August 19, 2016

Threads in the Social Fabric

 August 20, 2016

“How do you think you made him…or her…feel?”

I heard this statement frequently when I was little. Often it was about bossing my little brother. Or refusing to share my toy with a friend. Or insisting things be done MY way. As I grew up somehow I did learn that my behavior could hurt someone. Selfishness hurt. Calling names that I heard on the playground could hurt: “wop,” nigger,” “heinie,”  “polack,” were to be never used. It hurt feelings and was impolite.

Nowadays word calling is rampant. Even when the words aren’t directed at me, they hurt. They are rude. They make me feel the world is changing for the worse. Columnist Nicolas Kristoff talked of hate rending the social fabric, an old phrase meaning society’s ability to work and play and govern together.

An old Greek myth tells of a hero on a journeys finding three women in a market square weaving a large tapestry. They told him they were weaving the threads of every person’s life, in and out, over and under. When the thread was cut, or ended, it left a hole.

Our early settlers made fabrics out of scraps. Even when I was a child we had a “rag bag” filled with worn out pieces of clothing. My mother didn’t sew and I don’t remember anyone quilting, but we had some “crazy quilts” handed down from previous generations. They were made of odd-shaped fabric scraps sewn together by large black stitches. Each scrap had a story, but I only remember the blue velvet piece from a dress my grandmother wore when she met my grandfather. I loved the way it felt when I rubbed it.

Last week one of my recent Portland friends mentioned a lovely little indie bookshop in Newburyport, Massachusetts he had visited recently. It turned out to be one near my son’s home that I also knew and loved. As we shared our memories about this far away bookshop, we created another common thread. My life now is full of these threads. I treasure each one.

The Olympics show people from different backgrounds who have a passion for the same sport. Who can forget the athletes smiling at their competitors after a tough race? Those participants are connecting with each other-- and with us who have these same passions but lesser abilities. Watching them, and sharing the events with others, weaves different threads into the social fabric. They make us feel good.

Last winter a Wisconsin friend wrote me that a neighbor freely plowed their entire street—one too small for the city plows to bother with in a huge storm. It seems to me it was about the same time that a Wisconsin dentist shot a prize lion in Africa.  Two Wisconsin men. Which one improved the  social fabric?

A friend’s daughter has been taking part in an international scavenger hunt, where the participants take a selfie doing an assigned task. She has read stories to people who can no longer read to themselves, given doughnuts away on the MAX train, and dressed up as a pirate bringing a “treasure” to a shut-in. One of her colleagues pretended to be a butler, and gave coffee away down town. How many people did they make happy during their scavenger week? How do you think they felt?

I don’t know if these little individual projects, one by one, can ever make up for the many leaders who call names and demean others in the name of free speech. I’d like to think they do. So, like Ben Franklin, when we get up in the morning let us think about “what good should I do this day?” At the end of each day, he asked himself about his actions.

Other threads are ideas, and a friend shared this with me. When promoting my Walking Portland Oregon books at book fairs, I sometimes put out a box of individual snapshots used in the book, asking passers-by if they can identify what and where it is. He suggested I post one on my blog pages, asking readers to identify it. At the moment I have no ideas of prizes—it will be just for fun. Let me know your opinion, as well as the answer to this picture # WP 1.



April 27, 2016

A Wonderful Day

WOW! What a wonderful week it was.

A few weeks ago I received a call telling me that I was being awarded the Evelyn Sibley Lampman award for my years as a school librarian. I was about to race out and do cartwheels in the hall (unfortunately I really can’t) or at least knock on my neighbors’ doors and scream loudly! Fortunately for them, the next call said I could tell my family but no one else, especially anyone who had any relationship with libraries. That one phrase wiped out about 80% of my friends.

So I kept quiet. Not easy for me. Especially when I have GOOD news to share. (Bad news is something else.) I did keep busy rereading some of Lampman’s books, and was pleasantly surprised to find how she was able to hook me into the story in the first chapter. Good writing. And they were surprisingly up to date for the most part, although The Shy Stegosaurus of Indian Springs seemed like a book set in the last century. Well, come to think of it, it was! However, children still love dinosaurs. The portrayal of a Rogue River Indian boy captured by another tribe, and of Yolanda, a migrant girl whose schooling was constantly hampered by the family travels during growing seasons, are both heroes that anyone—even grown-ups--can understand. I wish someone would reissue the books with modern covers and use the set when fourth graders study Oregon.

Then last Thursday some of my family and friends took me to the Oregon Library Association conference in Bend, Oregon where I received this lovely plaque. I am mentally walking on air-- and only wish I was literally doing so! I am also telling everyone I can to make up for my previous silence. Anyway, it is VERY nice to be thanked for working in some wonderful schools with terrific students, many of whom I now follow on Facebook.

I was told the main reason I received the award was for bringing Battle of the Books to my small school in tiny Glide. It was picked up in nearby Roseburg and has now become the statewide OBOB. Strictly volunteer, it has remained popular, even with all the cuts in school programs over the last score of years. One librarian referred to those who take part as “academic athletes,” who learn to work together in the schoolroom, as others do on the playing fields.

The library and teaching communities are team players above all, sharing ideas, tips, and inspirations. None of us can do it alone. I am really honored by the list of all the people who received the Lampman award before me, including both Walt Morey and Eric Kimmel who actually cared enough about kids and reading to make author appearances in Glide...a far piece from Portland. It’s a terrific list of people.

I am lucky. Thank you all.