Respect + Self-Respect

The Word of the Day Prompt this morning was RESPECT.

To me this is such an inspiring, healthy, upbeat word that I want to write something about it before my day is done.

I was thinking about a fellow Canadian we have a lot of respect for: journalist and author Conrad Black. When he writes, his articles are informative and what my husband and I consider to be a fair and sensible take on his subjects.

This evening, however, I’m thinking of one particular aspect of his life: the experiences he had during the time he was an inmate in one of Uncle Sam’s jails.

A bit of background:
Conrad Black once owned a chain of newspapers in Canada, some in the US, with shares in the Telegraph group in England and a couple of newspapers in Australia. He was living and working in the States when he was arrested and according to Google, “convicted in July 2007 on three counts of mail and wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice”
Mr Black spent 29 months in a Florida prison before being granted bail. When his case came before the Supreme Court, the Court declared the statute under which he was convicted to be unconstitutional. Charges against him were dismissed and he returned to Canada. However, the case against him is not relevant to the direction of this post.

So what does a journalist do when he’s incarcerated? He writes about it, naturally. I read several articles he wrote while he was in prison, and one in particular has stayed with me. That’s where I want to go with this post.

While he was in prison, he just didn’t sit around writing articles. He spend a fair bit of his time teaching other prisoners to read and write — and in giving an education, he got an education. In interacting with the other prisoners, he got a better picture of the workings of the US justice system. In particular, how it works for poor, illiterate men.

Needless to say, he didn’t come away with a high regard for the education system where so many underprivileged children fall through the cracks. This isn’t always the fault of the schools; sometimes there’s just no encouragement from home — no home even. But it’s sad to see that North American schools have been abandoning the basics in favor of the fluff and passing on those who really need help. Illiteracy among Canadians born and raised and schooled here is shocking.

Mr Black, after listening to his fellow inmates, concluded that if you haven’t got the smarts to defend yourself in a court of law, your chances of being convicted are definitely higher. I’ve read a few stories about poor illiterate blacks who barely understood the proceedings being falsely convicted, especially in the South. I don’t think this is so very rare.

He also wrote that if you haven’t got a basic education so you can get a job and earn a decent wage, your chances of ending up in jail are a lot higher. And re-offending. No news there.

Which comes back to my point about respect. Respect for others comes from learning about them as real people. Self-respect, the ability to stand up and face the world, to get ahead, comes from learning, too. It’s pretty hard to keep your head above water if you don’t have a solid rock to stand on. Like basic “Readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic.”

I’ve seen this. I’ve a cousin who can’t read her bank statement or a business letter, and couldn’t begin to understand this post. Medical issues are total confusion. When her purse was stolen she didn’t report it because she’s scared of dealing with the police, in case they ask her questions she can’t understand. Lack of remedial classes and a poor home combined to hinder her schooling.

I respect Mr Black for his efforts to work with these men and to give them the basics — and the self-respect — they’d need to build a life outside the prison walls. And I respect and applaud all the folks out there who have taken the time to teach, to mentor, to work with, folks who need a helping hand. They are a mighty army, working unseen.

Which brings me to my friend Margaret’s poem. I’m using it with the confidence that if my dear friend were alive, she’d give her permission. She and her husband Milton were just such people as she describes here.

Quiet Folk
by Margaret Penner Toews

Some folks there are who, quiet, go about
Unseen, unheard, unknown
sowing kernels
digging wells
building bridges
picking stones
raising altars

…planting poignant thoughts in ordinary talk about His Presence,
…dig, and leave no signature, while others draw and drink,
…building bridges over chasms, deeply cut by hate and color, creed and prejudice
…removing stumbling stones of cruelty, indifference and scorn along the road, so those who walk in darkness will not fall
…erecting altars by their hearths, in secret closets, or on busy thoroughfares.

Quietly these folks ‘deliver cities’ (Ecclesiastes 9:14-15)
but no one knows
and no one will remember…
(most certainly not they themselves)

…Except for God…and He will never be a debtor.
He takes a leisurely eternity to give rewards.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From her book, First A Fire
© 1993 by Margaret Penner Toews
Available from PrairieView Press

Twilight Settles

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was SETTLE and it’s taken me awhile to settle down and respond to it. Actually, for my response I’m going to publish a poem by Canadian poet Archibald Lampman.

EVENING

From upland slopes I see the cows file by,
Lowing, great-chested,
down the homeward trail,
By dusking fields and meadows shining pale
With moon-tipped dandelions. Flickering high,
A peevish night-hawk in the western sky
Beats up into the lucent solitudes,
Or drops with gliding wing. The stilly woods
Grow dark and deep, and gloom mysteriously.
Cool night winds creep
and whisper in mine ear.
The homely cricket gossips at my feet.
From far-off pools and wastes of reeds I hear,
Clear and soft-piped, the chanting frogs break sweet
In full Pandean chorus. One by one
Shine out the stars
and the great night comes on.

I’m slowly getting used to the new editor. Some features I really like — one of them being the wide color range I can use for my type. Another is this Subscript. I sometimes tried using the tiniest font in the Classic editor, but it didn’t seem to make much difference to the size — not like this.

How and Why

by Edgar Guest

Still as children asking why
adults gaze upon the sky.
Still as children, grownups seek
reason for the comet's streak.

Still to sages, baffling are
sun and planet, moon and star.
On a garden's tiny space
miracles are taking place.

And as children, age explores
God's bewildering out-of-doors.
Questioning, till the day they die,
Life's great mystery -- how and why?
The mysterious Northern Lights have inspired many legends.

Hunting For Her Glasses

Fellow blogger Judy Dykstra-Brown published a post this morning: Has Anyone Seen My Glasses? This question reminded me of a humorous verse penned by Edgar Guest a hundred years ago.

Your Daily Word for today is RESOUND. Well, I believe this appeal for help in finding lost glasses has resounded globally since spec’s were invented and will continue to resound until Eternity. There, as I understand it, we’ll be youthful again, won’t need glasses, and will always remember where we put things.

 I first posted this in April 2016 so some of you might remember reading it here.

MOTHER’S GLASSES

I’ve told about the times that Ma can’t find her pocketbook
and how we have to hustle round for it to help her look,
but there’s another care we know that often comes our way—
I guess it happens easily a dozen times a day.
It starts when first the postman through the door a letter passes,
and Ma says: “Goodness gracious me! Wherever are my glasses?”

We hunt ‘em on the mantle-piece and by the kitchen sink,
until Ma says, “Now children, stop, and give me time to think
just when it was I used ‘em last and just exactly where.
Yes, now I know – the dining room. I’m sure you’ll find ‘em there.”
We even look behind the clock, we busy boys and lasses,
until somebody runs across Ma’s missing pair of glasses.

We’ve found ‘em in the Bible and we’ve found ‘em in the flour
We’ve found ‘em in the sugar bowl — and once we looked an hour
before we came across ‘em in the padding of her chair —
and many a time we’ve found ‘em in the topknot of her hair.
It’s a search that ruins order and the home completely wrecks
for there’s no place where you may not find poor Ma’s elusive specs

But we’re mighty glad, I tell you, that the duty’s ours to do
and we hope to hunt those glasses till our time of life is through.
It’s a little bit of service that is joyous in its thrill;
it’s a task that calls us daily and we hope it always will.
Rich or poor, the saddest mortals of all the joyless masses
are the ones who have no mother dear to lose her reading glasses.

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

 

“Yes I Can!”

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was BRAVADO

A word that took my mind back to a comment a smoker once made. I think I’d asked him if he ever tried quitting and he assured me, “I can quit anytime I want. I just don’t want to.”

In this particular case, he may have been truthful; maybe he wasn’t addicted to the nicotine and could quit whenever he chose to do so. But I’ve heard this same thought from different ones and it seems mostly bravado. The “I don’t want to” has a lot of fear of failure embedded in it.

Peacock

Bravado is a bold statement or manner done for show, bragging not backed up by true courage. A pretense of bravery.

Bold ones may say, “I can fight the lion and I’ll easily win,” when the lion isn’t roaring in their face and clawing at them. But if a lion were to actually savage them a bit, they’d disappear ASAP.

Like the boy I overheard bragging about how he could make a fancy dive off the high diving board at the pool. He dared one girl to do it and she executed a beautiful dive, doing a complete flip on the way down. But when it was his turn, he found some reason to avoid showing what he could do.

New Year’s resolutions often have a bit of this bravado in their makeup. People say, “This year I’m going to lose ten pounds, give up —, work out twice a week, or whatever.” But when the time comes — a craving hits, it’s time to go to the gym — the roaring lion isn’t so easily defeated after all.

Real determination, the kind that faces the challenge and wins, doesn’t usually bluster. Determined souls admit that the battle will be hard, sweaty, and laced with pain, and there’s no turning back. They grit their teeth and firmly say “I will do this if it kills me.”

And from the testimonies I’ve heard from ex-substance abusers, I gather it just about does.

Memories Within

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LOOKING WITHIN

Today I plan to do some looking within my cupboards to make up a good shopping list. Shopping is one thing that seems to have changed a lot in this current crisis and I’ve always been rather haphazard about it before, forgetting the list at home, forgetting some important item. Now I need to sharpen up, when both our shopping time and store supplies are limited.

I’ve also been looking within my sewing closet; yesterday I took advantage of the grandchildren being home from school and took a box of sewed blocks (for two baby blanket tops) over to their house. I had the granddaughters help me lay out these squares out on the floor and decide their order.

Any project is a whole lot better when you have cheerful helping hands—especially when they belong to flexible children who don’t mind crawling around on the floor to set out the blocks and shift them around to a suitable pattern. And we get the added bonus of making sweet memories together. 🙂

Here’s a poem that speaks of another kind of looking within; no matter where we are and what our stresses, we can all take a moment to enjoy a stroll through the corridors where we store our pleasant memories.

Floral + Poem.Prawny
                  Image by Prawny  —  Pixabay