Anecdotes all over my Facebook about people’s little kids crying after the election. Woke up three mornings in a row dreaming I was in jail, that I had a fatal illness or my son was still a baby and I forgot him at the car wash.
Walking my dogs Friday morning by William Lipscomb Elementary School. Gorgeous morning, sun breaking through, cool and bright.
Teachers have the kids out on the playground doing what I would guess is some kind of inclusiveness exercise, standing in a circle grasping the rim of a huge round rainbow canopy like a parachute, tossing it in the air, then running underneath, shrieking with joy.
You didn’t ask, but I’m not religious. I told a religious friend once I wasn’t religious but I thought I was spiritual. He said, “Oh, please.” So I said, OK, at least give me credit for being superstitious. He said, “Fine.”
While I am watching these kids play this wonderful game — teachers laughing and smiling on the side — a bright ray of sunlight streaks down from the clouds and points right at them like the great long finger of … somebody.
I said, “Dogs, somebody’s trying to tell us something. But, remember, dogs, we have no idea who's talking to us.” They agreed.
The kids were backlit, so I couldn’t do an ethnic count. I looked up Lipscomb when I got home. According to the state, the student body at Lipscomb is 78 percent Hispanic, 10 percent black and 10 percent white. According to the 2014 census estimate, the population of the ZIP code area around Lipscomb is 70 percent white, 20 percent Hispanic, 6 percent black.
Lipscomb offers the elementary school introduction to the International Baccalaureate program that has become so successful at nearby Woodrow Wilson High School. Lipscomb also offers a “two-way” language program for kids in which English and Spanish speakers are put in the same classroom so that each group can learn the other’s language.
I looked it up on the “Great Schools” website, maybe not the most scientific source but a pretty decent anecdotal indicator anyway. If you look at comments from a few years back, some are caustic, but the new ones are like choir hymns:
“My child started here this year in the two-way Spanish dual language program and it has been great!! His reading (in Spanish and English) has taken off and he is excited about all the things he is learning in science, math, and ‘specials’.
“His teacher is enthusiastic, engaged, and invested in the well-being and academic growth of all of his students. The IB Primary Years Programme is rigorous and challenging in a good way.
“Most importantly, my child loves his classmates, and they are kind and inclusive. We had the option of this school, a charter, a private school, or a Montessori school, and I'm very glad that we came to Lipscomb.”
OK, look, I already told you that I’m superstitious. I think the sun and the clouds and the dogs and everybody were all trying to tell me something. I need to concentrate on my own neighborhood for a while. And my neighborhood is great.
My neighborhood embraces diversity. White people in my neighborhood — well, some of them — look at the children of immigrants from Mexico and think, “Hey, I wonder if my kid could learn some Spanish off those kids.”
In my neighborhood, an old high school steeped in local lore like Woodrow charts its path into the future by turning outward into the world, not by turning its back on it.
So am I sounding precious enough yet? Sorry. I really don’t want to. That’s exactly what I want to avoid. I don’t want to talk about anybody else. It just brings me down, and I’m down enough already. Why don’t I spend my time thinking about how lucky I am to live where I do?
Before I walked the dogs, I read about “Calexit” — the people who want California to secede. A week ago I might have laughed. Now I get it. I do. But I don’t want to secede. I’m not looking for a battle. I don’t need any extra negative energy right now. I just want to hunker down for a while and concentrate on what’s wonderful right around me.
This country is full of places just like my neighborhood, where people are excited, busy building better lives for themselves. I know that there’s a darkness looming around us all right now, but the way to deal with it is not to start acting like cowering victims.
Why should we cower? We should be proud of what we have. We can put our kids behind their desks, go to the dry erase board and draw for them the long arc of history, showing them that the people who are brave and who respect each other are the ones who have always won the long game and always will.
So does all of this come from me watching some kids toss a rainbow tarp on a playground? Yes. It does. It comes from hearing them — that laughter and shrieking.
In addition to some affluence, I know that there also is poverty in my neighborhood: hunger, crime, homelessness and gaping inequity. And yet kids come into the world bursting with laughter anyway. All it takes to bring it out is some smart caring adult with a cool game for them to play.
No one owns that. That wild golden exuberance is the primal force the finger wanted me to see. It doesn’t stop coming. It is reborn every day.
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And how lucky am I? I live near it. It’s all around me. Maybe we will do our own version of Calexit for a while, East Dallas Exit (Edexit?). But we will do it only as a hunkering down and drawing inward, a husbanding of our hearts, not a battle with the beyond.
Is it too precious to think of East Dallas as the keeper of the flame? Ummm … let me think about that. Yes, I do believe that would be on the precious side, maybe even a little flame-grabby.
But, wait. What about Florida where my nephew lives with his gorgeous Colombian wife and their little girl and boy? What about my niece’s incredibly cool neighborhood in Brooklyn? Hey, my son isn’t an abandoned baby at the car wash! Oh, good, I remember now: He’s 30 years old, an artist and living in Charleston, South Carolina, in a community of totally crazy creatives.
We’re all over the place, tossing rainbow parachutes in the air, laughing and shrieking. We’re not going anywhere. Why should we? This land is our land. We need to stand our ground, concentrate on what’s good around us and keep our eyes on that long arc. Not to mention that long finger.