and not of disease; stage of forgiveness and not of guilt.

Forgiveness brings joy where sorrow produced pain; and healing, where pain caused disease.

~ Pope Francis


“I am not perfect …
I rely on the forgiveness of others.

Others are not perfect …
they rely on my forgiveness.”

 

Do not be afraid

Do not be afraid

Mar 13, 2016  |  Fifth Sunday in Lent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Do not be afraid

Grace and peace to you

The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is: “Be not be afraid!” It is most often repeated because it is most often broken. Furthermore it is most often repeated because fear is the source of so many other commandments being broken. Which ones? Everyone that has to do with loving because fear casts out love.

Now obviously there is fear that is healthy. The fear that makes us look left and right and left again before crossing the road. This act of caution keeps us alive and it is highly developed within us. However when fear is internalised preventing us from exploring the people we were divinely created to be then our lives become severely impoverished and God must grieve our loss of abundant life.

Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame, has just written a book called: Big Magic  – Creative Living Beyond Fear.

She says fear is boring:

Around the age of fifteen, I somehow figured out that my fear had no variety to it, no depth, no substance, no texture. I noticed that my fear never changed, never delighted, never offered a surprise twist or an unexpected ending. My fear was a song with only one note – only one word, actually – and that word was “STOP!” My fear never had anything more interesting or subtle to offer than that one emphatic word, repeated at full volume on an endless loop: “STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP!” Which means that my fear always made predictably boring decisions…

I also realised that my fear was boring because it was identical to everyone else’s fear. I figured out that everyone’s song of fear has exactly that same tedious lyric: “STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP!” True the volume may vary from person to person, but the song itself never changes, because all of us humans were equipped with the same basic fear package when we were being knitted in our mothers’ wombs. And not just humans: If you pass your hand over a petri dish containing a tadpole, the tadpole will flinch beneath your shadow. That tadpole cannot write poetry, and it cannot sing, and it will never know love or jealousy or triumph, and it has a brain the size of a punctuation mark, but it damn sure knows how to be afraid of the unknown. …. So do we all. But there is nothing particularly compelling about that. Do you see what I mean? You don’t get any special credit, is what I’m saying, for knowing how to be afraid of the unknown … For the entirety of my young and skittish life, I had fixated upon my fear as if it were the most interesting thing about me, when actually it was the most mundane. In fact, my fear was probably the only 100 percent mundane thing about me. I had creativity within me that was original; I had a personality within me that was original; I had dreams and perspectives and aspirations within me that were original. But my fear was not original in the least. My fear wasn’t some kind of rare artisanal object; it was just a mass-produced item, available on the shelves of any generic box store. And that’s the thing I wanted to build my entire identity around? The most boring instinct I possessed? The panic reflex of my dumbest inner tadpole? No.

Be not be afraid …
Alan

Coming Home

Coming Home

Mar 6, 2016  |  Fourth Sunday in Lent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Coming Home

Seven Degrees of Separation

What does it mean to come home? Literally, for me, it means walking across the street to the Market House building and riding the elevator to the seventh floor. Yet, the question is deeper than the logistics of my steps. Living where I live is a wonderful gift and a privilege that keeps my mind awhirl with questions. So many around me in the world do not sleep in their own room, nor do they have the luxury of living alone. My flat is small, but it is also more than I need. There are seven degrees of separation between myself and so many in this world. Coming home, I have learned, is what I do when I ride the elevator down and walk out and see the world for what it really is. It is a home we are called to share in beloved community.

How amazing is Table Mountain? How alive is the sea here? There are trees that demonstrate the notion of resting under the shadow of so brilliantly. These truths can draw from us a common united sigh in our recognition of God’s handiwork. Yet, please don’t invite a move closer to the ground to see the beauty in the others that live under our feet. I wish the answer to coming home to beloved community were as easy as where we live. It makes a difference where we locate ourselves, but it is not as easy as moving from the seventh floor to the first. I wish it were. Privilege is a tricky thing. It is not something we can erase. We can shed it a bit at a time, but the more privileged you are, the more access you have to always return.

Jesus was questioned about who he shared meals with, who he spent time with, and he was known to always be on the move. So, coming home for Jesus was a weaving sort of thing. His heart was always with those who live closer to the bottom floor, the poor. His voice shook the halls of places where the powerful make their beds. His presence was for all. Jesus’ life was about weaving together a people into beloved community. We find our way home when we learn to truly live into the privilege of our humanity. What a gift it is to be full of breath, life, and the gift of opportunity to live life in ways that begin to erase the seven degrees and create circles where our eyes truly see the others in God’s community. Coming home is when we learn to live God’s dream as if it were the very air we breathe.

Desmond Tutu shared this in his book God’s Dream, “I have a dream God said. Please help me to realize it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness, squalor, and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into the glorious counterparts, where there will be more laughter, joy and peace, where there will be more justice, goodness, compassion and love and caring and sharing. I have a dream that swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, that my children will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family. My family.” The view from the seventh floor is stunning, but life on the ground, it is where we learn how to come home to God’s dream.

With you on the journey,
Michelle

Many ways to learn

Many ways to learn

Feb 28, 2016  |  Sunday Letter, Third Sunday in Lent  |  Comments Off on Many ways to learn

Grace and Peace to you …

This past week we witnessed more conflict on some of our campuses. This time students exchanged blows and police needed to separate white students from black students. The violent scenes were distressing.

My niece is in her first year at TUKS and she expressed her sense of anxiety and despair on our family WhatsApp group. My brother responded with what I thought was wise advice. This is what he wrote:

Tough and confusing times Jess. My advice for what it’s worth:

  1. Learn as much as you can about all sides before making your own mind up.
  2. Distinguish between principles and actions — believing in one doesn’t mean condoning the other.
  3. Know that you are living a segment of a problem which precedes you and will live on long after you leave TUKS.
  4. Be grateful that you are young enough to ride the change and old enough to learn from it.
  5. Front seats on history can be a terrifying privilege but that’s what it is. At your age your father and Uncle were given a gun and sent north. Your other Uncle faced 6 years in jail. Your Pops was nearly assassinated. Your Granny lived everyday with fear for her family and boss. South Africa forces you to grow up fast. Seems too fast but it’s also what makes us stronger.
  6. In between it all make new friends, embrace new experiences and see it all as important.

Notice that he did not dive in and give a “piece of his mind” about who was right and who was wrong. Instead he invited her to be fully present to the moment and to open herself to learn and grow from what was unfolding before her. Without denying the tough and troubling nature of the situation there is the comforting and hopeful belief that it is a privilege to be part of this moment.

I think these words are good advice for all of us at this time and not just my niece. But furthermore I believe that here we are given a healthy example of how we can assist people around us to grow by giving them a framework in which to process their own experience instead of simply telling them what to believe. This is education at its best and none of us are too young or old to  promote and participate in such methods of learning.

Grace, Alan


St. Peter and the Angel

Delivered out of raw continual pain,
smell of darkness, groans of those others
to whom he was chained –

unchained, and led
past the sleepers,
door after door silently opening – out!
And along a long street’s
Majestic emptiness under the moon:
one hand on the angel’s shoulder, one
feeling the air before him,
eyes open but fixed …

And not till he saw the angel had left him,
Alone and free to resume
the ecstatic, dangerous, wearisome roads of
what he had still to do,
not till then did he recognize
this was no dream. More frightening
than arrest, than being chained to his warders:
he could hear his own footsteps suddenly.
Had the angel’s feet

made any sound? He could not recall.
No one had missed him, no one was in pursuit.
He himself must be
the key, now, to the next door,
the next terrors of freedom and joy.

~ Denise Levertov