Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Anger May Be Appropriate, But …

The recent events in Charleston are upsetting on so many levels. Understandably, most people are angry. And everyone wants to comment. But most of need to be careful we’re not just adding fuel to an already-raging bonfire.

Yes, much of the media is skewed with rhetoric that favors the white majority. Yes, we need to get guns off the streets, particularly automatic weapons. Yes, the Confederate flag has become a symbol of hate, at least to most people. Yes, we should all pick our words carefully. Words do matter. The discussions too often deteriorate into shouting matches and accusations, though. And nothing is accomplished beyond making everyone angry again.

So, beyond denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, what should we do in response to all the violence and, yes, racism? And beyond making sure that the shooter never again hurts anyone in this manner.

I’m hoping that something positive can come of the latest horrific event. I’m hoping that our acts of kindness are not so random.

Attend religious services at a house of worship you’re unfamiliar with. Go to an AME church or a synagogue or a mosque. Bet anything the usual attendees will “be nice” to you. If you can find out about any outreach program they have, plan ahead and show up with nonperishable food or clothing or supplies for a woman’s or homeless shelter. Go the extra mile to show you care. And take the children with you.

Attend a rally or commemoration for a cause.

Volunteer for a cause.

Pay for someone else’s groceries or meal. Someone struggling with the kids. An elderly couple. Or just someone who looks unhappy. You’d be amazed how much goodwill even $20 will buy.

Read a book or other material (to yourself or with the kids) you might not normally read. Don’t make me outline which ones are available.

Come up with your own solution. One step at a time.

Get to know your neighbor and live with a purpose, for goodness sake.

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Stories, Stories Everywhere

Aunt Mary's 95th

Norma, Mary (95th), Shirley (Mom)

This past week, I traveled to Iowa. What was supposed to be my aunt’s 100th birthday party turned into a funeral when she died suddenly, four days before her actual birthday. I say “suddenly” because, even though we all knew her time was short, she was in relatively good shape and was very much looking forward to the party.

The one good aspect was that most of the family already had travel plans. I saw all my living cousins on that side of the family for the first time in many years.

Even though the minister officiating didn’t know her well, he did an excellent job of gathering stories about the wonderful woman my aunt was. Naturally, there were aspects of her life that were too painful for anyone to bring up, but I’m sure the good memories triggered thoughts in everyone of those other times.

Any family gathering is rife with stories. Not all of them can be easily adapted to the story you’re trying to tell, but taking notes (or at least taking note) is a really good idea for writers.

Aunt Mary was an incredible cook. She learned a lot of what she knew from my grandmother. Borne at least partly out of the Depression and hard times, her meals always consisted of plentiful and basic ingredients. They always had a huge garden, and she canned or froze everything. Green beans, pickles, strawberries, cherries, corn, rhubarb, and horseradish. Although I don’t think I’ve had gooseberry pie since Grandma died. Must not have been a favorite of Aunt Mary’s. Homemade chicken and noodles is as close to heaven as you can get. Nothing like Aunt Mary’s macaroni and cheese. Knowing these flavors can only help a story.

My cousin, who preceded her mother in death, was mentally challenged. She was the closest thing I had to a sister growing up. My aunt and uncle could have chosen to have her institutionalized, but she lived with them well into her fifties. As she aged, Judy developed health problems that also affected her personality. Through it all, Aunt Mary dealt with whatever came. Taught me so much about how to approach people and how to deal with what’s in front of you.

These are just two areas where I feel my aunt’s influence enriched my life and my writing. She was a force to be reckoned with and I shall carry her with me forever.

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