Sean’s Journal: A fit of fate…Goodwill 2013

It’s about this time of year that on a rainy day, like today, I dig through the closets and the drawers and through the unpacked boxes and purge of those things that need a home away from here.

I took on the boxes of clothes that somehow made their way to the attic in my town home. They were all from those days before I decided to be better to my body…eat smarter…try and live longer and with more joy.

I unfolded and re-folded and counted. 14 pair of slacks, 2 pair of jeans, 11 dress shirts, 9 polos, 4 belts, and a pair of cargo shorts (what the hell?). I threw it all in a couple of lawn bags and headed down the road to Goodwill. There was a huge line for the unloading dock. That’s a good thing. A virtual two-fer. The passing of good things for those looking to get bargains or simply get warm this season.

Goodwill 2013I decided to park and carry it in. The rain was light and the place was packed. I popped the trunk and grabbed the bags. A few pair of slacks fell out and I was picking them up to stuff ’em back. A woman and her teenage son were walking by. She saw the stack in my hands and commented, “Those look really nice.” I turned and smiled and said, “They actually are really good clothes. Most of them new when I started losing a lot of weight.” She asked if I was taking them into the store and I said I was. “I wish my husband was your size…he needs good pants for when we go to church and to my momma’s.” I laughed and said, “What size is he?” She told me and I said, “That’s about the same as I was when I was wearing this stuff.” When she told me he is about my height, I said, “Where’s your car?” Puzzled, she said, “Right over there.” She pointed to an old brown Buick with a cracked windshield and one window duct taped to hold it in place.

“Well, if you don’t want to shop for him this year…they’re all yours,” I said.

“Really…you’re not serious…really?”

“It’s up to you,” I said. Her face lit up like the Christmas tree in the window of the store. Her son ran and opened the trunk. He moved the spare tire to the side, moved some bags over and ran back to me to take the bags.

“Merry Christmas,” I said. You just saved me some time and your husband got a new wardrobe.”

She laughed like a little kid and exclaimed, “I can’t wait to wrap these up and have them under the tree.” We exchanged a hug and I wished them all the best.

As I started my car and cranked the volume of Vertical Horizon, I couldn’t help but think–as I always do during these handoffs at the Goodwill–of just how much I have been blessed with in this life. Relationships, work that means something, and yes…stuff. With each passing year the material things mean less and less to me. Giving them over or throwing them away becomes less of a conflict. I knew someone out there would benefit from this small wardrobe given to this great organization. It was a pleasure to be there for a first-hand exchange.

Merry Christmas, Joan, Andy, and Andy Jr. Thank you for letting my blessings now be yours. Joy.

Sean’s Journal: “The Crucible of the Human Experience” (Terry Moran, ABC)

Terry Moran described the celebration and this good man with those words. It was a cold, pouring rain in and around the packed stadium this day. Rain is a sign of blessing and joy during a memorial in Africa.

There is nothing I can say about the man that hasn’t been said by those galactically more eloquent that I. This simply offers my penned tribute and gratitude.

My library contains three books by and/or about the great Nelson Mandella. My favorite, In His Own Words, offers personal reflections of a life of oppression and freedom; of courage and vulnerability.

On the night of his passing I walked down and pulled the works from their place on the shelf–or from their place in a stack on the floor. My hand shook a little as I pulled Long Walk to Freedom from my autobiography section. I realized the subject of these thousands of pages had now left us. I paused and offered a wish for peace and said “thank you” as I stood in the small room filled with books and bottles of wine and music of all kinds. I realized I was surrounded by the things thatimages feed my soul, and how such a soulful man, chief among them, was now gone. This book sat next to Make Gentle the Life of This World: The Vision of Robert F. Kennedy. An ironic and sweet proximity.

I experienced racial prejudice for the first time after moving to Panama City, Florida at the end of my 7th grade year. I was motioned to a seat in class next to Angela Woods, a beautiful, kind, and edgy girl. She smiled and offered a muted, “Hi, new kid.” Oh, by the way, she was–and remains–black. Later that same day, I found her in the cafeteria during lunch. Not knowing any better (or worse, in this case), I sat down next to her and enjoyed chicken chunks of some variety and peanut butter balls lightly covered with powdered sugar. After lunch I went to my new locker and was immediately surrounded by four or five guys, all wearing baseball caps (what is it about race hate and baseball caps with select logos?) who wanted to let me know, through a series of pushes and shoves, that we didn’t need any more “nigger lovers” at Rosenwald. That was the beginning of an orientation to a disgusting and continuing chapter in this “Land of the free.”

Things eased a little over the years. People found their uncomfortable “place” in this still-struggling society. Some of us use the discomfort for advocacy. Others rely on the discomfort to remain hunkered down in their ignorance. Keep the fight.

Mr. Mandella fought…in the best way. Through his words and actions. He moved millions from a cell in a horrible prison while serving a life sentence for his struggle against the abomination of apartheid. As history has proven, truth and justice have their way over evil, ultimately. As providence would have it, the planet was exposed for a time to a man, like others in history, who was willing to pay with his life for a cause of freedom.

My friend, Basil, once said to me, “The only time in my life I have felt pride in being a South African was in February of 1990, when this good fighter was released from the hell of injustice.” My friend was a 25 year-old at the time. A student and a protester against apartheid. I’m sure he is sad this week, but also smiling on a life devoted to defeating ignorance. Smiling on a life dedicated to speaking for and standing for what is right, regardless of our fucking’ placement on the color wheel. I’m sure Basil raises his face to the cold rain and smiles.

It is raining in my Carolina this morning. I will walk outside to do just the same.

Peace, Madiba. Thank you.