Celebrating Possibilities

Carol A. Hand

Who would believe it’s possible
to witness lives transformed
in the span of a mere 2 years
by working together on a vision
of what could be?

Skills, knowledge and lasting bonds are built
when everyone shows up
graciously offering open minds and hearts
contributing their critical creativity to overcome challenges.

Divisions between teachers, learners, and cultures dissolve
expanding inclusive caring communities
empowered by life-long liberatory curiosity and compassion.

***

Students sharing what they learned to open up new possibilities and help create healthier communities

Celebrating Accomplishments –
April 21, 2017

Promoting restorative justice as an alternative to juvenile corrections

Celebrating Accomplishments –
April 21, 2017

Preserving culture and language by bringing generations together through storytelling circles

Celebrating Accomplishments –
April 21, 2017

Using research to involve youth in diverse communities to improve education

Celebrating Accomplishments –
April 21, 2017

Using skills to build programs to improve services for people who are homeless
and inspiring the next generation

Celebrating Accomplishments –
April 21, 2017

Celebrating connections and accomplishments

Acknowledgement:

In gratitude to colleagues and graduating students who make liberatory learning possible, and a special thank you to MJ for inspiring others by sharing her exceptional scholarship, tenacity, and wisdom.

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History Keeps Repeating

Carol A. Hand

I wonder how many have experienced being a sensitive child born into a world of chaos and abuse. Perhaps your first memories are similar to the ones described in a post I wrote years ago for a friend’s blog.

My first memory as a child is so clear in my mind even though experts in brain development say it is not possible. It was my first Christmas. A February baby born on the cusp of Pisces and Aquarius, I lay in my crib as the winter sun streamed through the window. My mother and father stood on opposite sides of my crib, arguing. The personal pain and insecurities that led to their argument were so clear to me. But more compelling were the strengths and beauty I saw in both of them. I struggled helplessly in a body that could not give voice to what I saw. All I could do was cry.

Thus began a life lived in the tragic gap between what is and what could be. A life straddling cultures, socio-economic classes, and religious beliefs. Surviving childhood abuse and rape as a sensitive soul brings powerful insights and abilities as well as deep wounds that may take more than one lifetime to heal. Compassion, sorrow, and rage at callous injustice compete in ongoing inner struggles. “Breathe. Detach. Reflect. Do what you can to inspire others to see their own beauty and create new possibilities even though you know it’s not an easy journey. Try anyway, even though you don’t always see yourself worthy of walking this path.”

Events like the bombing of Afghanistan – again – remind me why it’s important to try anyway. History keeps repeating itself. Maybe this time I’ll be able to communicate the message in a way that can be heard.

In 2001-2002, I conducted a critical ethnographic study of child welfare in a rural Ojibwe community. The topic was important to me because Native American children continue to be removed from families and communities in disproportionate numbers. Removing children is a continuing form of cultural genocide. Many previous studies of Native Americans offered justification for this practice. They portrayed Native communities as though they were isolated from the rest of the world, and cultures as if frozen in the long ago past destined to inevitably disappear. I still wonder how anyone could ignore the obvious and profound effects that colonial subjugation has continued to have for Indigenous communities and cultures.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Wikipedia photo

The past and present socio-political context of U.S. Indian and child welfare policies were an important part of my research. I wanted to understand the community and culture from as many different vantage points as possible during my time “in the field.” My first week, I was lucky. An Ojibwe elder shared a story about his childhood that provided a crucial framework and foundation for my study. The information would have remained significant in any case. But the date of our conversation, September 10, 2001, made it clear that even in remote areas global issues have profound effects.

As I work on editing the book manuscript I wrote about my research, I can’t help reflecting on our inability as a nation to learn from history. Two weeks ago, I edited and revised the following excerpt.

************

Research Fieldnotes: Monday, October 8, 2001

I’m eager to return to the border town and reservation. The morning is cool and clear as I set out for the long drive. But my heart is heavy with news from the world far from the ceded territories of the Ojibwe. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan began yesterday as the U.S. and its ally, Great Britain, launched an intensive bombing campaign. Retaliation against a poor nation that is not responsible for 911 is so senseless. There will be no positive outcomes for killing other innocent people. “Operation Enduring Freedom,” as the invasion is named, will not bring freedom. I fear it will only result in more death and suffering.

As I drive, I remember President Eisenhower’s observations from so many years ago.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. (Chance of Peace speech delivered to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, DC on April 16, 1953)

War will affect the hopes of all of the children in the U.S. and Afghanistan. I have no words to express the deep sadness I feel. So I sing, belting out verses of songs and prayers for peace as tears stream from my eyes. I notice the bald-headed eagle flying above my car, circling overhead as I pray and sing. I wonder. “Is the eagle’s presence merely a coincidence? Or is it a sign that what I’m doing will forge a path to build understanding and peace?

***

Present-day Reflections. I don’t remember ever learning anything about Afghanistan in school, even though it’s been inhabited for at least 50,000 years and is the location of some the oldest farming communities in the world. It has been a predominantly Muslim country since 882 CE comprised of diverse indigenous tribes ruled by a central monarchy. Despite its land-locked location, Afghanistan has remained an important connecting point between the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

In recent history it once again became the site of competing interests. In the mid-1800s, Great Britain imposed colonial rule over Afghanistan’s neighbor, India, leading to an ongoing struggle between Britain and the Soviet Union for control of the area. Internal conflicts within Afghanistan between those with differing views of governance, monarchy versus communism, erupted into civil war. Both the Soviet Union and United States provided cash and weapons to aid and arm competing armies. In 1979, the Soviet Union finally sent in troops and took control of the country. It’s estimated that 1 million Afghan people were killed by Soviet troops and their Afghan allies. Many more Afghan people fled to other nations before the Soviet Union withdrew their forces in 1989 (Admin, PBS, 2006).

During the 1980s in the U.S., funding was significantly reduced for the social welfare safety net programs intended to help poor families and children with access to health care, education, housing, income security, and nutrition (Karger & Stoesz, 2010). At the same time, billions of dollars flowed into Afghanistan to arm and support insurgent anti-communist forces that were fighting against Soviet occupation (Coll, 2005).

Due to ongoing wars, Afghanistan was one of the poorest countries in the world when Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001. Between October 7, 2001 and January 1, 2002, an estimated 1,000 to 1,300 civilians were killed as a direct result of bombing (Conetta, 2002a). By mid-January, 2002, another 3,200 had died of starvation, exposure, illness or injuries related to invasive bombing by the U.S. and Great Britain (Conetta, 2002b).

Eisenhower’s warning proved to be true. Children and families in both nations have continued to be affected by the costs of war on many levels.

***

Research Fieldnotes: Monday, October 8, 2001 (continued)

The eagle and long drive give me a chance to compose myself before I reach the reservation.

I arrive at Henry’s house at about 10:40, only ten minutes late for our scheduled meeting….

Community members gathered at the elder’s center the next day for lunch, as they did most weekdays. “I can’t understand why the Afghani people don’t like us,” Maymie says. The elders talk of anthrax, gardens, and making apple cider. They don’t seem to be concerned about the threat of terrorism here, but they do express their confusion about why others in the world seem to hate Americans.

************

A few days ago, the U.S bombed Afghanistan again with “the mother of all bombs.” Operation Enduring Freedom? Other choices are possible and far more likely to be successful if that really is the goal of U.S. international actions.

I honestly don’t know how to effectively communicate with those who don’t seem to be able to listen or hear. Sometimes all I can do is find moments of beauty despite the deep sorrow I feel. Other times, I just cry, as I did on my first Christmas. Today, I choose to share this message along with my prayers for peace despite the risk of being ignored, criticized or misunderstood.

My Grandson, Ojibwe Ceded Territory, Spring 2001

 

Works Cited:

Admin (2006, October 10). The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. PBS Newshour. Retrieved on April 19, 2017 from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/asia-july-dec06-soviet_10-10/.

Coll, Steve (1005). Ghost wars: The secret history of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet invasion to September 10, 2001. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Conetta, Carl. (24 January, 2002a). Operation Enduring Freedom: Why a higher rate of civilian bombing casualties. PDA: Project on Defense Alternatives. Retrieved on April 19, 2017 from http://www.comw.org/pda/0201oef.html .

Conetta, Carl. (30 January, 2002). Strange victory: A critical appraisal of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Afghanistan war. PDA: Project on Defense Alternatives. Retrieved on April 19, 2017 from http://www.comw.org/pda/0201strangevic.html.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1953, April 16). Chance of Peace. Speech delivered to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chance_for_Peace_speech on March 15, 2015.

Karger, Howard Jacob & Stoesz, David (2010). American social welfare policy: A pluralist approach, 6th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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Contemplating Impermanence

Carol A. Hand

Morning Moon – April 14, 2017

***

Awakening to bird song just before sunrise

Heart touched with a mixture of deep awe and sorrow

Aware of the impermanence of life and beauty

Wondering how many song birds will survive ‘til tomorrow

In a world where cats and sleep-walkers roam free and kill

***

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Snapshot of an April Evening

Carol A. Hand

A rainy night – April 9, 2017

***

Clouds briefly parting on the rainy night

allowing Grandmother Moon momentarily to reveal her light

ship horns trumpeting from the nearby bay

pulsating winds humming as budding branches sway

***

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Relationships and Responsibility

Carol A. Hand

What happens when people don’t show up
or fail to fulfill their obligations to others?

Do absences and empty spaces symbolize
what’s wrong with the world today?

***

Microsoft Word Clip Art

***

How can we work toward a shared vision of what could be
when too many are missing from the circle
of reciprocal committed caring relationship?

***

Microsoft Word Clip Art

***

How does this affect those who care enough
to do their part and meet their responsibilities to others?

***

 

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Illusions

Carol A. Hand

***

Separating fact from fiction

may be more difficult than it seems

***

reflections & illusions

***

Can what matters most in life

be discerned when we’re programmed

with false news and empty materialistic dreams?

***

reflections & illusions 2

***

Smoke and mirrors can momentarily cloud our vision

Yet what we choose to honor, nonetheless,

is ultimately our decision

***

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Just connections

by Cynthia Renee Donner

What if we wondered what was hijacking our emotions,
and holding us in tightly wrapped boxes of fear, shame, anger and distrust
sealed by corporate satisfaction and greed;
as we’re fed from the roots of oppression.
Where it’s too dark to see truth,
amidst the noise of lies and deception
that relentlessly deprive and control thoughts,
what if we just started wondering?

What if, in wondering, we chewed a little hole,
just enough to let in the light of another’s presence
from a nearby box;
and in that light we found each other’s hands
and just started holding?

What if holding hands
made us each desire to see and understand
more of each other
and so together we just chewed harder?

What if chewing harder together
warmed our hearts
which fueled our courage;
so we could pull each other through
the holes in our boxes,
to just embrace?

What if embracing each other
made us able to stand together
and see all the millions of chewed boxes near and far,
and caused us to just question?

What if our questioning
how and why all so many people are struggling to survive in boxes,
made us tune out the noise and just listen?

What if our listening to different stories
helped us understand the forces outside of ourselves that are controlling us;
and the realization of our own and collective suffering
made us just start thrashing?

What if our combined thrashing
caused our boxes to break down,
so we could all just join hands?

What if our collective hand holding,
helped us all just stand up?

What if just standing up together
made us realize that sometimes each of us needs to be just held up?

What if in holding each other up
we were able to move together to figure out what just what we needed?

What if figuring out together what we needed
fed our hungry conscious
and a collective vision just started to grow?

What if the collective vision was nurtured
by the power of our continuous connections
and we just loved what we found in ourselves and each other?

What if we grounded ourselves in that love
and co-created just enough changes to save ourselves and sustain our world?

Just thinking.

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“Integrity vs. Despair”

Carol A. Hand

The mean(ingless)-stream media circus continues
Celebrating the latest ignorance and cruelty
Seas, air and land poisoned by hubris and greed
Drones and bombs shredding lives and livelihoods
Millions of refugees searching for shelter
I feel the earth crying out to awaken our hearts
It’s more than enough to foster sorrow and hopelessness

***

crouching child

***

As a woman of little importance I still have a choice
to resist that temptation
for the sake of my grandchildren and yours
As a simple teacher and storyteller I can give voice
to the suffering and wisdom of my ancestors
to the fleeting fragile beauty present, now, everywhere
to clear visions of the peaceful world that could yet be

***

***

Each one of us who resists despair
adds a bit of light to the world

***

Note:

The title, “integrity vs. despair” is drawn from Erik Erikson’s theory on human personality development. It’s the eighth and final stage, according to Erikson, that begins when people come to terms with their own mortality.

 

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Morning Reflections on an Ordinary Day

Carol A. Hand

Gazing out the kitchen window

Washing dishes one by one

cloaked in golden light

a glorious gift from the morning sun

Thinking of my lovely daughter

Grateful

***

Morning View from the Kitchen Window

***

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Interstices – The Potent Space between Intentions and Outcomes

Carol A. Hand

When a seed, bulb or idea is planted

deep beneath the surface, unseen

it’s not easy to predict if it will ever blossom

Care and patience are essential

but they’re not always enough

***

Hopefully – a Hyacinth…

***

Engaging in the process of creating possibilities

through one’s everyday thoughts and actions

is a celebratory act of great courage

especially in times of darkness and repression

***

Kale and Broccoli Babies

***

Positive changes won’t happen

If no one is willing to risk the uncertainty of failure

and practice the patience and tenacity of stewardship

in the interstices between

intentions,

actions,

and

outcomes

***

Acknowledgements:

I’m grateful for the left-over seeds and bulbs from last year that have germinated so far, for the friends who gave me encouraging feedback on Part I of my edited book manuscript, and for the students in yesterday’s class who had tears in their eyes and applauded when I read a difficult passage I was struggling with from Part II.

***

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