Some of us are recovering from job losses. Art is a great way to work through grief. Social media abounds with promises for book writing and entrepreneurial opportunities. So, I’ve been slugging away at it for over six years. Here is how it started.
I had a vision one day pushing my baby buggy up the hill at the National Zoo. We were on the Asia trail on the upside of the hill that overlooks the red panda exhibit. I was hearing similar complaints from the other visitors, “That’s not a panda!” ” Where are the pandas?” “I want to see the pandas!”
The icon of the Smithsonian National Zoo on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. is the Giant Panda. In fact, I think it may have overturned the famous portrait of George Washington and may even be the icon for the entire Smithsonian as a whole if my memory serves me right. So, one can some what empathize with the poorly informed visitors of their expectations.
But, I learned something new that caught my attention. These adorable balls of fluff were the first to be named panda, not the giant pandas! So, I parked my stroller closer to the viewing area and listened closely. Then I questioned, what if these two critters could hear these comments? Would they take offense like my 8th grade students do in public school? That evening before bed, I asked my husband if it would bother him if I stay up huddle over my computer next to him to write out this story that came to me.
That night I scoured over the Internet researching to learn more about these animals because the gift shop only had books on giant pandas. As I learned more, I typed away an allegory or parable for my daughter of many lessons I had learned the hard way through broken dreams, relationship and job losses, and bouts of depression. I was also concerned that in less than 10 years she would be struggling like many of my students because her genes express mixed race.
I like most parents wanted to give my daughter a better future. But the future I was thinking about was an healthier outlook resilient to anxiety and depression, not a bigger and more secure paycheck. Even though I was a big believer in the asthma and allergy products that I represented for a major pharmaceutical company for 9 years previous to my return to teaching public school, as a patient, I had no relief from various classes of different anti-depressants I tried. Each one seemed to exacerbate anxiety and suicidal thoughts except one of which numbed my pain and ability to think deeply which eventually caused a potentially life threatening rash.
I was absolutely clueless as to why I struggled with so much depression. Overall, I loved life, had good opportunities, and enjoyed a wide variety of activities. I read my Bible daily since I was in the 3rd grade. It didn’t make sense. The spiritual experience that strengthen me in middle school that I write about in my August 28, 2016 blog wasn’t giving me the joy that I once knew. Honestly, I felt pretty happy during those middle school years unlike most. However, what took a toll on me was hearing my mother go on for hours on the phone with dramatic prayer requests regarding my situation.
I need to clarify that I’m not trying to blame my mother right now. From what I’ve been able to piece together, she was doing all she knew and was taught to do. Her parents were very religious individuals in a church that has a history of being pretty emotionally and religiously abusive. This is really hard to unravel for those of us that love God at an early age and buy certain explanations of how to interpret, “Honor thy father and mother.” “Pray for your leaders.” “Respect those in authority.” It can behave like the perfect combination to set one up to co-depend upon others. It also ensures plenty of compliant individuals for bad leadership to dominate with their corrupt authority, otherwise known as narcissistic bullies.
The other problem that occurs is where the expression, “Do as I say, not as I do” comes into play. My mother came to Jesus soon after I was born. So I was the child who she nursed with Bible Stories, songs, and prayers. However, her default behavior was to mirror her parents behaviors which were to live in complete fear of an angry God who will punish you if you don’t comply. They faithfully attended all services at their church, ran a strict religious home, and lived in fear of poverty and concentration camps. They didn’t live in freedom of the joy of the Lord. Rather, they over worked to try to fit in a small town and persuade people they were on America’s side.
To complicate things further, my mother grew up loving many of the religious practices in her home. They provided a sense of identity, some joy, and love that was shared in her family. But they were culturally strange to my father and his parents. To make matters worse, my father was taught to love others through an abusive form of humor: making fun of them. Yes, my father truly believes that you make fun of those that you love. And many others do too. It wasn’t until the late Dr. Elda Arce, M.D. Assistant Professor of Adolescent Medicine at Children’t National Medical Center that I learned that it is teasing can be a form of emotional abuse.
Dr. Arce was born in Peru. She had a special respect and concern for me. I earned her respect as a peer in the area of asthma and allergies. I was trained to be a medical liaison for an American pharmaceutical company that spent millions of dollars into research to find alternative therapies for asthma. However, liver studies revealed safety concerns and reality that these drugs would not be recovering any of their investment in the market. So I jumped ship and returned to medical center sales for an International pharmaceutical company who had products already on the market with more promising they would follow. This is how I met and became friends with Elda.
What I loved about my friendship with Dr. Arce was that she could clearly see, identify, label, and deal with the flaws of American culture because it wasn’t her native one. However, she embraced it, loved it, and was committed to improving it not just for her own sons and each and every patient she treated. She cared about me. At the time, I was a pharmaceutical representative, some one that frequently was disdained and blamed for high prescription drug costs at cocktail parties.
I’ve mentioned before there is a common trait that unites all humans that no one wants to embrace. Naked we come into the world with a selfish propensity and desire to self-preserve at the cost of others. How that impacts each culture varies. For me, what I’ve learned and say as a motto is, “Everyone is getting something right and everyone is getting something wrong.” Therefore, I seek opportunities for cross-cultural experiences to see what they might be doing that I’m not that I’d like to try. One of the experiences I was looking for was a Black Christian Church service. And Wanda made that easy.
I had just snapped this photo:
to post on my book, Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo, Face Book page for the upcoming National Holiday. Wanda came out of the church and invited us to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 90th Birthday Celebration while she hopped into her car to head out for the day.
Well, not only did she do that, but she opened the door yesterday morning and welcomed my daughter and I with the warmest hugs. We arrived early to ensure we got parking and a seat. But it was really early, so we followed Wanda back down the stairs where she introduced me to Docent Brenda. Brenda proceeded to choose really well. She focused on educating and encouraging me and let the other ladies put my daughter to work in setting up the tables to receive lots of visitors.
First, we got chatting about the March books (depicted above) I had packed to keep my daughter busy while we waited. Brenda had just seen a PBS special the evening prior discussing these books. I had purchased volumes 1 & 3 at The Freedom Riders Museum last year when I learned about it after my daughter re-enacted as a Creek Indian at Alabama Frontier Days while we were still traveling in our RV from our evacuation from Hurricane Irma in South Florida.
Then we moved on to so many other topics. What moved me most, is Brenda validated the racism I experienced at the hands of a former Chinese’s boyfriend’s parents who ended our relationship because I wasn’t Chinese. This docent wasn’t indifferent like so many of my own kind have been to the troubles I’ve experienced in my life. She cared. We bonded. And then before I knew it we had to scamper quickly up the stairs before no more seats were left because we talked too long.
In route, I noticed a beautifully painted mural on the wall that covers a significant time period in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. I pulled out my cell phone and snapped a picture faster than I could read the sign that my daughter embarrassed had to inform me stated, “No pictures of the mural.” What happen next amazed me. Nothing. No one yelled at me. Do you know what happens to them when they break a rule??? Instead, they saw and continued to greet me with a smile. Now, I’m going to mind my manners and not post that photo here. Instead, I’m going to invite you to go visit Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama to see it for yourself because it took the artist over 2 years to complete it. It’s not something a photo can do justice of.
After we found seat, I picked up the African American Heritage Hymnal 2001 by GIA Publications, Inc. I am shocked but not surprised at what I read in the introduction, “The majority Protestant community in the United States has not paid much serious attention to the exercise of faith and practice in African American life. The telling impact of gospel music in the religious life of the nation and of the world is a sign that America is probably poorer culturally and spiritually for ignoring the musical tradition of African American Christians.”
All the puzzle pieces in my head connected. These statements are absolutely true. Why else did Vivien Thomas experience what he did in his life especially when he moved his wife and young family to Baltimore Maryland to join Dr. Blalock at Johns Hopkins? Why did I hear my dad and grandparent make certain derogatory comments when I grew up in the North who was supposed to fight in the Civil War against Black slavery in the South? Why did I feel that I had better not come home with a black boyfriend even though one of the earliest songs my mom taught me was Jesus Loves the Little Children? Why could I not locate There is a Balm in Gilead in the old Lutheran and Presbyterian Hymnals that I have? Let me get back to waiting for the service to begin.
A family of several women, three young children, and a man asked if they could sit next to us. After they squeezed in, I felt selfish that I had more leg room at the end of the pew than this big man. His knees extended right into the pew in front. I asked him if he wanted to switch for more comfort and he declined. He was fine. Wow,! That wasn’t how I got treated on a bus by a professional male in Philadelphia when he indignantly continued to read his newspaper comfortably in his seat while my 5 year old daughter and I stood dangerously in the aisle in the front of the bus a few years ago.
Since it was still early before the service began, I pulled out three copies of my coloring sheets (depicted above) and my colored pencils. I offered them for his kids. He thanked me and then returned the pencils when the kids were done.
The children were so well behaved and waited so patiently for 30+ minutes. (How many other young children would be so quiet and patient?) I began to realize that what my daughter said last week was true, “Mom, the blacks get it. It’s the whites that don’t.” Being very white and raised WASP myself I finally got it. This family had more to teach me than I them. So, I mustered up the courage to ask the guy if he recognized all pictured in the flyer.
He did. I only recognized a few, but he knew them all. Now I recognized most of the names, but I couldn’t match the names with the faces. Why not? I wasn’t taught that it was important. But gee, go back to Vivien Thomas, where would modern surgery be today without him? So as we approach Black History Month, February, reconsider its importance and take time to learn more. For example did you know MLK Jr. was not named Martin at birth? I didn’t know until yesterday’s service. But first, back to the service.
Rev. Cromwell A. Handy, Pastor, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church led this service so beautifully. He accredited musicians to being the one who gave the strength before the historic march. He permitted the congregation to break out in song to the pianist offertory How Great Is Our God. The emphasis was on God and his greatness through a faithful servant. It was not a praise service for MLK Jr. There was also no disrespect for the current administration in Washington, slams, or innuendos.
Then Dr. Shannon stepped up to the pulpit and preached on Luke 8:23-28. He emphasized that we need to stand strong. God creates out of nothing. Yet preparation is key. That’s exactly what God did through MLK Jr. he was preparing him through each phase of his childhood to do what he would do between 24 and 38 years of age. We need to correct our hermaneutics before the homily can be delivered. Too much of scripture has been misinterpreted. We need to listen to the calling of God on our lives not matter how uncomfortable it may make us. We should take heart when experiencing rejection. Because that must be experienced before a yes can be received. Don’t always look for money. You will never be comfortable until you do the will of God. You must calm down before you can be of any useful service. High emotions regarding injustice must be worked through and settled if you’re going to be effective. And in summary Galatians 3:28 we need to be one, not constantly bickering and casting stones at one another.
Thank you all who were involved in this special Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s 90th Birthday Celebration. It filled in many of the gaps and questions in my own life’s challenges and has inspired me to continue on in my art, calling, and mission which is to grow beyond beyond my childish selfish pity me and entitled ways to become emotionally healthy and spiritually mature so that I can encourage others to do likewise.
#racism #tourismMontgomery,AL #MLK Jr. Day #dexterkingmemorialbaptistchurch #Freedomridersmuseum #hymns #praisemusic #depression #healing #blackhistorymonth #overcome #civilrights #crossculturemarriage