To “My Kids”

I’m writing this as a letter to my former students. I don’t know that any of them will read it, but if they do, I want them to know I mean EVERY word.

Dear kiddos,

I know the world is kind of scary right now. There are lots of people saying lots of things that aren’t very nice. Heck, I’ve said some not nice things in the last number of months, and I’m sure some of you have too (because you’re human beings with opinions. Opinions that often get ignored.) I also know I left and am not your teacher anymore. You have a new teacher (who seems like a wonderful person, by the way, and I hope you’re giving him a chance, just like you gave me a chance!) and that may still seem weird, even after almost a year. I know it was still strange in my first year towards the end of the year. Some of you still wanted Mr. Hillard back. And it can be very confusing when people move on in life and you’re still kind of in the same place. Trust me, I know. I’m the one who left, and it is still confusing.

I know that may seem weird. I’m an adult, right, so I should have everything figured out, right? I don’t know if I told you the secret about that while I was still your teacher in the classroom, but, well, I don’t. Chances are, most of the adults you see don’t. Yes, we have more experience, we’re older, and we’re expected to have the stuff figured out. I went to school for the subject I taught you, but one of the things I knew everyday in that classroom was, I didn’t have all the answers. And that I wasn’t just supposed to teach you how to sing and read and play and make music. Part of what I was supposed to do was teach you how to be a wonderful, unique, confident, thoughtful person. That was the more important thing really, for all that I harped and chided, coaxed and encouraged you to learn that a quarter note in common (4/4) time got one beat or that Elvis Gets Busted Driving Fast, you put your FACE in the space, Great Big Dragons Fly Around, and All Cows Eat Grass. Those things were important, yes, but they weren’t always the most important. The most important thing for me was, and is, that you connected to the music, and through that, connected to each other, and other people around the world and through time, even if that connection was short lived and just for a fleeting moment.

And I can tell you, there were some moments. You see, I’m an adult, but I would call my parents sometimes after you had a great day and just tell them ALL the things you’d done. How you’d read that rhythm perfectly the first time, how my fifth graders were composers, how my Middle School chorus sang in three parts a capella and when the piano came back in they were right in tune, how my general music middle schoolers were talking about real world issues through music and how I thought that, maybe, just maybe, you were getting it. And how happy that made me. I hope I told you that enough, that I was so very proud to be your teacher and so very proud of the learning you were doing. I don’t think I did. I think I should have said that more. So very much more.

Because, guys, I have to confess that leaving that classroom was one of the scariest things I have ever done. Scarier than packing up all my things and moving to a new state (which I still did), scarier than walking into a classroom with no chairs and no music and having to figure it out. Because what if I’d made a huge mistake? What if I had left something so wonderful and magical and full of joy and real human interaction only to find nothing here in Tucson was as good? What if no one came along to teach you how to be wonderful, vulnerable, sensitive, kind people?

Part of me feels guilty for saying I was worried. Part of me feels guilty for saying that I found wonderful things here. Because, guys, I want you to know that YOU MATTER. There are things going on in our country and world that people have different opinions on and, let’s be quite honest here, friends, adults are being really ugly to each other. And they’re angry. I promise I won’t lie to you and I confess, I’m ANGRY. I know, I said a lot in classes that I wasn’t mad, I was intense about things (stolen from my own chorus teacher, because it was true!) but that was because it was you guys! I couldn’t get mad at you, although sometimes we had hard days and it was rough. Because you’re kids! You’re still learning! But with adults, they’re supposed to have it together! So I want you to know, that we don’t. We’re trying really hard. I’m trying really hard. I want the world to be a better place for you because even though I’m not your mom, I’m still your teacher, even when I’m not there to teach you. I worry about each and every one of you each and every day. I told you that when I left. That even though I was going away, doing something different, there was not a snowball’s chance in a very warm place of me ever ever ever forgetting what you each meant to me. Each one of you made my life better. Each one of you taught me something new, did you know that? You taught me. I hope you know that.

And so, here I sit at 3pm on a drizzly gray day in Tucson, out in the desert, thinking about how I hope I taught you half as much about life as you taught me. Tuesday (because we have a holiday tomorrow) I will go into my office, and sit at a desk, and work very hard to help feed people in need. And not just to feed them, but to help them find a way out of the line for food, to be able to provide on their own. And sometimes it feels easier than teaching and other days, guys, I am overwhelmed by the scope and range of the need that their is in the world, and how people can be so very ugly about it. And I think of how many of the people in line are kids, just like you, with stories, like yours. They want to play minecraft and post on instagram, and they want the latest phone, and sing in chorus, or play in band, or wish that their teacher would let them play the recorder all day everyday. They like to draw and laugh, watch football and dance. They have normal kid worries, just like yours, and are probably really kind of confused about what’s going on. I hope they have friends like yours, and teachers like yours. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, the little bit I do here, this letter, my adventures (because let me tell you, this is an adventure.) may still teach you that you can do and be anything you want to. And that the thing I hope you choose to be most often is compassionate, caring, and kind. I hope you choose to be risk-takers and thinkers. That you choose being curious inquirers over taking someone’s word for something (but be nice about it!) and knowledgeable in an age of misinformation. I hope beyond hope you will be principled when others aren’t. The world needs more people who are as kind and wonderful as you are. And if you aren’t sure what to do, guys, before you worry about being anything else, BE YOU. There’s only one. I may not have it all figured out, but I can tell you right now, that is one thing I can do.

So I’ve written enough words. I’m not sure if this counts as “teacher talk” like it would have in a classroom, but if it does, I’m way over my allotment. I’m cheering for you from exactly 1731 miles (or 25 hours and two time zones) away. Don’t give up! Keep learning! I believe in you!

 

Love always,

 

Ms. Lovins

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The Everyday Things

I started this blog back on Jan. 7 and never finished it. So now, I’m going to finish it!

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So as we’ve been staycationing, I’ve realized that I haven’t really talked a ton about what I do at work or what my day to day life really looks like. Silly Rachel, these things are important. So I’m going to talk about that today.

Right now, I’m in charge of most of the Food Safety and Dignity trainings as well as the Civil Rights trainings. The Food Safety and Dignity training is for organizations that run pantries on donated food and is a requirement of Feeding America, which “is a United States-based nonprofit organization that is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies.”The dignity piece is based on a handbook written by a Hunger Fellow, Dani, who worked with the Agency Partnerships team a year or so ago, and is all about ensuring a dignified experience with program participants. Our society tends to look down on those who ask for help, so anything that makes a person feel less than makes asking for necessary help more difficult. There’s a sense of stigma and judgement, and we just want to use this training to help eliminate those feelings. It’s a skit, and I have to say, I’ve discovered that even in imagined scenarios (which could be close to accurate if not accurate for some folks) are difficult to process. Every time I play the judgmental party in the skit, I feel so awful. The Civil Rights training is required by DES for frontline volunteers at the food bank and any organization that participates in TEFAP. It goes through the guidelines of what organizations who receive Federal monies and commodities can and can’t do by law. It’s based entirely on a number of Civil Rights laws and it makes me realize how much I feel that if those protections weren’t in place, our society would steam roll over protected groups, and also how very far we have to go in those protections. Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are not protected classes, so discrimination is not considered a federal offense. I have an issue with this.

I also do trainings on site for different groups, so I’ve gotten to go to Cochise county for a few things, Sierra Vista a couple of times, and Vail. It’s pretty cool. I get to drive a foodbank car and see different parts of Arizona and that’s neat. There are moments where it looks like I’ve been transported back to the SouthEast and it’s so weird!

I also work on various projects as needed. Recently, I wrote up our team’s section of our DES report, compiled data for Agency Capacity Self-Assessments, have been helping digitize our agency files, and picking catering for our team retreat. All of these are things I’ve never done before, and I’m learning a lot.

The biggest piece I’ve worked on lately though is writing some poverty scenarios for our Ambassador training. So a few things about that, the Ambassador program is for volunteers who are around a lot, or who have been identified by various staff and things as possibly being able to actively communicate what it is we do to outside parties. I participated a number of weeks ago and it was quite educational. I could probably write a blog on what that program alone taught me. Part of the 3 day ambassador training is a section where participants are split up into groups and given fictitious scenarios about people in poverty. While they are fictitious, they are based on things and scenarios that are very real. After reading the brief, participants are given a certain amount of time to accomplish the tasks prevented. For most of them that is to make a budget and make sure all of your needs are met and, if possible, save for emergencies. I can tell you now, it’s super stressful as you go through. And writing the one* I’ve written already was stressful. Not because of the writing itself. I love writing, that wasn’t hard, what was hard was looking at the reality of people who exist. While the scenario is made up, the statistics and facts it is based on are very real. It made me feel helpless and hopeless to help. Poverty is systemic and cyclic. That is reality. It’s not born of laziness and lack of care, it’s born of things people can’t always control, budget, and plan for. When you live in poverty or near poverty, the reality is you’re one emergency or mistake away from even worse things. If there is anything I have learned this year, it’s that we tar the poor with a brush that is absolutely full of inaccuracy, misinformation, and rumor born of an “us vs them” mentality. I am my sibling’s keeper. I have a responsibility to do something to help. As a former educator, I feel helping people make connections and understand is helping. I strove to create empathy in my students, and I strive to create empathy in people I come in contact with.

 

We just recently had our Agency Partnerships retreat, so I’m also developing some self-monitoring forms for agencies and will be monitoring my own set of agencies as well. So lots of new things to look forward to this year! If you have any questions about what I do, please feel free to talk to me!

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*side note: I’ve finished the second one. It was also stressful to write. Yeah. Very stressful.

Inauguration Day Statement

Inauguration Day Statement from the Tucson Borderlands Young Adult Volunteers

This statement was written entirely by the 2016-2017 volunteers, and reflects their views and experiences.

In light of the political climate and statements made during the recent election, we, the Tucson Borderlands Young Adult Volunteers, feel moved to speak out against all forms of prejudice. We denounce the remarks made in hatred by President Trump and the incoming administration. We recommit ourselves to actively work in solidarity alongside those on the margins of society and labeled as “less than” by the incoming administration.

Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, in which the poor and the meek are blessed, and those who hunger and thirst for justice will be filled. God’s Kingdom transcends national borders and human-created boundaries. Jesus broke the division between Jew and Gentile by coming to save all people and inviting in workers for his vineyard from East and West and all nations. Discrimination based on worldly divisions contradicts the values of this Kingdom we are called to build together. Before we are citizens of the United States and its government we are citizens of God’s country.

Jesus was born a Middle-Eastern Jew in Roman-occupied Palestine, spent time in Egypt as a refugee (1), was homeless (2), lived in poverty, and worked against the occupying state with peaceful preaching and teaching. Not only did he speak, but he directly defied the social norms of his day, healing and teaching on the Sabbath (3), casting out the money-changers from the temple (4), and upsetting the status quo upheld by the temple elites by uplifting the reviled members of that society (5). In accordance with Christ’s example, we refuse to sit idly by as members of our community in Christ, and in love, are persecuted, belittled, and treated as “less than.” We will love our neighbors not in spite of, but because of their race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and every other thing that makes them who they are.

The following scriptures give us hope and the desire to continue our work through this difficult time:

Exodus 23:9 You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Esther 4: 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Matthew 35:40 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God came for all, lived and worked with those on the margins, and calls us to do the same. We will not be moved, we will work, and we will be co-conspirators with those in oppression here in the United States and around the world.

Erik Sandstrom   Graham Duncan   Mary Baldwin   Mirra Matheson   Rachel Lovins

2016-2017 Tucson Borderlands Young Adult Volunteers

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References

1 Matthew 2:13

2 Luke 9:58

3 Mark 3:1-6; John 5:1-17

4 Matthew 21:12

5 John 4:1-44; Luke 19:1-10

Here comes 2017

So I’m writing this at 9:46, but I won’t publish till midnight, because I feel like that’s a fun thing. 2016 has been a crazy year. There have been lots of ups and downs, but I feel like I’ve grown and learned. Summarizing it isn’t really the easiest thing to do right now, but I feel like I’ve learned more about myself and what I need in life and God’s plan for me.

As I sit here watching Harry Potter 3 with Erik and Graham (because HP marathon for the new year, heck yes) I’m inspired to make goals for the new year. I’m just going to call them goals, not resolutions, because I resolve simply to pay attention to what I need in this year, and what others need as well.

  1. I want to eat healthy. I’ve more than once discovered that eliminating pretty much all sugar and processed food from my life makes me feel better. So here we go again
  2. I want to ride my bike daily, increasing my daily distance by one mile every month. We’re starting with at least 2 miles a day in January.
  3. I want to walk more as well, I’d like to get 10000 steps a day on the ole fitbit (new one, mine broke, so fitbit support, which is amazing, is sending me a new one)
  4. read more for pleasure, but also more scripture. I got really good about it this summer, but then got more lax with the yav year starting and getting into other things. I feel like that’s probably not how it should be (haha)
  5. drink more water. IT’S SO DRY HERE. I’m always thirsty. It’s a constant state of being.
  6. practice self-care. Simple stuff like journaling, laughing at cat videos, laying in a hammock, whatever fits.
  7. keep up with mental health. I’ve gotten back into therapy (which was a goal for this year) and am working on getting a pcm so I can actively start medication again
  8. be open to change. This one is rough. I don’t know what those changes are, but I want to go for it.
  9. finally figure out how to take care of my stuff and keep things clean (I’m such a messy person) my stuff is actually organized right now, I’d like to keep it that way (MIRRA IT’S INSANE, YOU’RE GOING TO FREAK OUT WHEN YOU SEE IT)
  10. work to continue to see justice, love, hope, truth and so much more manifest in the world. That includes working against those who would oppress and persecute others. Yes I’m including our president-elect in this. I will be blogging more about that later. Yes I’m aware that this is an incendiary statement. I’m still saying it.

That’s it really. I’m just excited and ready for this new year, ready to continue the work to which I’ve been called for this year, and beyond. I’m beyond thankful for another year. I hope you all are safe and sound tonight, please remember not to drink and drive, don’t take yourself or someone else from loved ones tonight. Please be safe and have fun!

Love,

Rachel

When Christmas Feels Blue

So, it’s been a while since I went home for Christmas, but this year feels different. Maybe my first Christmas in Atlanta felt this way too, I can’t really remember. I’m thankful for my roommate Erik, because it means I’m not the only one here in the house. Going from all kinds of time with people to a fairly quiet, empty house is difficult. I’m missing friends and family all over, but especially my friends from Atlanta right now. Seeing pictures of services at North Avenue, remembering late night dinner at IHOP, gingerbread house builds (and smashes), and so much more has been tough. Remembering the feeling of overwhelming joy at the end of the winter concert, the feeling of accomplishment not because of what I did, but because of what my kids did, these are things I am struggling with now.

I’ve talked some about it, but right now, I’m feeling called away from the thing I felt was my purpose for most of my young adult life. I’ve spent the season feeling this loss, trying to avoid dealing with it. Seeing videos shared by folks at IAS or who are no longer at IAS of past concerts, has brought this up multiple times and I haven’t known how to address it. I think there’s not just the feeling of this loss of something I love so dearly, but also a sense of guilt. I know I could easily go back to the classroom, and given that I’m still young, I could very much be called back, but the idea of being called away is like losing a little piece of myself. Part of me will always, always live in that space, watching kids figure things out, struggle with classroom lessons and life lessons, laugh, sing, dance, work, and everything that happens there. But right now, I’m feeling distinctly that I’m being called away from that. Understanding that God doesn’t call us to what is easy has been a piece of learning for me this year. Not that teaching is or was easy. It’s some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. I miss the classroom. Realizing that missing something and being called back to it are not the same thing is a painful lesson I’m struggling with. I hope that one day, missing it and being called to it will be the same thing. So there’s one piece of this Blue Christmas feeling.

I’m also missing the familiar. Family, my cat (who, my brother has informed me, has been changed from “Abela Minerva” to “Softcastle”, as in Softcastle McCormick, of Wizard People. If you are a harry potter fan, please, do yourself a favor and look this up if you haven’t. It’s quite ridiculous), my friends in Atlanta and Tallahassee, even the weather of a Southeastern Christmas.

All this being said, they also feel like relatively small things, compared to missing loved ones who are gone. I know it’s also a hard Christmas for many who are celebrating without loved ones for the first time, my own family included. Sometimes, I feel in the hustle and bustle of feeling Merry, as we are expected to in this season, we forget these feelings of blue, of hurt, of loss, of confusion, of loneliness. Sometimes, they are our own feelings and we avoid them, because it’s easier to smile and put the star on top of the tree, light the candles, eat the food, sing the songs, however you celebrate, than to stop and say “I’m hurting.” Sometimes, like right now for me, it’s hard because there are so many things you are really enjoying! It seems too extreme, too much, to have all these same conflicting feelings at once. It makes me feel like Ron Weasley, “One person can’t feel all that at the same time, they’d explode.” But then we realize that we can and do.

So, if you’re having a Blue Christmas, for reasons large or small, I hope you know you aren’t alone. Not at all. I’m there with you and so are countless others, for whatever reasons they are there. Please, be kind to yourself, allow yourself to feel it. But then know that it’s perfectly okay to not feel merry. I got to go to Catalina UMC last night, it’s right across the street from us, and at the 9pm service, the pastor talked about why God sent Jesus to us in the flesh, and it really hit me in a deep way. He experienced all of the best and worst that life has to offer. He experienced real and true pain, joy, grief, elation, everything we do. Even if you aren’t a Christian, I think that’s pretty powerful. We all experience all of these feelings at some point. We are not alone in our experiences. For me, I have a Savior that came in the same broken, damaged form that I live in and experience the same kinds of things I do, and more. There’s something quite strong about knowing you’re not alone.

If you’re reading this, I hope you take a moment right now to think or pray or feel for those who are experiencing a Blue Christmas (or Holiday, whatever you would like to call it. Honest.) for whatever reasons they are having that feeling, be they small, large, circumstantial, chronic, or any other number of things. I pray and hope that if you are experiencing a less than Happy Holiday, that you know you are loved, cared for, and cherished. That you find a small thing to make you happy today, that you know you are not alone and that it is perfectly okay to not feel like being merry and celebrating when you are hurt. But mostly, I hope and pray that you know you are not alone. I pray for you that something brings you joy amidst the pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional, even if only for a moment.

Thanks as always for reading.

 

Rachel

On Organizing

The last number of weeks have been a roller coaster. I know I’ve posted about some things, but I want to post about a number of others. It still won’t even scratch the surface of everything that’s going on. So let’s dive. Also, a note, these are my views and I can’t vouch for how the PC(USA) feels about some political statements. So please be aware of that.

To start with, I had the great pleasure of participating in a community organizing class with others in the food bank. (shout out to three of my team, Candace, Dora, and Alma, and fellow interns Nina and Sam for hanging out with me there, and for my supervisor, Leona, for making sure I could go!) It was a lot of things I’ve thought about on a surface level, but never had terms for or ideas of what I could do with them. So I did the class (we can talk specifics if you want, either in a later post, or one on one!) and thought about it, thought about what it meant for me, and kind of set it on the back burner.

Then, we went to the border delegation. Twelve YAVs from Denver, Austin, and Tucson. There were so many emotions felt, I haven’t fully processed everything, but I’m definitely working on it. For today, though, the thing I want to think and talk about is a little place called Cafe Justo. You can find their website HERE. The story of this company is quite amazing, I encourage you to poke around their website. The first thing you notice when you walk in is the simple interior, but then, the smell of coffee just hits you. It’s amazing, some of the best smelling coffee I’ve ever experienced. We toured the area where they roast the beans and learned their story (translated by a YAV from Agua Prieta last year, Jake Crowther, who spent the whole week translating, so kudos to him!)  Immediately, I could see hints of people using things like I’d learned in my Organizing training. The coffee growers in Chiapas used to make fairly good money, if I remember correctly, around 1200-1300 pesos per bag of coffee. The peso was strong, and people could raise a family and send children to school. Then, middle men came in, under cutting the cost. Suddenly, farmers were being paid less than a third of the former price for the same coffee. And the peso was weak. Children had to come home to help work. Fathers and mothers began to struggle to feed their families. So many people left, looking for work. Meanwhile, in the states, we’re still paying the same amount or more for coffee, because these folks were selling it to people for a higher price and making tons of money. Daniel Cifuentes, our guide and the roasting plant manager, explained that he came north from Chiapas not to cross, but to find work there in Agua Prieta. At some point, a dream was realized, to begin a farming co-op to grow coffee, which Cafe Justo would buy and sell directly to consumers, cutting out the middle man and paying farmers for the product and work they do. Fast forward, and there are now two co-ops to grow, all the coffee is certified organic, the decaf is produced through a process that is water-based instead of any weird chemicals, and there are plans for another roaster and I believe another co-op, but in Haiti.

The people of Cafe Justo made a concrete, tangible way to end the cycle of poverty and allow people to have a life where they can support their families in their own communities. You want to head off migration and people dying in the desert to cross a wall we built that will not keep them out? Give them a way to sustainable support their families. Taller walls will only mean taller ladders. You have to address the root cause to change things.

So now, today, we’re two days after an election where someone has promised to build a “beautiful, big wall”. It’s not going to work. People will keep coming. Not only that, but this person has created a feeling of safety for people who have remained somewhat muzzled for a long time. Yes, deplorables. I’ll use that word. I’m not really scared of Trump, I’m scared of the followers who have assaulted people, who vandalize other people’s properties, who threaten the physical well-being of others. I’m scared of some of the possible policies, yes, but that’s not the scariest thing. And so after the election, I was scared and sad, and then, then it turned to anger. Not set stuff on fire anger, but do something to change things anger. As it stands right this moment, Hillary won the popular vote by 337,636 votes. While that seems like not much, I ask you to consider that this amount is more than half the population of Wyoming. Yet Trump has won the election, because of how the electoral college works. I find this to be very suspect. Say all you want that it’s because I supported Clinton, but the reality is, the electoral college is antiquated and outdated. It silences the minority voters in so called “safe” states, because of the winner take all nature of it. It’s high time we changed it.

So, for me, all this leads to this. I’m not satisfied with the system. I wasn’t after the primaries, I’m not after the election, and I feel it’s time I, to use a turn of phrase, nut up or shut up. So, I’m actively working to create a group to organize around reform. It may take many forms, I’m not really 100% sure yet, but if I learned one thing in the class, it’s that a well organized group of people who can effectively communicate with power can effect change. I intend to organize, to talk back, to be an active part of my country’s political process, to vote, to run for office (maybe, we’ll see, I’m skeptical of my personal desire to do this one, but I’d support friends who did, based on issues of course!), to write letters, to petition, to protest, and yes, to participate in civil disobedience. I do not intend to encourage blatant obstructionism, because that’s been part of my issue with the GOP in Washington and the country over the last number of years, but in as much as people are stripping away the rights of others, I intend to be that mosquito buzzing in their ear, that pimple that never comes to a head, that itch you can quite scratch until you get it just right. I will not give up, and I will not be alone. If you read this and are like “heck yes! let’s do this!” let me know. I’d love to talk and include you, wherever you are currently located.

So, lovely people of web land, I hope this has been a blog that inspires you to drink some fair trade plus coffee from cafe justo (you can order online!), think about what you can do to impact the lives of others in tangible ways, and ways you can stay engaged and aware throughout the next months and years to make sure that the country you live in is the country YOU want.

For now, I’m out. I’ve got some DA/OotP business to attend to.

Rachel

A Letter to my Mother

It’s been an interesting week, to say the least. Given the closeness to Dia De Los Muertos, All Saint’s day and All Soul’s day, and just…being reminded of so much, I decided that today’s entry will be in the form of a letter to my mother. As I was writing this, Barber Adagio for Strings came on my Pandora, so I’ve linked it here as suggested listening if you’re reading. Adagio for Strings

 

Dear Mom,

This week has been a lot, both beautiful and difficult. I’m writing to you about it because yesterday I was desperately struck by the desire to talk to you about everything I’ve been experiencing here, both in my year in general, but especially in our border delegation. Experiencing the wall reminded me so much of stories you and dad told me about the wall in Berlin and everything it symbolized. It was hard, because it went from this….intangible thing that, while I knew what it was and thought I understood what it stood for, was little more than a way to separate brothers and sisters from one another. It separates families, friends, and communities in a way that I find to be repulsive and discomfiting. In the name of our “security” we have expanded and reinforced to the extent that people are driven into a desert and die. I feel unhappy and uncomfortable with what this wall has done, does, and will continue to do until such a time as we choose to change it.

I remember you talking about the differences in appearance in the sides of the wall, the brightly colored West side and the drab, downtrodden feeling and looking East side. I remember you talking about families and friends being separated and the restriction of movement and the helpless feeling people experienced. The crazy thing is both sides of this wall contain elements of both sides of the Berlin wall. The Mexico side is brightly colored, the community and artists have painted murals. The US side is just drab and untouched in the area we experienced at least. The community in Agua Prieta seems to exist all the way up to the edge of the wall, a riot of color in the structures, signs, and advertisements, while the Douglas side seems to have a demarcation where life almost stops. As it is, this community is two halves of a whole separated by an eighteen foot wall. Many people refer to it as Douglaprieta. It is one place, not two. We separated this community.

Yesterday was the start of this sudden bought of missing you and wishing I could talk to you. We went first to a conference, and talking about “traditional knowledge” and where we encounter it led to a thought that you held so much knowledge that I won’t ever be able to talk to you about. Knowledge that left when you left. After lunch we went to the Procession of the Little Angels. I didn’t know we were going, and experiencing the altars and physical signs of grief and celebration of life was somewhat overwhelming. At the same time, it was joy filled and peaceful. It was something you would have loved and I know you would have participated somehow had we lived here. It’s absolutely a time of grief and remembrance, but also a celebration of life. There are costumes and face paint and crafts and music. The altars are handmade, brightly colored, lavishly decorated, and absolutely beautiful. Walking through made me realize how I wish I had seen or experienced something like this when you died, to realize that it is okay to grieve and that pain isn’t something ugly to be hidden away, but a part of the beautiful, complex, crazy life we live. It is necessary to experience it and live into the pain and discomfort in a way that is difficult, but also something that makes us grow.

Sometimes the reality of you seems so distant and far away, like a dream that I’m not sure happened. I’ve long since forgotten your voice, the smell of your perfume, and the sound of your laugh. Unless I look at your picture, I forget the wholeness of your face, save for when I see the echo of it, however strong, in my own. The pain of missing you sometimes overwhelms me to the point that it takes my breath away, and I wonder if the happiness, even joy, that I feel will ever return. I’m often struck by how much I want to talk to you about the things I’m experiencing. I’m so thankful that you, and Dad and Linda, taught me to care deeply for others and work to give every fiber of my person to that. As much as I wish I could share my experiences with you, I also realize that, if I could, perhaps I would not be here doing this at all. If I hadn’t lost you, perhaps my life would have taken a very different trajectory. I’m thankful we went to the procession. It hurts, I think it always will, but sometimes, I think the pain exists to remind me that you were really here. To remind me that, when you died, you took a piece of me with you, but you left pieces of yourself here within the world for me to find. Those pieces help me find joy and beauty and to know myself.

I’m so incredibly proud to be your daughter, and hope you would be proud of me. I can’t wait to share everything with you again someday. I love you and miss you, and I promise always to be careful with the candles.

 

Love,

 

Rachel