Stories while we wait


“I am waiting,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote more than half a century ago, “for a rebirth of wonder.” In this in-between week, waiting for the new year, waiting for normal time to return, I am looking for stories that offer a rebirth of wonder and hope, that could light the dark nights and point to the possibility of a better future. I offer not YouTube cats, but Silent Night at the Fourth Precinct, heroism on a Kenyan bus, a connection between teacher and student. And, if you will, click over to read Ferlinghetti’s poem in full.

Silent Nights

I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder. (I Am Waiting, Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

Jim Walsh wrote a moving reflection in Southwest Journal:

Black Lives Matter protesters sang “Silent Night” outside the 4th Precinct cop shop in North Minneapolis the other night, which I took as a good and symbiotic sign of the times, as I’ve been contemplating the power of the almost 200-year-old song while walking the dog these mild and, yes, silent December nights.

As the world spins madly on and off its axis, I’ve been grateful for the early darkness and starlight, and seriously enjoying the crisp, clean air in my lungs and the sight of all those beautiful hearths and homes aglow with Christmas lights, candles, luminarias, and fireplaces. With each silent night stroll it occurs to me what a simple and healing thing it is to take a walk at night and to bear witness to a truly peaceful world and reality that’s as legitimate as any trumped-up version of what we’re being fed by our personal-political newsfeeds.

Muslim heroes in Kenya

I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody (I Am Waiting, Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

Al Shabab militants opened fire on a bus near the Kenya/Somali border on the Monday before Christmas. They ordered the passengers off, telling them that Muslims should stand in one place and Christians in another. It has happened before, reported the Washington Post.

“In November 2014, al-Shabab gunmen attacked a bus full of teachers in the same region, pulling 28 non-Muslim passengers from the vehicle and shooting them point blank, according to the Guardian. The following month, the BBC reported, the militant group did the same to non-Muslim workers at a quarry near the Somali border.”

This time the Muslim passengers refused.

“‘We even gave some non-Muslims our religious attire to wear in the bus so that they would not be identified easily. We stuck together tightly,’ Abdi Mohamud Abdi, a Muslim passenger, told Reuters. ‘The militants threatened to shoot us, but we still refused and protected our brothers and sisters. Finally they gave up and left but warned that they would be back.’”

One student at a time

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood (I Am Waiting, Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

Veteran St. Paul teacher Kimberly Colbert describes connecting with one student — and places the story in the context of the difficult intersections of school administration, race, and discipline:

“I’m sorry for the other day,” Dylan said, extending his hand. As I studied his face, he appeared to be a different child than he was during our recent encounter.

It is said that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Hate requires you to see another, whereas indifference renders the other nonexistent. I believe Dylan’s attitude changed when he realized that he was not invisible.

Waiting and hoping, for a better year, a better me, a better world.

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