Wednesday, January 10, 2007


It's cold here today. I'm shivering here in the back room at the counseling center where I spend my (semi) professional days, learning how to help people. Or something like that. There's a problem with the heating system in this old building and so here I sit, staring at unfinished charts, clutching my coffee in one hand and trying to figure out how and where to start.

I'm not just talking about this blog. These days I suffer from an acute case of paralysis. The March was a good thing, it gave me some small degree of hope that we can make things better, but I wonder what happens next. I wanted to attend The Housing Rally yesterday, but instead I took Sydney to the Children's Museum. This rather poignantly illustrates the crux of my dilemma: participate in The Struggle, or participate in my daughter's life? E.B. White wrote:

If the world were merely seductive, that would be one thing. If the world were merely challenging, I could

handle that. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the

world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

There are many who would say that I'm lucky to have this choice, that this is what privilege looks like--and they would be right. I am privileged. So now what?

At the march last week I happened to fall into stride alongside a group of African American teenagers. They held signs bearing pictures of Dinerral Shavers, the teacher and musician who was murdered in New Orleans last month. I assumed that these kids were his students or maybe family members. A fresh wave of sorrow and fear and outrage (we need to invent a new word to describe this emotion) nearly knocked me over and I started to cry. One of the kids, a tall guy with a beautifully expressive face, turned to me and laughed. He shook his head and said "Only for this one day."

As the kids walked on ahead I stared at my own sign--a picture of Helen Hill's son, Francis, who went to daycare with my daughter--and felt confused. It's great that, for one day at least, we could walk together and express our sorrow/fear/outrage (we have to find a good word for this!), but what happens the next day? And the day after that? One day is not enough. It feels good but feeling good isn't the point--at least not anymore.

Which brings me back to my original point. I want my daughter to have a happy life. I want her to enjoy the world. But I also want her to improve the world, to be socially conscious. It may be a privilege to have this choice but right now it feels like an insurmountable task.


Karen said...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful words. You express a struggle that I think many of us face. I have always framed it as the two end of the hierarchy of needs—do I try work on behalf of those who have nothing or appreciate the higher pleasures that a world of expressive artist, musicians, and writers create? Thus 3 years of art history grad school followed by 2 years of the Peace Corps. But what both end of the spectrum require, it seems, is engagement—something that in and of itself is a struggle. The biggest challenge perhaps is not to get so bogged down by the choices that you forget to choose.

Lauren said...

You speak so eloquently what others are thinking. Privilege, yes. Unsurmountable task, yes. Being here to sort it all out among friends who get it.........Priceless!