Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Tending and Mending on #MemorialDay

Memorial Day has meant different things to me in my life. When I was too small to understand about war and service, it was simply vacation from school and time with my parents. Cookouts or travel were an expected part of the day. As I got older, it became a day to remember and honor those who sacrificed for our country. I started taking part in parades or acts of service.

This year - partly because I personally know more people with COVID-19 than any other point in the pandemic - I didn’t feel like going to any parades or BBQ’s. After a hard bunch of weeks for activists who care about reproductive rights and gun violence, yesterday had to be a day of tending and mending for me.


Image: A bed of chard in my garden
The school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX broke my heart and made me angry all over again. It came while I was still upset about the impending roll-back of Roe vs. Wade. If there were ever a time to take a step back and tend to my own soul, that was it. I began the day by caring for our backyard vegetable garden. In tending to the garden, I tended to myself. My dear friend Pamela Dolan released a book this spring called Contemplative Gardening. In it, she talks about the benefits of gardening as a spiritual practice. She says,

“When we garden we practice hope, putting our faith in nature’s ability to bring forth life, to create something beautiful and nourishing from the modest ingredients of soil, seed, and time. In other words, gardens are places of health, hope, and healing.” 
—Pamela Dolan  

If you are an activist, I urge you to take time and do whatever you need to do to restore your own light. This quote posted by the facebook page Zen Taoist Buddism Thich Nhat Hanh Dalai Lama spoke to me:

Image: Illustrated boy sitting on a stone with Regina Lake quote

“This my dear is the greatest challenge to being alive: to witness the injustice of this world, and not allow it to consume our light.”

Regina Linke

Do what you can to preserve your light. If you are an extrovert, that might mean sharing and spreading your light to have joy in making more of it. If you are an introvert, like me, it might mean staying home from those parades and parties, so you can cup your hands around a fragile candle flame to protect it from the wind blowing it out.


Image: Hand sewing 
With my family still sleeping, I took on some repair tasks I’ve been too busy to take on lately. I always get great satisfaction in using my own two hands to fix broken things and make them useful again, but I’m not always quick to do it. I went to my sewing machine where my youngest teen’s pants have been hanging for days, unwearable because of a big hole from an especially ambitious stretch. It took about 30 seconds to zip them through the machine and make them whole again. (See my earlier blog about doing the easy task first for inspiration to do a bigger task.) Then, I grabbed up needle and sturdy thread to tackle the canvas on a piece of patio furniture that had unravelling seams.

Image: A large tear in patio
furniture canvas

As I worked, I thought about whether our nation is unravelling and what it will take to fix it. I had let this patio task go far too long and there were many sections two feet and longer needing repair. If I’d gotten to it sooner, it wouldn’t be so bad now. That seems like a metaphor for America today.

I heard someone on the radio say that on Memorial Day we honor those who gave their lives to preserve our freedoms and our American way of life. Hmm. What is our way of life in this moment? Being scared of shooters at school? Being forced to carry a child to term, endangering a mother’s mental or physical health? Being afraid of a police traffice stop simply because of one's race? Seems like the best way to honor those heroes is to create an America free of those fears.

Our democracy needs many hands to mend what’s broken. By writing my book From Changing Diapers to Changing the World, my intention was to train more activists to take their first advocacy actions and inspire the current advocates to keep going. Working alone at my big canvas tear, I thought about the saying, “Many hands make light work.” For America, it’s going to be heavy work no matter how many hands are working at it. But we must have more helpers. No doubt about it.

It’s clear to me we will have to have many hands working at many kinds of tasks. Of course, it will take activists working on lots of different issues. But it will also take people of strong character running for office and teams of people to get them into office. It will take citizens holding the line to prevent voter suppression through unfair redistricting and intimidation. It will take boldness from those already holding office. And, yes - whether or not we like it - it will take donors and money.

What’s next?

For me, now that I’m feeling a bit more restored, I’ll be taking actions to mend our democracy. I’ll do it to honor fallen members of the military who protected our democracy with their lives and in honor of the 19 children and two teachers who died at Robb Elementaryand the 20 children and six adults who died at Sandy Hook Elemetary 20 years ago…and the 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High…and so many others I could list. I’ll be donating to candidates I believe will do better than their opponents at mending and tending our country.

If you would like to join me in advocacy actions against gun violence, here are some suggestions below. I wish you all strength and peace to mend and tend. Don’t allow the world to consume your light.

• Send a message demanding your senators take action gun safety legislation → https://bit.ly/hold-lawmakers-accountable
• Get involved with your local Moms Demand Action or Students Demand Action groups → https://bit.ly/join-chapter
• Find a Wear Orange event near you → https://bit.ly/find-wo-event
• Make calls from home with GSAN → https://bit.ly/make-calls-at-home
• Join our Summer Series to get texted 1 action a week → https://bit.ly/series-summer

Image: Five actions (listed above) to take to help end gun violence