Be Kind. Be Brave. Do Good.

Dear students:

Remember during our history classes together when we talked about the Holocaust, and slavery? Remember when we watched The Grapes of Wrath and talked about how the migrant workers who came from Oklahoma to California were treated during the Great Depression? Remember when we talked about The Trail of Tears the Cherokees were forced to take? Remember how we talked about the colonization of Africa? And non-violent resistance against British rule in India? And the internment of the Japanese-Americans during WWII? And remember when we read about the prejudice and discrimination shown towards the Italians, and the Irish, and the Chinese when they first arrived in the United States?

And remember how we wondered together what we would do if we were living during those times? Would we be heroes like Schindler and Irene Sendler and Gandhi, or would we be the other people in history – the ones who just turned a blind eye to the horrors and atrocities and pretended to themselves that this wasn’t happening?

Well, now we have the opportunity to find out. We are living right this moment during one of those times in history.

Be kind. Be brave. Do good.
I love you.

– Mrs. Terrell

Ways to help –
– “Advocates say the fastest way to help immigrants separated from their children is to post bail.”
– Also: Pay for immigration lawyers; contact local law enforcement and ask that they not partner with ICE for raids or other purposes; and the usual stuff – march, writer letters to politicians, protest.

Picnic Table at Tweets

Picnic Table at Tweets

I move from the sun to the picnic table
in the shade under a striped canopy
in a leafy orchard beside Tweets restaurant.
I ask the young man if he’d like me to take
a picture of all of them – the woman, the dog, him –
and he smiles and says yes, please, and hands
me the camera – just push that button there –
it’s that simple – and the dog looks up at the man
adoringly and I snap that moment for them
and go back to my picnic table and my breve.
A rainbow flag flies from a window across
the street. A little red finch hops near my table.
I close my eyes and listen. A dove coos from
a roof somewhere. An engine starts. Finches
chirp to one another. Laughter and voices
come from the restaurant’s deck. Motorcycles
pass by. A soft cool breeze blows across
my arms and I open my hands to all of it –
the breeze, the laughter, the joy, the peace.
And just before I leave Charles appears – I hadn’t
wanted to bother him as he worked – but there
he is! And we hug and I tell him that he is one
of those people who attracts and creates peace –
even the animals know they’re safe in his space.
And he tells me he is feeling verklempt. I wipe
tears from my eyes and say, “Me, too!”

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

I’ll Never Forget You

I retire from teaching this week. I’ve been clearing out my space at school and came upon some notes and messages from my days as a teacher at Allen and Edison and West View that have brought tears to my eyes – I’m getting all choked up here. I have been blessed with such wonderful students in my career – kind and courageous and dear. I want to share some of what I’ve found this week – I want my students to know that their notes and kind words and art have stayed with me and meant a lot to me. I’ll never forget you. 

 

Where It All Needs to Start

You know, this stuff didn’t start with Trump. The greed, the racism, the me-firstness, the bullying, the dishonesty, the corruption, the mean-spiritedness – that stuff has been a part of our society and politics for a long time – the only difference in the last couple of years is that it’s come out in the open – people almost seem proud of their hate and greed and dishonesty now. And to see all of that being played out in front of us – in the open – is disheartening, yes. But… here’s what gives me hope: It seems to me that if there’s been a rise in acts of hatred, there’s also been a rise in acts of kindness in the last couple years – people seem, to me, to be more conscious and deliberate about kindness.

And that’s where it all needs to start, doesn’t it? The healing and progress? It needs to start with us, as individuals. In our own acts of kindness to others. In our own generosity. In our own integrity.

Alrighty. That’s where I am right now. Carry on then…

kind heart

“Isn’t this the life?!”

What a beautiful day!

Rode my bike to Edison for a cappuccino at Tweet’s.  There was a woman ahead of me in the line there buying a drink for herself and a pastry for her young daughter. It wasn’t until she was ready to pay that she realized Tweet’s only accepts cash or checks. She started to turn away without her pastry, but I reached out and stopped her. I told her I’d like to pay for her pastry and drink. At first she was reluctant to let me pay, but I kept urging her to let me do this for her, and finally she relented. I’m so glad she let me do that for her! We talked for a while -she told me her name was Casey – we both work for non-profits – she in Bellingham, and I in Mount Vernon – and we talked about that for a bit. She said she’s driven by Tweet’s many times on her way to Camp Kirby, but it’s always been closed – this was the first time she’d actually been inside. She was so grateful she actually got to experience Tweet’s today.

When  my cappuccino was brought to me I took it around to the front of Tweet’s to find a place to sit. The customers who were buying meals there had first dibs on the tables – so I moved to a chair I found off to the side in front of the art gallery and nestled myself into the wicker to enjoy the sunshine.  A couple of ladies walked in front of me and I smiled at them and asked, “Isn’t this the life?” They both smiled and agreed, and one of them summed it all up by saying that this moment – right now – was a perfect moment.

Soon a gentleman exited Tweet’s and walked in front of me. I asked him if this wasn’t an awesome day.  He grinned and said it WAS an awesome day and then he pointed towards the sun and said, “Soak it up! The sunshine is free!”

I was already feeling the magic of the day – the people I’d met, the sunshine on my face – and then a man rode by on his motorcycle and made my Edison adventure complete: He was wearing a face shield and I couldn’t see the expression on his face – there was something kind of intimidating about that – but I smiled and he lifted his hand and waved – and his friendly gesture to me was so kind and joyful  that I felt myself tearing up at the beauty of humanity.

Here are some photos from my Edison adventure –

Let’s Start Over…

I just posted a poem that had lots of fun words in it
and some politics, too. I was pretty pleased with myself.
But then I read it again and asked myself, “Self,
is this helpful to the world in any way?” And myself
told me no, not really. So dang. Let’s start over…

What can I give to the world today that will be helpful?
I can bring patience when I’m in traffic on my way to work.
I can give a smile to my fellow travelers.
I can bring intelligence to my students and help them
learn a new concept in math or English or science
or social studies or art. I can be kind to my colleagues.
I can be honest. I can be joyful. I can share beauty.

There. That’s better.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

rainbow padilla bay 7 this one really

During My Break

I’m never sure when my break is going to come at work. Today it came at the beginning of the day. I decided to take a quick walk down to the market to get a little exercise and maybe buy some snack to bring back to school.

At the bottom of the hill this man came around the corner and we smiled at each other. He opened up the door to the little barber shop that I pass on my way to the store, and went inside. I remember someone once telling me that the other “Molenaar” in the valley owns that barber shop. So – I couldn’t resist, right? – I opened the door and stuck my head in and asked if there was, by any chance, a man named Molenaar in there. “Yeah,” another barber said. “He just walked through the door…”

At that moment the man I’d exchanged smiles with came out of a back room. I asked him if his name was “Molenaar” and he said it was. I told him I am a “Molenaar,” too. That surprised him – “How could that be?!” he asked. I told him there are gazillions of us in the Netherlands. He smiled and he asked me if I’m the “Molenaar” that sometimes writes letters to the paper – he said people always wonder if we’re related – if I am his sister or something. I told him that I was, indeed, that Molenaar. I told him that I’d met his daughters at sporting events when my own sons were involved in sports (his daughters are all athletes), and he nodded and seemed happy to hear that. Then he asked me if my dad was the climber – and I said yup. He said his uncle was good friends with my pop, and told me his uncle’s name – and for the first time I realized that my dad’s dear friend, N. Molenaar, was related to the local barber! Whoah. I never would have made that connection if I hadn’t wandered into that barber shop this morning.

I continued on my walk to the store. There was a group of men hanging out on the corner carrying on a lively conversation with each other – they looked like maybe they’d spent the night outside and were just waking up. I passed them and said hi and went into the store to find something to snack on. I bought a can of mixed nuts and came out of the store. I said hi, again, to the men on the corner. One of them asked me if I could buy him a mocha or maybe give him a dollar – he made a point of saying he wouldn’t spend it on alcohol or drugs – said he was going into rehab soon. I figured a mocha sounded like a better deal for him than a dollar.

So I went back into the store. There were two women standing in front of the espresso stand – a friendly-looking red-headed lady, and an equally friendly-looking blond-haired lady. We chatted for a while while they ordered and got their drinks, and then I ordered the mocha for the man standing on the corner and a small cappuccino for myself.

I came out with the coffees and went back to the corner, but the man had disappeared. “Where’s the fellow who wanted the mocha?” I asked his friends. They kind of looked around and noted that “Joey” was gone. Then one of them saw him standing in front of the store I’d just left.

“Joey!” I called to him. “What are you doing over there?!” (I was using my high school teacher voice now.) He looked over and saw me and came up to get his mocha from me. He thanked me, and thanked me again, and told me he was going to “pay it back” and buy someone else a coffee now.

As I passed his friends at the corner, they all wished me a good day. One of them met my eyes and said, “Thank you for doing that for Joey. Thank you.” And there was something so sincere and kind in the way he thanked me for buying his friend a coffee that it really touched my heart.

And then I went back to work.

A lot of really cool things can happen in twenty minutes.