Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Today's lecture was given by David Crosby, a Baptist pastor whose monologue centered on the Good Samaritan, easily my favorite story in the Bible. (When it was the Gospel reading in church in the summer of 2008, I cut it out of the bulletin and taped it on my bathroom mirror so that I would be reminded, daily, to show others mercy.)
Jesus finishes his parable by telling his disciples to "go and do likewise." It's my favorite message, partly because it's such an easy one to understand.... and partly because it's so applicable to all of humanity, regardless of religion: love the people around you, even if they are strangers or hurting or want to hurt you.
Pastor Crosby said, "Strangers are always at risk in a human community."
It's natural to not trust new people. It's natural to flock with birds of your same feather. I think it's become natural for us to shame, to "other," to judge... although "they" were certainly around in Christ's time.
Another message today was "the love of neighbor is the foundation to all of Christ's others teachings." I couldn't agree more.
It is difficult to love strangers, but it's more difficult for me not to. I have been known to buy the groceries of the person in front of or behind me in line. I sometimes buy a bottle of water or a jar of peanut butter for someone who asks for my spare change. I smile at people disabled in body and/or mind, knowing that, sometimes, all people need to feel validated is to feel noticed.
The pastor admitted that it is very difficult to love our neighbors: "loving a stranger takes our blinders off." It's true that we all create cultural structures that give us security and comfort, mostly so we know who "we" is and who "they" is.
Rarely are we Americans as divided as a people as we are on Election Day. It's one of the perils of a two-party system. No other day do we shame or "other" or blame or disrespect our neighbors so much. It is rarely a day of love or unity... because it is impossible for one person to represent all of the views of the people who elected him/her. And with so many issues that people see as having only two sides ("we" are for something, and "they" are against it), it makes loving one's neighbor awfully hard.
Especially because, in America, voting and political ideology comes down to a lot of people's interpretation of certain pieces of the Bible... hardly of any of which I would argue is "love your neighbor." That's a pretty difficult thing to interpret incorrectly.
So let's try. Let's show each other, and ourselves, mercy as the results roll in and we, "they," and the pundits forecast what the next two, four, six years mean for us and for our neighbors, despite whether they vote red, blue, purple, or green.
Let's elect to love.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
World Cup: I can't quit you.
Maybe it's because we've been watching games at the Irish House, where all pints are $3 during games.
Maybe it's because male soccer players are, wholistically, beautiful.
Maybe it's because I have girlfriends who love watching the games, so it's an opportunity to catch up with them.
Yesterday, during the Iran game, I was surprised by how many female Iran fans were dressed in tiny tshirts and shorts.
I said so, today.
My beau: Well, Iran was incredibly progressive before the ayatollah.
Me: Really? Are there any progressive Muslim countries now?
Him: ... Turkey?
Me: But my Turkish roommate couldn't be gay there.
Which started a whole conversation about which countries are progressive enough for people to be what I believe is a genetic predisposition. But, hell, for the sake of argument, let's just say "countries progressive enough that people are allowed to have choices about who they love."
And it came back to America, where the three of us recognized that one couldn't be gay in most of America.
We sipped our $3 pints.
Then a coed baby shower walked in. A very pregnant, beautiful black woman is wearing "Baby Mama" sash; a very beautiful Latina is wearing "Baby Daddy" sash.
New Orleans: I can't quit you.
Saturday, May 31, 2014
Monday, March 31, 2014
I had several friends attend the event, and their support meant the world to me. I was very grateful to have so much love in the crowd for my first public event. My friend Katy took this picture of me giving my speech.
Here's what I said:
Thank you all so much for being here this evening.
I'd like to first thank the gala committee for their remarkable work to make this event fun, delicious, and profitable.
I'd like to thank the Board of Directors for their support and also for making the wise decision to hire me.
I'd like to recognize my staff, who work tirelessly to make the world a better place. Tonight, they are all wearing blue ribbons, which signify child abuse prevention awareness. Please seek them out, thank them for their efforts, and find out how you can be a part of our cause.
Right now in Jefferson Parish, there are 40 children waiting for an advocate. 40 children in foster care who the court has appointed someone special to, but no one special has arrived yet. Please take a moment to consider someone special to you who would be interested in becoming a child's voice in court.
I've now been in this position for eight weeks, which is enough time to know I inherited a truly talented staff and one of the most successful Court Appointed Special Advocates programs in the country.
It's also enough time to realize you can't learn everything about the juvenile justice system from watching Law and Order. So I've been to Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court every week to observe, to witness superb advocacy, and to learn our children's stories.
The money raised tonight goes directly towards services provided to children who are in Jefferson Parish's foster care system.
All of these children have one thing in common: someone who was supposed to care for them did not do so.
CASA strives to make sure these children have another thing in common: a voice in court.
CASA advocates spend 8-15 hours each month talking to everyone in a foster child's life, from coaches and teachers to doctors and social workers. They testify under oath about what is the best interest of the child, which could mean more tutoring, more extracurricular activities, or more visits with Dad.
In 2013, 75% of our advocates' recommendations became orders of the court.
Historically in Jefferson Parish, about 85% of CASA children whose case closed received a permanent placement. This means that 85% of our children were adopted by or reunified with people committed to care for them. For life.
On my second day as CASA's Executive Director, I put on a suit jacket and some new lipstick and went to court. I had previously only been in courthouses as part of field trips or jury duty... but a thousand friends have made the ill-advised decision to attend law school, so surely I could manage.
The first case I heard is one of a girl I'll call Emily. She had been abused by her stepfather unbeknownst to her mother. She was removed from her home and sent to a series of different schools. She participated in therapy. All of this just made her miss her mom more. Her mother divorced, found a new home, and tried to spend as much time with her child as possible.
At this hearing, the judge decided to reunify mother and child. Emily, who had been relatively reserved, as teenagers are wont to be, jumped out of her chair and exclaimed: "I get to go home?! You mean, I get to be a normal kid again?!!!!"
And, in that moment, I began to get it.
My job is to help extraordinary children feel normal.
Thank you all for making that possible.
For those of you who missed the gala but who would still like to contribute to our cause, please visit our donation website.