Monday, November 30, 2015

Common Ground

White privilege has gotten a lot of press lately and in the Midwest, it is an idea that often is quickly dismissed.  I can think of a variety of reasons why this happens from it coming across as an anti-white idea, to people not personally feeling privileged, to the highly esteemed Midwestern value of hard work as the antidote to most anything.   It also seems like the idea of white privilege gets lost in translation because of its fluidity and subjectiveness.  What one person sees as privilege, another sees a perfectly logical explanation for.

But what if there was some common ground, some areas where it wasn't quite so slippery and twisty?  What if we as white Midwesterners, were able to view some bits of life through the lens of someone else, to consider how those events look through the eyes of someone who has a different story than ours?  What if once we looked at those things, what if we were brave enough to admit that sometimes life isn't fair or equal and that we can see how this applies to others, not just those who look or act or talk like us?

Take for example,the classroom project of tracing one's genealogy.  It's not uncommon for children to be asked to bring examples of their family trees to school or to research what countries their ancestors came from.  That sounds simple enough, but sometimes it's not. (See )  Most white Americans would never have considered this assignment to be about slavery because for them, the topic of slavery has no real role in this assignment.  But consider the majority of black Americans; for them, this assignment will most definitely require a student to reflect upon slavery.  Is being able to trace our lineage white privilege?  Is it a thing of privilege to know that such an assignment will not bring up issues connected to a painful issue like slavery?

Consider Columbus Day as another example.  While many in white America are well aware of  the injustices brought upon the native tribes of the New World via European explorers, most white Americans still approach the day from the traditional viewpoint of "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."  That's also the basic premise taught to our kids, especially at the elementary level.  (I do realize that many curricular issues connected to history are meant to be taught in a spiral fashion with simplistic views of the topics presented initially, with more complex views and broader perspectives taught as children get older.)  However, being the parent of two kids who are from Hispanola, whose own personal histories are tightly tied to the history of that island, has caused me to be a bit more reflective.  So many of the subtleties of Columbus Day, from where he actually landed (did you know they are currently trying to raise a wreck off the coast of Haiti that they believe might be Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria) to the effects his initial voyages had upon the history of the island are things that change how my kids will view the holiday.  Is our traditional understanding of history rooted in white privilege?

Looking for a bit more insight into this idea of , one that is not perhaps as politically charged as our country's most recent conversations on race?  Life is So Good is a quick and easy read that does just that.  Written by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman, it is the story of George's 103 years as a black man in America.  The subtitle says it all:  one man's extraordinary journey through the twentieth century and how he learned to read at 98.    The book was written fifteen or so years ago, with the sole purpose of telling George's story.  Glaubman is a white man, who used stories, newspaper articles, magazines, and news footage to help capture George's narrative.  Glaubman literally overlays the facts, as reported by the media, against George's own experiences.  What he found was that George's recollections of these events did not always line up perfectly with the news reports of the same events.  While I'm not sure that the intention of the book was broach the idea that history is colored by white privilege , the book does provide an interesting context in terms of thinking about how certain people groups view certain events and tasks.  George is one unique person with one unique viewpoint of history, nuanced by being black, living in the Jim Crow South, and being poor.  His life story is compelling; it's worth the read simply for that as well as for the commentary it offers on race.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Zeke's latest fascination involved doubling numbers.  Not just easy ones either.  "28 + 28 = 56?"  "And 56 + 56 is 112?" "And 112  + 112 = 224?"  Silly boy!  I love watching his brain figuring out the why behind math and I love thinking about how he might use those skills in the future.

Isn't that one of the sweet joys of parenthood?  Sifting through all of the pieces of who are kids are and dreaming about their potentials.  Not their potential incomes or the potential brilliance of their IQs but their potential to learn, to be passionate about a topic, to use their gifts be it academic or relational or creative or a niche skill to bless others.  I think it's one of the ways those who are stuck in a parenting hard spot or who are left consumed by the monotony of life can find joy because joy is hope spilled over.  Watching our kids with hope for their futures swelling up in our hearts, anticipating how God is going to work in their hearts and minds, there's just something about that that I love.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Slow News Week

Sometimes, it just feels like too much effort to string together a coherent sentence and put it into writing.  So we'll go with pictures instead, the slightly boring variety, none too exciting but definitely a part of the every day around here.
Zeke created his own leaf pile for jumping.
Kai sort of helped.

Another one of Zeke's ideas:  ice hockey.
The ice was the puck.
He froze water in a cup and then popped it out for an instant puck.

No, it's not a "get along now" shirt.
Kenson thought that sharing a shirt with Kai was a great plan.
It did involve adult intervention to get out.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wise Words on National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month.  It seems like because of that there are more blog posts and articles about adoption floating around the Internet.  I happened to read two really good ones this week.  Both are short and worth the read in their entirety but some of the more compelling thoughts are as follows.

From Shannon Dingle, Should Adoption be the Church's Response to Abortion

"Perhaps you’re surprised by my answer, but hear me out. Adoption is not the opposite of abortion. Birth is. After a child is born, a variety of outcomes are possible, and adoption is only one."

"We’re being reductive if we act as if every abortion would have ended in adoption if the child had been born."

I really appreciated the idea that there is a third option for birth families:  parenting their child and that this requires us as a culture to value the life and needs of all, including that of the birth parents.

From Russell Moore, Don't Protect Yourself from Adoption
"We live in an era when commitments have become opportunities for narcissistic self-realization. "

"The angel Gabriel told our Lord’s mother that her bearing of Jesus was a sign of God’s favor on her (Lk. 1:30), and through the Spirit Elizabeth pronounced Mary to be “blessed” (1:41-42). The visionary Simeon, on the other hand, told Mary that a sword would pierce her heart (Lk. 235), as indeed it did (Jn. 19:26). Both the blessing and the pain were true for her, and in a very real sense are true for every mother, and for every father.  If you wish to avoid the risk or possibility of being hurt, do not adopt a child. Do not foster a child. Do not engage in ministry with orphans or with widows or with the sojourners or with the poor. Do not have children, in any way. Do not get married. Do not have any friendships. Hide under the bed, and hope for the best. Any human relationship brings with it the possibility of deep hurt. You can protect yourself from that possibility, but only by walling yourself off from love."

"We need a battalion of Christians ready to adopt, to foster, and to minister to orphans and to mothers in crisis. But that means real orphans, real women, real persons, real families—not idealized versions of what we think they should be. The gospel of adopting grace didn’t find us in a boutique nursery but in the war-zone of a stable, in the death-camp of a crucifixion field, in the graveyard of a borrowed tomb. That’s not a gospel that plays well on television, but it’s the only one we have.  Caring for orphans means, in a very real sense, joining them in their distress. I cannot tell you that won’t be risky. It could up-end your plans for yourself and your family altogether. It could wreck your life-plan. "
I really appreciated how he encourages people to think through their true feelings in regard to children and parenting.  It is very easy for every parent to want to have an easy child, a picket fence worthy family.  But that is not the reality of parenting, be it adoptive parenting or the plain old biological family.