Sunday, November 16, 2008

I can't quit

As I reflect on my friend Wyshina's death, I think about how much less stressful my life would have been had I stayed in Ozark county in rural Missouri. It probably wouldn't have been filled with as much death, tragedy, and worries that my life has now.

When things like this happen, a fleeting thought of quitting enters my mind. I have had people tell me I should move on...that I can do "more good" if I utilize my doctoral degree for something else...like working at a university full time or doing some other, larger job. Others have tried to convince me that I am not doing the good I think I am and could do it more effectively if I did more to fulfill myself. Thank goodness I have learned and continue to realize that the people who make those suggestions have their own issues and insecurities about who they are and what they are or aren't doing.

Wyshina's death makes my head throb as I think of the people I have lost over the last few years--some due to senseless murder, some being caught up in the drug culture, some because of a lack of healthcare...all of them societal issues that can and need to be fixed.

I think about how these deaths have affected me...I think about how many people's stories I carry in my head and how they burden my heart...yet I think about how anyone walking by me would never know about these things. It makes me think about other people around me...people who probably also have many things going on in their life that the average, outside person would never know about them. I know many of these are children...and the children grow into the adults of our society.

However, when I think that it would be easier to go somewhere else to make my own life less complicated, the word SOLIDARITY comes to mind. I think of Paulo Freire, who speaks a lot about solidarity in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Here is just one quote from this book:


...true solidarity with the oppressed means fighting at their side to transform the objective reality which has made them these “beings for another.” The oppressor is in solidarity with the oppressed only when he stops regarding the oppressed as an abstract category and sees them as persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor — when he stops making pious, sentimental, and individualistic gestures and risks an act of love. ... To affirm that men and women are persons and as persons should be free, and yet to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce.
It is not fair or just for me to remain on the outside. I am not any more special than the people I know who directly face these tragedies. To think I am would be arrogant and unwise. It is because of my friendship and my solidarity with those around me that I can not leave. I must endure the hardships with them.

I have found that there is true "family" in that solidarity. (Thank you Sylvia, Larry, Gerald, Marva, Mike, Mr. Wendell, Vicki, Dave, Lagean, Ms. Coleman, and so many others)

To truly be free, we cannot ignore what happens. We cannot remove ourselves.

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is tied up with mine, then let us work together.-- Lill Watson, aboriginal activist
I now understand that my welfare is only possible if I acknowledge my unity with all the people of the world without exception. ~Leo Tolstoy
I know these are just quotes, but remembering them in times like these gives me hope...provides me with a sense of direction and understanding that is much needed in times like these. I can't quit.

When things go wrong as they sometimes will
When the road your trudging seems all-uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup
And he learned too late when the night came down
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar
So stick to the fight when you are hardest hit
It's when things seem worse that you musn't quit. -Unknown
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