Language of Kindness

Our landscaper, Marcos, is a swell guy. In order to provide for his wife and twin girls, he commutes 4 to 5 hours a day from a more affordable area in the Bay Area of Northern Ca. to a more affluent community that can afford to pay him living wages. He gets up around 4 each morning, gets home around 7:30 or 8 at night, rain or shine, and never do I see this man in a foul mood.

Most of the time, I’m not home to see/hear him and his whiny leaf blower, but on those occasions that I am, I’ll venture outside of my rabbit hole and swap stories with him. Inevitably, he greets me with the largest of smiles and is always upbeat. Last week I hopped out to see him and he told me of a special award’s assembly he attended at his girl’s school and was so excited and so very proud – their teacher informed him that his girls are doing so well that they’re skipping first grade and going straight into second – what a proud moment for him; what a gift, unexpected.

This immigrant from Mexico, with little money for school, came to America to find freedom and a better life for himself; has twin-girls that are smart, has twin-girls that are talented. This landscaper by week and chef on weekend, has twin-girls that could eventually cure the most incurable of diseases or make a social contribution to the world to make our lives better someday, because their Popi was brave and their Popi was steadfast; in his journey of self, in his journey to freedom.

Never have I heard him complain. Never have I heard him say a bad word about anyone. He’s worked injured and sick and hungry and tired; and all through the pain and all through the fatigue, he’s had one solitary goal – one solitary prayer: let me be a good Popi to my girls, let me keep them safe and provide, and I’ll continue to work hard and I’ll continue to make do.

In between times, he takes English class at night school and makes sure he reads to his girls; they go sledding to Tahoe and cook meals together, too. I don’t know when the man sleeps and sometimes wonder how he makes do, but of this I am certain, of this I am sure: He is a man of integrity and a man I respect, and I’m proud to have met him and thankful that a wall didn’t keep him out of my life.

I don’t speak Spanish and he speaks little English, but his face and his hands speak a language we both understand – a language not taught in our schools – a dialect of kindness and a tolerance of mankind.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the undocumented immigrant and repeated felon who accidentally shot 31-year-old Kate Steinle while she was walking with her father on a SF pier in July of 2015 has only two things in common with my Marcos – his Mexican birthplace and an accent.

I don’t know if Marcos crossed the border legally or illegally.  I do know that he is a loving father and husband and a kind person to most all.  And I know that building walls will not protect us or our children from unkindness or hurt. It will not promote understanding or forgiveness or further our cause.

The walls that we build – the walls of brick and mistrust – are walls that will fall, because they’re walls made of fear and fear will not stand.

Compassion or understanding or acceptance will not solidify. What we fear most will come true, and what is true is simply this: Ignorance is not blissful; it is hurtful and wrong, and ignorant people can only foster more hurt.

If we build walls, let them be walls to hold back water from rivers and seas, and let’s instead build a gateway – a gateway of acceptance and opportunity.

Let the gateway have laws and rigorously enforce them, but let’s make certain we build trust and promote kindness and well-being for all who enter and give; let’s make certain we’re fair and allow others in to share.

As we go forward into this future of uncertainties, may we take heart in knowing that we go forth as a nation built on liberty, equality, opportunity and diversity; and pray that our newly elected representatives take serious the positions they hold and honor their commitments to represent all……

In the meantime, be kind to each other and be kind to yourself, and I’ll catch ya next time, looking at life from my shoes.

 

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Deputy Fields: Perpetrator or (Second) Victim?

Deputy Ben Fields, the South Carolina police officer of the infamous desk-flipping incident at the Richland County Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, was fired a day after the incident.

An internal investigation by the Richmond County Sheriff’s office concluded that the “maneuvers he used in the confrontation were not acceptable.”

Uh-Hun.

Ya think?!

Before you send me a virtual high five, though, because you think you’re about to read a piece on the condemnation of this man, you might want to hold back on your high fives.

In no way, shape or form do I believe that this grown man should have abused this child,  and he needs to bear the full responsibility for such a unconscionable  act. 

It was abusive.

It was wrong and it was an unacceptable use of force on a student.

Before you condemn this man to rot in hell for eternity for his abominable, unacceptable, abusive actions, though, let me ask you these questions:

What created the environment that had Deputy Fields in this position to begin with?

Why is it necessary to have police officers on our campuses today to assist with these “little behavior problems” that are steadily increasing with each passing day?

Where are the support systems for these hard-working, over-worked, under-paid, abused officers and teachers who are entrusted with educating this challenging group of children?

Obviously, these are multi-layered problems, with multi-layered solutions.

I would just like you to consider the position that these officers and teachers are placed in EVERY day of their working lives, before handing down a judgment on this man.

I was a teacher of SBD (severely behaviorally disordered) children many years ago, and I can tell you, from firsthand experience, it’s a war zone in some of these classes.

Our school was the last hope for some kids, before they got carted off to juvie hall.

So, you either made it with “Miss B” or off to kiddy jail you went.

I can honestly say that all of my kids stayed out of juvie hall, but I can’t claim that some of them didn’t end up in the prison system, as they got older.

Unfortunately, my intuition and instinct tell me otherwise.

Things at my school got so bad that the staff had to take a special training called, PART (Professional Assault Response Training), to learn how to predict, assess and respond to aggressive/challenging behavior of our student population.

During the training week, the school staff called a “special meeting on ME”, one afternoon, because I innocently announced, at the previous PART meeting, that “I didn’t spend all my time, money and energy getting an education, so that I could get a job learning tactical strategies in how to take down a kid.”

“After all,” I naively informed them, ”I was a lover, not a fighter and I’d be damned if I’d put ME,  or one of my staff people in harm’s way taking down some kid twice my size, from their junior and senior high programs.”

“My body’s meant for giving hugs, not doing take downs,” I empathically continued.

Uh-Hun.

Well, hugs are real hard to give when your 8 year old student, without any provocation or warning, abruptly stands up, starts swearing “F–K You” to who knows who and commences to throwing student desks around your classroom at everyone and anyone near him!

The only thing I could do was safely get my other kids and instructional assistant out of harm’s way and let him trash the room, while I called the Police.

Did you ever watch an 8 year old get handcuffed?

Not fun.

You know what else wasn’t “fun”?

Watching a very patient, loving police officer get spat on, kicked in the groin, bit and hit on by an out of control, totally wild 8 year old.

After the boy was handcuffed and placed into the back seat of the police car, I watched this thrashing child, who looked like a “caged animal”, somehow kick-in the back window of this officer’s vehicle, and I wasn’t sure who I felt sorrier for – my 8 year old, that was handcuffed and kicking, in the back seat, the frustrated, defeated-looking Police Officer, slowly driving out of our school’s parking lot; the concerned, very involved staff people, who didn’t have a clue as to how to deal with him, or me, his caring, naive teacher, who wondered if she somehow could have read his mind and avoided the whole scene?

Maybe I felt sorry for all of us.

And maybe, just maybe, there’s a small part of me that feels sorry for all the School Resource Officers and staff people out there who are doing their jobs, day in and day out, with a throw away population of kids that not a lot of people want to deal with on a regular basis.

There’s no excuse for Deputy Ben Field’s actions with the 16 year old, South Carolina student.

But maybe gathering more background information on the situation can explain part of what caused this horrific scene to take place, in the first place, and we can use this incident (and other incidences like it) to go forward as a society, and put into place the necessary programs and support systems to help future Deputy Fields and the unsung, hard-working, dedicated teachers and staff who work with this population of children.

Until that day, I’ll simply ask that you try not to judge him as anything other than what he is, “an imperfect human being, who committed an egregious act.”

Let the judicial system take care of Deputy Fields and his inappropriate behavior, and let’s put our limited time, energy and monies into helping the teachers, staff, guardians and students themselves, with these behavioral problems; so that we, as a society, can learn from this heinous act and avoid having other future student and staff victims.