Planting Optimistic Bulbs

Collette - Portland, Oregon
Entered on June 14, 2008

This I believe: I am not unique. There is a woman, somewhere in Iraq, in Sudan, in Afghanistan who cherishes her babies just as much as I cherish my son. And, just like me, she will face any obstacles and walk any distance to shield her baby from the ugly grind of guns, hunger, and despair. Who is entitled to live in safety and security? Is it the nationality on my passport?

On Friday nights, they read the names of US military casualties and my heart aches for the mothers who love these sons (just as much as I love mine) and I imagine somewhere around the corner a different voice reads the names of someone else’s sons and daughters. Casualties causing collateral damage, which causes casualties and on and on, endlessly unraveling until finally we remember that we are fundamentally more the same than we are different. We are not unique.

This I believe: I am not alone. There are women in the house next to mine who love their partners just as much as I love mine. And, just like me, they will be by their loved one’s side in sickness and in health, for rich and for poor until in death they part. Who is entitled to thrive in union? In marriage? In holy matrimony? Is my partner’s gender the currency tendered?

My neighbor wrestled with breast cancer last year. Sometimes it kicked her butt. In the end, she beat it. Throughout, Anne, her partner, walked the kids, tucked in the dogs, and planted optimistic bulbs to share in spring. All this love given freely, lavishly, interrupted only by nightmares of unthinkable loss. Loss of a beloved partner, leading to court cases to fight for custody, and loss of shared property, and on and on until finally we, fellow citizens, stand up to celebrate love and family in all their many forms. We are not alone.

This I believe: Our entitlements are no less valuable when shared. Around the world and in every neighborhood all women deserve opportunities to stretch their minds and wings, just as much as I do. And, if they are like me, they will clumsily do their best to live up to the responsibilities that freedom necessitates. Who is entitled when freedom is passed out as a privilege? Is my pale skin the ticket?

Yesterday, I watched 3rd graders rushing out to recess, tripping over each other, pushing, shoving, and sprinting toward any change of scenery. “I called the four-square ball,” yells a boy. “First come, first served,” a girl shouts back. We adults rush to judgments and war in much the same way, playing the zero-sum game of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Imagine all that can happen when we suspend our belief that one person’s gain requires another’s loss? Can we picture a world in which we all have enough? Our entitlements are no less valuable when shared.

Earlier in my life I believed so much and so firmly and so clearly. Now my absolutes have faded into fuzzy gray lines. My passions aren’t muddled, but they are less dogmatic. In young adulthood I believed in the power of truth and justice. Fueled by anger, I wanted vindication. I wanted to bite the hand the fed me. I still long for truth and justice, but now my fuel is empathy.

This I believe: I have faith the kindness can heal the world.