What Do I Know?
There are things I know
and so much I don’t.
I don’t know
why people kill people
or if we should have guns
I don’t know
how humans survive
the human condition.
I don’t know
why illness is prevalent
why hate is so strong
why people suffer.
I know that I want my children to
grow up with that knowledge,
for it makes one humble.
When hate becomes art.
Last week, for my creative writing class, I posed a difficult challenge for my students.
I asked them to take hate, and turn it into art.
I called it “A Poetic Debate.”
I gave them the topic: Should there be a wall between the United States and Mexico?
Then – I asked them to write their argument as a poem.
It was a tall order, and there were a couple of groans.
Rather than have them choose their sides, like a nice teacher, I chose for them. I randomly chose half the class to be against, and half the class to be pro. I presented them with some research information to base their argument on and let them have at it.
As they sat down to get started, I got started as well, having taken the side of pro to make it even.
It was an incredibly difficult assignment, and I began to feel a bit guilty about giving it to them.
But they were bent over their work, and I couldn’t help smile as I looked around at them, hard at work.
The next class, we held the debate. The first girl got up to recite her poem, and I couldn’t help but feel so deeply proud of her.
Reciting your poetry is probably one of the scariest steps for a writer to take, and here they were, doing it like the experts.
Because I’m the teacher and I’m in charge, I told them that I need to share these poems with the world. About 5 of them agreed with me.
Before you read them, please remember that these are not necessarily the girl’s views. I did not ask, and they stuck to the assignment that I gave them.
These poems are beautiful, creative and thoughtful. They bring a poetic human side to a hate-filled topic.
Imagine if we all communicated through poetry? Imagine if it was forbidden to fight without turning it into something beautiful first? It takes the anger out and leaves the human in.
I am unbelievably proud of these poems and the girls who wrote them, and most of all, I am so proud of them proving to themselves and to me that they can work hard at something that doesn’t necessarily come easy.
The one lesson I wanted them to learn most.
And now, after that ridiculously long introduction, here they are:
Blog post: 6/52
Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash
This #happychallenge has been interesting for me.
I’ve been home for the past few days, which means I didn’t get out and around as much as I do when I am in NYC. The past few days were great, but great because I was home. Normal days. Sleeping late, eating good food, spending time with family.
It’s hard to pin-point at the end of the day what in particular made me happy without being too cliche.
I could have said “Family” every single day this week, and it would have been completely true. But I didn’t want to be cliche.
What I did notice over the past few days is how very much I have and how easy it is for me to forget.
When something goes wrong, it’s so easy to be angry. To feel as if nothing ever goes your way. As if everything is slipping away, and it will never come together.
Over the past few days, my eyes have been peeled for something happy. And I discovered a lot. Mostly tiny things.
Waking up in the morning, healthy.
Warm water to wash my face and plumbing so that I can use the bathroom in the comfort of my home, down the hall from my bedroom.
Enough clothing for me to have to decide what to wear.
Having enough food in the house that it’s a challenge for me to choose what I’d like to eat for breakfast.
Car’s at our disposal, so that I can go somewhere with my sisters.
I have not been forced to flee my home. When I leave tomorrow, it will not be against my will (although I’d love to stay home a little longer!), and I will not be heading to a shelter with thousands of other people, where there are crying children and adults having nightmares.
I do not wake up in the morning, wondering where my next meal will come from.
I have sweaters and scarves to keep me warm when the weather outside dips below 50 degrees.
I have parents who try their best to support my dreams.
I am not afraid to express myself. I am free to practice my religion. I have friends that I am so grateful for. I am going on a trip across the country next week. I have a good job. I have hobbies and so many interests.
I have so, so much.
And it’s so easy to take all these things for granted.
The moment dinner doesn’t work out, or it rains when I had a big day planned, it all seems to crumble, and all these things become barely a priority.
This #happychallenge opened up my eyes to all of these things. Bubby opened up my eyes to all these things.
It is so much easier to focus on the bad. And I will be the last one to say that the bad should be ignored. No. The bad in the world must be transformed into good. But instead of focusing on the bad, why don’t we just push it away by bringing more good?
A teacher once taught me that the way to get rid of a bad habit is not to abstain from the habit, but to start a good habit and eventually it will push the bad habit away.
If I have a problem with the education system, it will do no one good to listen to me putting down the administrations and curriculum’s. It will do good if I network with those who can make a difference, and we just make change.
I don’t want this #happychallenge to end. But it’s not that helpful for me to just keep posting about the happy in my life. I do need to keep seeing it though. But I need to do more. More for my Bubby, and more for me.
I don’t have any great plans just yet.
But thank G-d, I was given a brain and a heart, and by putting the two together, and combining them with the rest of all of yours..I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to do something pretty awesome.