SistahSpeak…The Company We Keep

I don’t remember a time when ‘misery loves company’ was not a part of the conversation. Sometimes a reference to the perils of hanging out with negative people. Except we didn’t call them negative during those times. They were just miserable folk who wanted you to be miserable too. Ye old crabs in a barrel. Mentality.

If I could go back and rename or re-claim certain phrases misery loves company would disappear. Forever.

Joy is fond of company too. Thing is, even in the midst of the poverty, want and disease there exists a joy whose only demand is that you seeing the situation endeavor to change it.

I once read that Mother Theresa called leprosy “one of the disgusting disguises of Christ.” Through the years I’ve asked myself what would lead anyone to that conclusion. I finally decided only a joyous knowing could produce such a radical statement. The joy exists as a function of doing something about the things around us we find disheartening,disturbing and disgusting. Our efforts on this front give focus and eventually results. Joy becomes how we labor in love.

From my perch I can clearly see a difference between joy and celebration. Celebrations are few. And too often, far between.

Over my lifetime I have labored for the things I knew in my heart to be decent. Fair. Just.

I’ve marched. Sat in my son’s classroom to make sure his teacher never made the mistake of telling an eight year old he ‘could’ not do a particular thing. I’ve written letters to editors. Spoken out. Again and again. It is my joy. My labor of loving my sons into manhood. Not an easy thing to do.

Young black males have difficulty in school in part because there are too many teachers who discourage and disparage the souls of black folk. Some, perhaps many are not even aware they are doing this. The fabric of our culture is woven with threads red with blood and rotting in fibers which reek to high heaven.To destroy rather than uplift. My grandmother always said of such folk ‘they don’t know any better.’ Some folk don’t want to know any better. I learned this the hard way.

Seven of my nine grandchildren are bi-racial. One of their sets of grandparents tap-dance on my last nerve. Between “I don’t think anyone can tell they’re half black’ and their desire to ‘live in a color blind society’ I have had some let us say, interesting conversations. They are completely clueless as to the statements they are making. Or the long range effects such statements have on the psyche of young impressionable minds. And hearts.

“Anyone who looks at them can see they are black.” At least one hundred times.

“I’ll be glad when being black is something people don’t have to be blind to.” Over their heads.

At first I thought a little patience might eventually lead them to some sort of racial sensitivity. Didn’t. These fools watch Fox news religiously. When I lock horns with them it is a labor of loving my grandchildren enough to do everything within my power to make sure they grow up loving their whole selves.

One of my granddaughters has blue eyes. Just like my mother’s sister. Her other grandmother remarked that she could not for her life figure out where the blue eyes came from. Blue eyes are fairly common in my family. The look on her face when she saw a few family photos was priceless. It is a moment I am sure to relive if our life flashes before us as we move into other dimensions.

Pushing back on racism and racist is a labor of love. There is never anger involved in my pushing back. I was born to do this work. I don’t feel good about racism. Never will. I feel good in not allowing it to pass un-noted. I feel strength knowing that I am not alone. I feel good knowing that even if mine is the only voice calling it out,calling it out is what I do.

My three sons learned to push back. Early. They had to. Either push back or be pushed into jail or an early grave. Theses were not options.

My sons were raised in fairly affluent circumstances. They had to learn to navigate in a world not welcoming and indifferent to their well-being. Teachers and principles alike knew me. And their father. Oddly enough, they thought I was the easiest to deal with. This is now a part of our family legend.

I remember the day when I knew my middle son would be okay. He was in second grade and his class was learning to write in cursive. His teacher gave him a real hard time about the flourishes he attached to some of the cursive letters he wrote. They were not wrong. Just not the way she wanted them.

One day I found a poem he sent to his teacher

Why should my sleepy heart be taught
to whistle mockingbird replies?
This is another young bird you’ve caught
With a falcons eyes.
Elinor Wylie

She retired the same year. ( And I still don’t know how he found the poem.)

A falcons eyes. Oh joy!

Misery loves company.

In its stead I would claim something along the lines of seek joy. Seek joy.

In the minds of many misery is relatively easy to find. We are surrounded by reminders that life can and too often is unfair. Poverty is the disease that kills millions. Daily. It either kills the Spirit or the body dies because health cost money.

The myths we have created seem to mock us. All the time. From every direction

In its stead would be joy seeks the joyous. Or some such.

The last few years have been a revelation. In many ways. In unexpected venues. During times of uncertainty.

Something in the psyche of the doom and gloomers is this sense of not wanting to be disappointed. You know, if I don’t expect anything good I won’t be upset when nothing shows up. In our society this sense of impending doom has become a substitute for expectations. Cynicism masks itself as sophistication. Hope is mocked.

Cynicism like it’s cousin fear is a paralytic. Do something. Be proactive instead of reactive. In that way we will find joy in the work we do. Not being reactive has the bonus of differentiating ourselves from those we most criticize.

We may find little to celebrate. We will find joy in doing what we can where we can.

I find it interesting indeed that raised hopes are met with mockery. Cynicism is masked as sophistication.There seems to be some cache, a new cruel and cool in derision and mockery.

To quote Mr.T “I pity the fools.”

Now run and tell that.

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7 Responses to “SistahSpeak…The Company We Keep”
  1. robinswing says:

    To the company we keep and that keeps us.

  2. robinswing says:

    I too believe in positive outcomes though oten they are preceeded by a lot of hard work.

  3. smartypants32 says:

    My gawd, you grab my soul Sistah!!!!!

    I don’t know where it came from, but I’ve always had some kind of crazy optimism that constantly works to reject the twin pitfalls of cynicism and superficiality. There certainly is something sublimely joyful about diving in to the real struggle and surviving!

    Here’s the end of a Robert Frost poem that became my mantra a few years ago:

    But yield who will to their separation,
    My object in living is to unite
    My avocation and my vocation
    As my two eyes make one in sight.
    Only where love and need are one,
    And the work is play for mortal stakes,
    Is the deed ever really done
    For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

  4. robinswing says:

    Thank you for the poem/ I really resonate with it and you.

  5. dmitcha says:

    So powerful and right on time. How can the optimist be the fool when earned success comes only to those who relentlessly believe?

    Love the poem.

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