Throwback Thursday


Have Things Gotten Better? Maybe not. Throwback Thursday

August 10, 2017
by Molly Wingate

Throwback Thursday

Even with insight and better behavior, things don’t always get better.  This week I’ve been reminded of three blogs I’ve written where I was certain I knew what would make things better, and then reality hit.

#1 Friends Central School in Philadelphia is still in the soup over cancelling a Palestinian’s talk on Palestine.

This spring, I wrote about I thought would be a good next step for cleaning up this mess at Friends Central. My hope was that the school administration, board of trustees, faculty, staff and students would have clearness committees to discern the best path forward for the school. It was my hope that everyone affected would labor together to find a Spirit-led way forward. Apparently, no such luck.

As Professor Sa’ed Atshan writes this week, the teachers who were originally on administrative leave have now been fired. They walked out of a meeting for worship in protest for cancelling Atshan’s talk.  Atshan, a Quaker, has remained quiet until now. He says:

Quakers know very well that our deep silence grounds us spiritually — and it is from the depth of that silence that we are able to speak truth to power with love and compassion. Writing this piece was an attempt to bring together prayer and activism, the inward and outward, silence and the breaking of silence.

People are talking with each other and some barriers have been breached, but the situation is not better. The teachers, who are queer women of color, are still fired. The students who organized Atshan’s talk in February have seen a great deal of not-exactly-adult or Quakerly behavior.  Progress? Maybe?

#2 My homeless friend John is still homeless and really nice to me.

Last winter, I wrote abut how John forgave me for being the white woman of privilege that I am. I had tried to make him do an activity I thought would be good for him, and he marched off.  When I saw him a few days later, he forgave me for being too pushy.

John is still homeless, and he is still patient. Last week he appeared at a public event I organize called Poetry and Pottery.  I was happy to see him and talked to myself, “Be chill, Molly. Let him come to you.” But before long, I was trying to sit him down to write a poem with me after a good conversation. He stood up and said, “Have a good day, Molly,” and walked off. I had run him off, again.

And then he reappeared this week at the beginning of our event. He forgave me, again! We shared a hug, and he offered to help set things up. He was unloading and setting up pottery wheels when a dust up started among some of the street people nearby. John stepped in to other people’s business and became fairly belligerent. Another guy from the street, Trevor, and I walked the ‘sides’ away from each other. The dust settled, but John was gone again. About an hour later, he passed through the park, but the setting riled him up again, so he left. I found him later that afternoon, earning his supper by clearing out trash for a local café.

John is still homeless, still camping somewhere, still unable to control his emotions without some help, and he is still one of the sweetest folks around. He has never written a poem or made a pot, but he does talk to me and he listens until I get out of line.

#3 Bears will be bears

Just last week, I wrote about how I was sure I had learned my lesson about unintentionally feeding bears. My new understanding of the effects of my bird feeders on habituating bears to humans made me a better citizen of the urban/wildlife interface. Not really.

I pinky swore I was going to bring in my bird feeders every night to avoid attracting a local yearling bear. I dutifully remembered to take down the feeders 9 out of 11 nights. On the first night I forgot, I got away with it. No sign of a bear in the yard and no mangled bird feeders.  But the second night I forgot; the bear came for a visit. I woke up this morning to find that the bear had knocked down the pole which held up the feeders and the feeders were a bit damaged. I remembered noting yesterday afternoon that the feeders were almost empty, so the bear didn’t get much of a snack for all that trouble.

Bears are not very forgiving. I slipped up, and now I have a fair amount of work to do if I want bird feeders hanging in my yard again. And when it comes to bears, humans aren’t too forgiving either. If this yearling keeps visiting humans, it could be relocated or killed.

So things are not much better. Surprise, surprise, Friends Central School hasn’t healed from cancelling a speaker and handling it badly in February. I am still learning to give John room after months of one-on-one tutoring. I have yet to quit attracting bears. The only good news is that Friends Central is still under the looking glass, John is still humoring me, and at the suggestion of my wise son, I plan to take in the feeders earlier before I make dinner. Progress? Maybe?


 Photo: Confused | by Guudmorning!