“Stop Children What’s that Sound?-Traveling with Forrest Gump

” Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid”

Song by Stephen Stills

Single released by Buffalo Springfield in 1966

This is the song on The Forrest Gump soundtrack that made me tear up.

“There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”

53 years later and turmoil continues. I’m more afraid because I have grandchild now. We still have divisions but they seem to becoming worse as time goes on. We have angry conflicts within groups and with other nations and increasing incidents of extreme weather events. Income inequality is growing and so is nastiness and name calling. Drug and alcohol use is skyrocketing and there is an uptick in suicides. Mass shootings in schools, places of worship, and in the workplace are are becoming more and more common.

“There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear”

We are evolving as a species in the realms of technology and innovation but there are deeply embedded quirks in our nature that haven’t advanced since our cave days. Does the “fight and flight” trigger continue to make us wary of those around us, especially those who are different? Is self preservation and self interest overriding empathy? Do we accumulate money not only to enjoy material things but to have power, dominance, and superiority over others?

I’m not absolved from this. I have done my share of bad things as a human being. But in this last chapter of my life, I’m searching to find the best in myself and in our species. I’m encouraged by those through history who believed “that injustice to one is injustice to all.” I pray that we can work together to guarantee that our common destiny is one filled with positive energy and purpose. This is my hope, especially for my grandkids.


“Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down”

Copyright 2019@theautonomoustraveler.com All right reserved.

70/7000 September 11, 2001

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It was a week and a half after I returned from my 70/7000 trip and I will always remember how sunny that morning was. I walked into the office of my elementary school and saw my colleagues silently huddled around a TV.  The images of the burning World Trade Towers were surreal but our feelings of fear and shock were overwhelmingly real.

I had promised my second grade class we would go to the village park to eat our lunch. My principal told me to keep the day as normal as possible and to go ahead with the plan. I watched these kids, many who were sons and daughters of  The Army soldiers of nearby Fort Drum, laughing and enjoying a glorious fall day. I knew that they would learn the terrible news from their parents and their world, our world, would never be the same again.

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I had started reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen to my class everyday since the first day of school.  It is a story of a boy named Brian who became lost in the Canadian wilderness. It was a book about struggle, resilience, and perseverance and lent itself to wonderful insights and great lessons to discuss and learn.

“He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that–it didn’t work.”

Brian had “hope in his knowledge. Hope in the fact that he could learn and survive and take care of himself. Tough hope, he thought that night. I am full of though hope.”

“Patience, he thought. So much of this was patience – waiting, and thinking and doing things right. So much of all this, so much of all living was patience and thinking.”

You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.”

My students sat on the rug and as I read, the circle seemed to get tighter everyday as we all sat closer and closer to each other.  Brian had learned about courage and hope. It saved him and he survived. It saved us, too.

70 days, 7000 miles, Day 19

July 11, 2001

I’m in Montana, one of my original destinations for this trip.  I’m going to do some serious fly fishing here. But the day started out bad because I couldn’t find the place to get a National Parks Pass. I wasted a lot of time. Somehow things finally turned out.  I kind of knew they would. The same theme keeps playing itself over and over again. Just wait out the negativity, the doubts, the hopelessness. Don’t give up hope. This, too, shall pass. Life is like a wave, if you stay down you won’t appreciate the rise. It all balances out unless you choose to stay stuck.

I wrote down a quote from Hillary Clinton today that I saw in the newspaper. “Each of us is a pioneer in our own life.  We are charting new territory everyday…..The people I admire are those who are willing to go forward no matter what the odds.” Am I a pioneer? Can I help other women? There are few who are doing what I am doing.  Is it courage?  I didn’t actually have to fight demons or villains or injustice to take this journey. But I did have to overcome the fear inside me. Maybe our greatest enemy is the monster voices of  the media and our culture that say “we shouldn’t” or “we can’t”. We have to turn down the volume.

I found a great campsite not far from the famous Little Big Horn River and had a visitor.

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I love this trip. I’m learning a lot. Themes keep repeating. Are there just a few basic truths in life, just a small number of things we really have to  know? Why do I have a feeling that they are all right here,right in front of me?

Nourishing Courage

 

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I believe that all of us are born poets and artists and scientists and explorers. I believe that we come into this world brave and ready to tackle life. I came to this conclusion after 27 years of teaching elementary students. A lot of my job was imparting knowledge and honing skills but it also required me to be a cheerleader, convincing young kids that they could draw, write, and create new ideas and that they were strong and capable. Society, the media, parents, and, yes, teachers sometimes extinguish the light of potential in the souls of children and adults. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to get those gifts back, sometimes this never happens.
My first recollection of fear being used to subdue my spirit was at the age of three, waiting for the “monster” to come through my bedroom window. I would not go to sleep so my mother used a powerful visual to get me to comply, an editorial cartoon of Atlas holding the earth.
Fear was a disciplinary tool of choice in my family. A traditional approach most likely passed down from generation to generation, its roots in our Polish ancestry where pessimism and violation in a country with no natural boundaries was the norm. The Moguls, the Huns, Nazis, and Communists always peering through windows and finally breaking through to conquer and dominate. The use of terror in my family was for “our own good” to keep us safe, nice, and polite. It was the antidote for too much self-esteem or an unwanted pregnancy (birth control of the mind).
How irrational my childish logic was believing a creature holding a planet would be able to come and get me. I shivered in my bed watching a long slit of yellow-green from the street lights below gaping between my curtains. Would I see his eyeball first? Or would be just thump me with the tip of his finger? A giant sent only to me because I didn’t want to go to sleep. I pondered what a terrible child I was.
But along with this memory is another one filled with hope. In the 1950’s, many stuffed animals were equipped with plastic whiskers that scratched the faces and arms of children who loved them. I told my mom about my problem and got the “deal with it” answer I would hear so many times in the next few decades. That wasn’t good enough for me. I proceeded to violate the supreme rule of toddlerhood. I not only touched my mother’s sharp scissors but removed them from her sewing drawer. I carried them into my parents’ room, lined up all my offending animals on the bed and holding their fuzzy little heads cut off their whiskers. It was my first recollection of my personal courage and the power to direct my own life.
All through my life, step by step, I have been nurturing the gift of courage. Many of my fears are gone especially monsters at windows.