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(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

Last night my son and I stumbled on a video my daughter and her friend created when they were in high school—we had a great time laughing at how early this silly video shows up on a Google search for her name. Just imagine her future employers finding it—and seeing a little bit of who she was on one day in the year she was sixteen. Heck, I even make a cameo appearance in the video—and I am sprinting—not bad for a younger/old gal, right?

But the nostalgia for those days pulled at me and reminded me just how much water has passed under the so many bridges she has crossed since then. While watching, I longed for those simpler days—the before when so many things seemed easier.

Until I looked at the date stamp. The time frozen in that video was not an easier era—it was just one golden moment in the midst of a very dark period. The moving pictures showed a seemingly ordinary good day made all the more extraordinary by my discovering the date when it happened.

Just goes to show you that images are not always what they seem and that even when life is difficult, there are often moments when we shed the weight burdening us and live with joy one moment to the next.

My daughter graduates from college in two weeks—two weeks!

May she always remember that life is full of golden moments, even in the darkest of times. We may have just this one goofy visual reminder of a day when she smiled and I sprinted, but we also have smiled and sprinted on many other days, too—and still do. The trick for anyone is reminding yourself that grabbing small, beautiful moments, such as those shown in that video, is always possible. Always.

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert


Winter term, freshman year, on a bleak, white-washed January Ohio day, I showed up for the first day of that necessary evil of college: composition or expository writing or whatever you want to call the class each college makes you take to ensure you write well enough to get through any future college writing assignments. That day I met my future academic adviser, though I didn’t know it yet. The major hadn’t chosen me yet so I still had the adviser assigned to me before I showed up on campus. Dr. B. seemed the picture of one of those common caricatures of what a literature professor is like—he was a former beatnik with a salt and pepper early Beatles’ style haircut who rode an old black bike across campus, keeping his small manual typewriter set in the mesh basket attached to the front. He wanted us to call him by his initials or his nickname, but I stuck with the formal “Dr.” whenever I addressed him. I was way more uptight than this man, but we got along just fine, nonetheless.

When I left for college, I wrote well enough—you know, for a person who could apply basic grammar rules. My papers made sense and I could say what I meant. Still, like most of my peers, I did not write well enough to test out of the basic composition class. At the time I put that down to a writing prompt that had something to do with the Iran Hostage Crisis. As I mentioned in the previous post, I was really not into thinking that deeply at that point in time, but I’m pretty certain the reason I didn’t test out of the class was because I needed to take it not because of the difficulty of the prompt.

What I learned most in his class was less about writing with correct grammar—because I already did that well—and more about how to create writing that sounded fresh in a variety of settings. Yes, we could insert fragments (incomplete sentences) as long as we applied them sparingly and used our pens to indicate we knew what and where they were. (Excuse me while I apologize to him right now since it appears I often ignore his “sparingly” rule regarding usage of fragments—sorry, Dr. B.)

However, the fragments are just something that really resonates with who I am as a writer. I imagine I might write better if I stopped making quite so many asides. Not that I’m stopping. (Mark that frag. for Dr. B.) What mattered most was that he taught me and all my classmates the difference between writing in passive and active voice. He challenged us to circle every instance of passive voice we used in our papers and to leave as few as necessary in the final drafts. Even if I hadn’t majored in English or chosen to write/edit, I would have needed to learn this—hey, I think everyone needs to know how to write in active voice. Not only does writing become more immediate with active voice, but using it also forces writers to search deeper for just the right verb, something that tends to develop a more creative process.

To this day, I struggle to get through a book that distances itself through passive language. Maybe reading all those (mostly ancient) philosophy texts my first weeks in college influenced the amount of relief I felt from learning how to bring about some clarity in writing! Yet, I have read books on topics such as probability, process management, business, psychology, and DNA but only if written well—which for me tends to mean the writing uses active language. Even the chemistry and astronomy textbooks I proofread last fall avoided most usages of passive voice—the writing spelled out concepts in a straightforward and accessible manner that should aid future students in applying those concepts to the associated exercises and experiments.

Some of life happens to us—passive voice sometimes works in the tales we tell of those stories, but not always—unless, of course, we are deliberately trying to downplay the action. Imagine the emotional and visual difference between saying “I was hit by a car” versus saying “A car hit me”—one creates distance and a sort of matter-of-fact impression of the news while the other projects a strong picture that could lead to a more visceral response. Nonetheless, the first statement is exactly how my mother finally admitted she did remember after all that a car hit her first before she came home and fell again. Though my mom had a story to tell, she did not want to do so—she deliberately fell back on passive voice to obfuscate the facts.

Don’t make the mistake of using passive voice when you really want others to hear your story, though. Doesn’t matter if it’s an annual report for a business or a technical how-to piece or the story of how your mother broke her foot—if you want the reader to stay with the story, write in active voice as often as you can.

(Even after a car hit my mother, she healed well. Thank goodness we soon found a doctor practiced enough at listening to seniors that he could interpret passive voice narratives meant to conceal health and/or safety concerns.)

Note: this is the first in the series of topics/concepts encountered in college that mattered most to me. See the introduction post here.

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

When I went to select a college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to study for a major or what profession I wanted to pursue, so I looked for schools that had good programs in the variety of subjects that interested me. I figured that with exposure to different areas, the major would choose me. However, I already knew I wanted to continue studying Spanish—my high school teacher said at that time the U.S. was the fourth largest Spanish-speaking nation—surely knowing Spanish would continue to be useful no matter what else I studied.

So when the course options and registration materials arrived at my home a few months before I left for school, I selected a Spanish class and then mulled other options. Since this was back in the pencil and paper days, I had no idea which of my other suggestions would end up on my schedule until the paper with course numbers and times arrived. My first trimester classes represented a classic humanities schedule: the Spanish course, history (Western Civilization Part I), and Philosophy (Greek and Roman).

My introduction to philosophy didn’t exactly set me on fire. Though my son Jackson can go on for hours about all sorts of in-depth topics in philosophy, usually what he says goes way over my head. But if I had not taken that class with the lectures and texts that so often put me to sleep, I might have missed out on learning about Plato’s Cave. True, maybe I only stayed awake in class the day the professor introduced the topic because he showed it through a cartoon video—I’m not ashamed to admit that without those simplistic pictures I might have missed the point. Learning comes through many avenues, right?

Though so many years have passed since I watched that film, I can still see those men who were chained together in the cave, facing a wall and unable to turn to look behind them where a large fire burned. Shadows flicker on the wall—the men have no idea the images are mere suggestions of themselves or any activity happening behind them. Those shadows are their reality. Then one man is released and able to turn to see that so much more is occurring—he realizes the truth he knew was only partial. That same man then discovers a way out of the cave and encounters even more realities—even those who move freely within the cave do not know the whole truth, it seems. Amazed, he returns to tell the others how much more exists in the world—and, yet, they do not believe. They know what they know.

What a perfect concept to encounter so early in my education. The Cave taught me to question all assumed realities and to try to figure out for myself whether or not what I think I know about something is simply the shadows of that truth or if my understanding is based on something more tangible. On the other hand the Cave also showed me why others might not agree with my version of reality—and that sometimes the person who has seen the sun cannot enlighten others who have only known darkness and shadows, no matter how hard he or she tries.

I’m lucky I learned anything academically during my first months at college. Oh sure, I was going to all my classes and doing all my work—even if I had a lot to learn about time management—but I wasn’t really thinking very critically yet. The Cave opened my own eyes to the importance of thinking about what I was being taught—which was a good thing to learn early because in my four years at that college I was going to encounter a whole lot of blue books I had to fill with my own answers to essay questions. I could hardly believe that I could get A’s on philosophy tests simply by stating what I thought of what we were studying—I mean, what did I know about philosophy? My success on those tests showed me that maybe professors weren’t just looking for me to parrot what I’d been told.

Could it be the reality of pursuing an education was about way more than just doing the work? That it wasn’t enough to be a vessel filled with ideas taught by others?

In so many ways, previously my own idea of learning was like being chained in that cave. Take what you see and memorize it. How much better to be called to discern for myself whether what appeared to be reality was true light or simply shadows on a wall—or somewhere in between.

Not only might a major choose the person, but also sometimes so does knowledge.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

The winter of my son’s discontent has begun to thaw thanks to—his Grandma Mae’s accordion? Really. These long days and nights of waiting for his post-concussion syndrome to subside have left him with time on his hands since he is still banned from doing his martial arts—the activity that previously filled his evenings and provided an outlet for the excessive energy that runs through his body whether or not his head is aching. Winter’s low light, his restrictions, and his pain have led to a massive case of cabin fever, especially as he has no idea when his healing will pick up. He needed something (safe) to do and we needed him to have something do when he wasn’t at work—which was more often since he’s still not released to work a full schedule. Who knew the accordion really could step in against the face of doing too much of nothing?

Not I, but I was getting desperate. If you don’t know, people who are concussed (mini-rant: when did that become a proper term?) get pretty irritable. Plus, any brain challenges a person has get exacerbated—which means my son’s rant gene (we’re pretty sure there must be one in our family including in his mother) has ramped up the monologues around here. What could he do that would grab the attention of his brain while having a physical component? I thought he’d try out my LEGO suggestion but instead he grabbed onto the accordion idea, especially after I pointed out he could start learning by using the Internet.

After the first two days he had already played the thing for eight hours. His bored (yet bruised) brain sang with joy—or at least his fingers did. Pretty soon he was researching how the accordion was put together and how to fix the stuck buttons. He knows the background of his accordion’s brand and has a good idea of its age and value. He can tell you about different styles of instruments and accordion-playing traditions across different countries and over several time periods. I’ve become used to falling asleep to the sound of an accordion—which is fine since he most often chooses to play with a sweet tone—it’s almost as if I’m rocking asleep in a boat in Venice. Almost.

At first our dog Sam ran from the music. Something about the vibrations or the movement of the bellows scared him in a way that our playing other instruments hasn’t. Thankfully Sam’s made a truce with the instrument because I don’t think it’s going away any time soon—and that’s a good thing because this personal music therapy has done more for our son than anything else has over the past three months.

Perhaps he’ll become the next Lawrence Welk? When I first said that, I meant it in jest, but after finding a really old video of the Bubble-master playing his accordion, old Lawrence is much redeemed in my eyes—I’ve yet to forgive him for all those dull shows of his I had to watch while visiting my grandparents, but if he’d played his accordion that way in his later years, he would have kept my attention.

Maybe my son had to get hit on the head to find his true calling—or not. But thank goodness the accordion is a friend when he needs it to get through this overly long healing period. Even if his music didn’t sound so sweet, that alone would make it enough for me. How sweet it is indeed.

P.S. Check out Lawrence Welk’s playing–it’s well worth a listen.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

My friend shared on Facebook how differently his life has turned out from the plans he had 30 years ago when graduating from college. Instead of becoming Mr. International-Business, he is back living in his childhood home, after choosing to be his parents’ full-time caregiver. His life is full of love and laughter, despite the tears and despite having to do hard tasks for his parents. He understands how to find joy in ordinary moments such as walking along the river, observing the patterns created while pushing a snow blower, or reveling in sharing memories with his mom and dad while their shaky hands slowly help decorate the Christmas tree. And yet, he is happy in the life he has.

That kind of happy is easy to be around because it’s not the kind of happy that comes from having, doing, and/or achieving. Instead, it’s the kind of happy that comes from being—and loving.

Today I sat in a radiology waiting room with a man so like the one my friend thought he would be all those years ago. This man was busy—and, as far as I could tell, happy with all that busyness. He made one call after another. “I’m not sharing this with anyone else yet.” “I won an award.” “Please change the flight for our nanny for the Hawaii trip.” “I’ll be in a conference call from 2:30 to 5:00.” Call after call, the man just kept going.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t trying to listen—I’m just sharing some of the snippets that kept intruding on my plan to read my book in relative silence—while, once again, waiting for someone I love who was at a medical appointment. I was looking for a quiet, peaceful moment when I could relax and try not to worry about the whys for our visit.

Most likely our visit was just a rule-out activity, but it’s not lost on me that for some people this is the place where what they never planned to experience is discovered.

From the cheerful banter and movement from one phone call after another by the other occupant of the waiting room, I got the impression the man was there for something such as a picture of an achy knee or some other sort of a hitch in his get-a-long—some body part that was slowing down his fast-paced life.

That’s why I was surprised when I heard his offhand tone as he said, “Oh, I’m just waiting to get a CT scan. They want to look at those blood clots in my lungs. They’re saying I might not be able to fly.” After a pause and a short laugh, he added, “Well, that won’t work. I have to be there, you know?”

Despite his almost frenetic activity, I really did get the impression it was no cover for fear. He just didn’t have time for that sort of thing (health difficulties) in his life—he had things to do, people to see, and places to go. Something like that just wasn’t going to slow him down.

I wish him well, but I just wanted to shake him and ask him if he’d heard himself. If nothing else, there are the people who rely on him at work or at the companies with which he deals, not to mention his wife and the two boys under his nanny’s care. Might taking a break from all his plans be better than letting everyone else figure out how to do without him permanently?

Nothing against the man—well, except for the fact it never seemed to occur to him that maybe I didn’t want to listen to all his phone calls—but I question his priorities. His body clearly has some problem, but he acted as if he thought he was just spending time waiting to check off another “to do” from his list.

If that’s the kind of person my friend had become, then we probably would have drifted into way different circles.

But long before his parents became ill, he recognized those original goals weren’t really his. He is a healer of a person, not a wheeler and dealer. I am blessed to know him—the him he was and the him he allowed himself to become. And truly the world would be a better place for us if more people such as he is were the wheelers and dealers of this world, but I don’t think that lifestyle would feed the healers of this world in the ways they need to be fed.

Blessed are those who feel blessed, even when they have few of the trappings of the world—for they know how to slow down and see God in the tiniest grain of sand or while experiencing a nano-second of joy.

Well done, oh good and faithful servant—you “get” it.

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

As your kids grow—even when they aren’t away from home—you know less and less about their lives—as is right. You see some of their successes as well as their fumblings, but you often don’t spend a lot of time with them.

When you notice them moving in a good direction, you cheer the possibilities. Like me, my son gets great benefit from physical activities, and I’ve enjoyed watching his growth—both physical and mental—from his participation in martial arts over the last several months. Thanks to this practice, we’ve seen less and less of him around our home lately.

That is, until last month, when his head got injured at work. Since then he’s had to take a hiatus from the physical aspects of his martial arts, as well as from his sometime weekend gig as well as from working full days at his regular job.

The news is full of the long-term effects from head injuries these days with more information available about the difficulties all levels of athletes are experiencing from previous concussions. I was raised by a mother who had a head injury with effects that lingered for her lifetime so I do understand many of the concerns surrounding the distant future.

But what I didn’t understand was just how much a seemingly minor head injury affects someone in the short term.

My son is receiving care under Worker’s Compensation for his injury. At first he was released to full-time work but with physical reductions. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that focusing at work for the normal time period led to excruciating headaches that chased him into a dark room post-work. His maximum allowed work hours were reduced to five a day.

Although he feels much better with more rest, he is not healed and it is not clear how long it will be until he is. He is so frustrated that he can neither perform to his own standards at work nor do the activities he likes, such as the martial arts and snow skiing. Plus, he feels the clock ticking as work and friends wonder why he isn’t better yet. Trust me, so does he.

He is being seen by medical professionals who are searching for that answer. Despite what some have said, I’m not cynical enough to believe they would drag out the process just to make money. That doctor’s office today was plenty busy with people who were there on private insurance. In fact, if I’m cynical at all, it’s because some people I know have received sub-standard care from worker’s comp providers. So far I don’t feel that either case is true for him.

I hate being so aware of the costs for this—I know that workplace injuries like this can drive up premiums for small businesses. If I could I would have suggested he receive care all along on our insurance to avoid all that—but that’s not how the systems function. He didn’t get hurt doing martial arts or putting up Christmas lights at home or walking down the street, for that matter—he got hurt while doing his job, working a position that is physical enough to have some risk of workplace injuries.

All I know is he’d rather be working full-time and continuing his moonlighting position and growing in his martial arts and going skiing with us and just living his everyday life. Instead, he’s had rest imposed on him—which is tough at any age, let alone at 22.

My mother’s heart hurts that he has to put his life on hold and that his body has been damaged. “Stuff” happens in everyone’s lives but that doesn’t make it any easier when it happens to someone you love.

He’s young and time is on his side, but, for now, time is moving way too slowly for him. As my mother-in-law always says during tough times, this too shall pass. Guess we’ll just have to enjoy how his slowed down pace gives us more time to pass with him.

(c) 2013

(c) 2013

Despite all the frustrations over scheduling and advising, our daughter is getting ready to graduate this semester. Yahoo! She is busy making certain all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed so that she can leave with that degree—for which she will have an extra 14 credit hours. No, I told her not to accept the department adviser’s minor error on her graduation contract—it could matter. (My niece is marrying a man whose academic department started quibbling with him regarding his degree completion over two months after they said he had graduated.)

Besides completing her capstone art semester, which will culminate with a solo art show, she is also taking a professional practices course. She’s been working on tasks such as creating business cards and setting up her professional Facebook page. Somehow it’s hard to believe—despite the extra two semesters—that she is finally graduating.

Yes, we are those “crazy” parents who “let” our daughter declare a major in art—with a concentration in drawing in a small and highly competitive program. Will she be able to support herself solely with her art? That remains to be seen, but the desire to support herself is one of the reasons she is getting her art education within a four-year (make that five-year!) university program.

In these times so many people believe studying the humanities at all, let alone art, is a license to starve. And I have to thank everyone (sarcasm intended) who has pointed that out over the years, including some of her professors who think it is some sign of poor artistry to do anything with her art that doesn’t involve selling in a studio. Also, I would like to thank the many lackluster students in more practical majors who are shocked—just shocked—that she not only has a lot of work to do for her classes but also that she gets graded. How many of them could survive having all their highly unique work critiqued not only by the professor but also by their peers, every single time?

I happen to believe that being a passionate student in any subject teaches students more than they will learn if they only do the bare minimum in some subject they take because it is supposed to earn them money. Hey, I have an MBA (to go with that lowly humanities degree) but I’ve met a lot of former and current business majors who cared more about partying than balance sheets or P/E ratios.

When my daughter tells many students what she is studying, they say, “Oh, wow, I can’t draw.” As if somehow this has anything to do with them in the first place but I think they’re trying to point out how irrelevant her knowledge is. I’ll get to what’s relevant about her studies in a moment, but let’s just say that it’s too bad they can’t draw, because she can draw by hand and computer (plus edit by computer) as well as create spreadsheets, perform accounting, write, do research, and excel in math and science classes.

You see, she’s graduating with a bachelor’s degree just like all the other people at her university—they don’t give those degrees away no matter your major. Like everyone else there, she’s taken a variety of other courses besides those in her major and area of concentration.

Plus—and here’s where my liberal arts rant begins again—each discipline teaches valuable skills that apply to many situations.

In order to obtain a degree in art, for each project she does she has to follow a prompt—in other words, she has to design her finished product to some specifications. She must sketch possibilities from her ideas, research artists and works similar to her idea, investigate materials and see how well she can apply those materials to her specific project plan, and change the plan as needed. She has to manage her time in order to finish a long project by the deadline. When she is finished she must go through a group critique where the professor and her peers get to weigh in on how they perceive her finished project achieved its intent. At times she must create art in partnership or as part of a team. Keep in mind that few of her courses involve taking multiple choice tests by Scantron—most of the work she does is distinct and individualized.

So to summarize: For any given project she must work from directions, use creativity, perform research, practice good time management, remain flexible as her project develops, meet established deadlines, communicate ideas in writing and orally to individuals and groups, and receive criticism and feedback from multiple individuals.

Don’t discount her education—it’s been rigorous and has helped her develop the tools she needs to meet the demands of a variety of professions. Hey, I’d be happy if you’d buy her art and she could live as an artist. But just so you know, her discipline has taught her many skills and developed others that are valuable to many kinds of jobs and careers.

Just because she can draw a box doesn’t mean she isn’t able to draw outside the box.

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

Most all was calm, most all was bright. That’s how this Christmas felt after so many years of distress and darkness. I’m not a person who expects a perfect Christmas, but it’s been a long time since our Christmases felt normal-enough in any way.

First there was the Christmas Eve when my mom fell and we couldn’t deny anymore that who she was was slipping away. There would be three more Christmases with her—each one with less and less of her present. But the first Christmas without her here at all, I could hardly imagine “doing” Christmas, knowing she would not be part of the celebrations at all, except in our memories. And so we created new traditions, even down to changing almost everything about the way we decorated.

But my mother was not the only one who had changed in a big way during all these years. The Christmas after Mom’s fall, my daughter—and our whole family, of course—was also freefalling into a developing mental illness—something with which we had no experience. After initial improvements and a couple seemingly reasonable years, her descent accelerated, all while we were trying to figure out what she needed from the distance as she attended college. Last Christmas, though seemingly bleak enough, brought the present of a different diagnosis—which has led to more appropriate treatments—and a renewed sense of hope—for her and for those of us who love her.

Though I still miss my mother at Christmas—and always will—I am learning to accept her absence and to find comfort and joy in the new traditions, just as I did in the Christmases after I lost my father. For most of us beyond a certain age, figuring out to how celebrate again after losing our grandparents and parents and other older loved ones is a life passage through which we must live. I am finally coming to terms with what Christmas means now for me without both of my parents.

However, a renewed feeling of calm and hope for my own children—something I took for granted years ago—is the most precious gift I have ever received. I treasure these things and ponder them in my heart.

Of course, this Christmas season, though more normal than it has been in years thanks to our daughter’s improved outlook, has not been perfect. Now my husband’s parents are in decline, even if not so precipitously (mentally) as my mom had been. And our son is suffering lingering effects from a concussion he received mid-month—time will yet tell how well he heals.

So crazy how hard it sometimes is to feel the true joy of the greatest miracle of all time when you have been seeking other more personal miracles in the lives of those whom you love. And yet, in my own dark nights of my soul, I continued to understand the longing for light to come into this world—and have clung to that light even when joy itself has seemed elusive except in the smaller moments. I remain grateful for the miracles—small and large—that have happened in our lives.

I open my arms and heart to receive this gift of a Christmas that has had more laughter than tears—something I haven’t been able to say for many long years. One of the greatest miracles is that I can still believe in a merry-enough Christmas after all.

God bless us one and all—especially if this is one of those Christmases when you are still trying to convince yourself to continue believing that one day, you too, will again celebrate a merry-enough Christmas.

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

For the last few months before I gave birth to my children—twins who would arrive in the beginning of June—our weather was unseasonably warm here in Colorado. But in California the world was on fire, but not due to wildfires or droughts. Los Angeles had erupted over the news that four white cops had been acquitted of beating Rodney King—a beating that had been videotaped and released to the media—in the previous year. In many ways, the King video was the introduction to a whole new populist way of promoting social justice even as it also promoted social unrest. People no longer needed to rely on journalists witnessing events for news to be shared all over the world.

Still, people only see what they want to see. Some people saw a person who broke the law and thus really didn’t have the right to complain while others saw a man who had broken the law but who in no way had done anything to bring on the type of violence he received. And in the aftermath, some people could only see the black men who beat the white truck driver—for no particular reason—at the same time they could not see the white men in positions of authority who had severely beaten a black man—for no particular reason.

Look, I personally am going to claim my own white privilege here because throughout my life I have discovered more and more situations I never had to experience, simply based upon the color of my skin. And growing up where I did, first in rural Nebraska and later in a larger town still fairly removed from the race relations found in urban centers, everything about race was pretty theoretical to me. However, as my awareness grew, I tried to root out more of my own inherent racism, especially as I was shocked to discover it in more blatant forms in others whom I generally respected.

Then I went off to my seemingly ivory tower college in Ohio where one of my first actions was to fall in love with an incredible man who happened to be black and not of any privileged background at all—lest you count his close-knit family and his faith tradition, which he did. So many of the things he told me of race relations were new to me, yet he was a peacemaker who got along with all types of people, even most of his roughest (white) football teammates. Still, at that ivory tower, we didn’t really experience any pushback from our being together.

If my life had followed the course I had wanted at that time I would be the mother of biracial children and the spouse of someone outside my race, so I can never really view race relations as theoretical anymore. And though he has long been dead, I tend to think of how certain racial situations would affect him—not as the minor lawbreaker some of these young men have been, but as a law-abiding citizen under suspicion for no other reason than because of his race.

A few years after the riots in California, another law-abiding citizen we know experienced what I see all sorts of people (white) on Facebook denouncing as either a myth or inconsequential: racial profiling by law enforcement. The young man who was my husband’s assistant came from Chicago but I think even he was lulled into thinking these sorts of things didn’t really happen that often in Denver. One day he received his paycheck and—clothed in dress pants and a good shirt with no tie—went straight to the grocery store to cash his whole paycheck. Then, with all that money in his pocket, he stopped off at the liquor store before heading home. As he drove away on a major street, flashing lights appeared behind him. He pulled over and was dragged out of his vehicle and thrown roughly to the ground in the broad daylight of an early summer’s evening. The fact he matched some vague description of someone they were seeking and the fact he had a large sum of money on his body meant he was treated with great suspicion—and when I say suspicion, I think most of the questioning was meted out with brute force and intimidation. Somehow he finally convinced them to listen but not before he was reminded that he was indeed a black man and that his education and intent and actions really didn’t matter first in his dealings with law enforcement.

Little by little the veneer of believing that my experience is no different than that of someone of another race has been stripped from me—and my knowledge of what’s on the Internet has undone my initial beliefs even faster. I have to acknowledge that racism is much greater than I knew if even white, suburban, privileged high school boys can feel comfortable saying what they said the night President Obama was first elected.

See, part of the point is my white privilege really has allowed me not to know or experience certain things. But once we see and hear those things with our own eyes and ears, how can we still not believe?

Since when do we in the United States say it’s OK to kill people for shoplifting or selling illegal cigarettes or being disrespectful to authority? We have a justice system where people should be charged for the crimes of which they are accused, and only after the proper following of procedures and once those people are determined guilty of those charges can they be convicted. These truths should be true whether or not you are rich or poor or connected or not or black or white or a general scumbag or not. In this country none of us is supposed to be judge, jury, and executioner—not even law enforcement officials. Let justice roll down like water—not fire.

I don’t condone looting and burning, but can you understand just a little bit of the rage of never, ever being seen for who you are and what you do, no matter what? No, in some ways I can’t at all understand it because that shoe is usually not on my foot.

But I’m trying—and will continue to do so the rest of my days. I had expected to bring my own children into a better world than the one that turned out to be burning in the weeks before their births. Nonetheless, I am so proud they have grown to be people who really do judge others by the color of their characters, not by the color of their faces. Those of us who do “see” must join together in that ever-flowing stream of mighty righteousness, workers for justice striving to quench these fires. Let justice roll down—indeed.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

So now to explain what’s right about how we interact with our mostly grown/grown children and their friends these days. I am not always as cranky as my recent post on the topic might have led you to believe. Though I continue to believe there is a lot of vulnerability in the informal relations these days between generations, I also know that if I really wanted to keep the stronger boundaries of earlier times, I would do so. Just as there are negatives to our squishy relations, there are positives.

For one thing, the more time we spend in fellowship with people of different ages, the more we understand the perspectives of people who are not our age peers. It’s easier to stereotype and minimize the concerns of others when you keep your distance—no matter your age. However, the world is not just made up of people at one stage of life; the better we understand one another, the better we are at creating a society that works for different kinds of people facing different kinds of stresses.

But for another, why limit your interactions to those who are just like you? By mixing only with your own age group you might be missing out on enjoyable times with people who—who knew?—are enjoyable too.

There’s some good that comes from acting silly, even for those of us who have long been the grown-ups in the room. And to do that with our kids and their friends can be a joy. Growing up and being grown up takes a lot of energy for anyone dealing with the hard facts of life, whether young or old. Is it any wonder that both sides are prone to exacerbating the friction by resorting to an “us vs. them” mentality?

Whether or not the kids or their parents are all right I can’t say, but we’ll never know if they (we) never spend time together. Mea culpa for suggesting there was no middle ground.

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