Consecutive Days Riding: 5 Consecutive Days Blogging: 6
Today’s Mileage: 12 Total Trip Mileage: 44
It’s raining today as I climb onto my stationary bike. Two to three inches with flash floods, warned the local news reports. This is one of the advantages of being a stationary pilgrim, I can watch the rain through the window. Closing my eyes I can get lost in my thoughts or let my awareness dwell on the rhythm of my legs as they propel the spinning wheel, and my breath as it builds in an effort to keep up the pace.
I know some people greet the rain with an inherent sense of sadness, they miss the sun or complain of the complications of wet shoes, slick highways and the umbrella they forgot to pack. But I’ve come to realize long ago that rain is part of the cycle of life. We learn in kindergarten that the rain must fall, so the flower seeds can grow and blossom, offering their beauty to us as a gifts, and their fruit as sustenance.
I discovered some years ago that rain can also be inspirational. I had exited my car with Dictaphone in hand ready for a morning walk, just as raindrops began to strike the car surface. I had to make a decision, to retreat and head home, or retrieve the tattered umbrella from my trunk. I walked with caution, avoiding the puddles and not disturbing the geese who seem unperturbed by the rain. I returned 30 minutes later with an uplifted spirit and a dozen poems. Poems that I still count among my best!
I do ride today with a certain sense of sadness. It has nothing to do with the weather outside, but a lot of do with the spiritual climate in my community. One of the local high schools gathered to celebrate graduation last May, a student, who was selected by their classmates gave a rousing convocation in which she called on her God, her Savior to bless the gathering. I’m sure a majority of the people in the crowd smiled and nodded their heads, as this was a message they heard often in their Wednesday night and Sunday morning services. However, seating among the graduates were students of other faiths, who use different names for the divine, or no name at all. What did they think and fell at the exclusion of any mention of their faith? This Fall some of those students approached the School Board to ask that the procedure be changed to promote a more inclusive prayer/convocation that recognizes the diversity of the community.
Yesterday the school board responded NO CHANGE, noting that their policy was “within the law.” There was no recognition of the students’ emotions and concerns. I’m saddened that the School Board missed an opportunity to learn about others, and to send a message of inclusion to a minority within our community, the community missed a valuable “teachable moment.”
It was only days ago that I lectured about the importance of Empathy in the “helping professions.” I noted the existence of two forms of empathy one easier to achieve the other much more of a challenge. Emotional Empathy involves “feeling the pain” of another person and is easy if we can identify their suffering with something we have seen in our own life (loss of a love one, physical injury or illness, isolation and loneliness, rejection). The second form is called Cognitive Empathy and involves “walking a mile in their shoes” literally seeing the world through their eyes, through their beliefs. This is much more difficult to achieve, especially if we view our own beliefs as infallible, or without question the only valid views to hold. I’m saddened by the school boards response because it seems to be devoid of either form of empathy and sends a component of our community the message, that their feelings and beliefs don’t matter because the majority feels differently and the majority rules.
Lest you think that this issue of empathy only matters if you are a therapist, healthcare provided or elementary school teacher. I am reminded of the Vice Presidential debate between Cheney and Lieberman. A questioner asked Mr. Cheney if he would imagine what it feels like to be a young black man who is pulled over in a white neighborhood for “driving while black.” The future Vice President looked at the young man, paused and then stated in a firm voice: “I can’t and I won’t! Next question!”
He could not and would not empathize with this young man! However, he would and did write laws that impacted on this and other young man. In hind sight it seems to me that this response was very predictive of things to come, laws that would be made and broken based on a personal worldview that excluded others.
It is at times like these that it can be hard to hold onto a sense of hope that a community can change. How can it become inclusive when elected official simply endorse the status quo. I’m reminded of what it was like years ago, in this same area, when someone raised questions about the segregation of black and white citizens. Elected officials, ministers and teachers would just shrug their shoulders and say “that’s the law!” They couldn’t or wouldn’t see past the color of people’s skin to see fellow human beings, like the current school board couldn’t or wouldn’t look past a name for God to see fellow human beings.
It seems that all we can do is voice our concerns, Blog our thoughts, pray for and recognize those little openings that move us forward. Let our tears of sadness be the rain that feeds these small seeds of change and brings forth their future fruit.
Lost in thought the miles slip past and I reach a new single day record, twelve miles! Perhaps tomorrow there will be sunshine and flowers along the roadside, more joyful thoughts maybe even laughter.
Thank you for joining me on today’s a ride I hope you have a wonderful day and a restful night’s sleep.
A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.