It’s November, which means the property tax bill has arrived, a check written and delivered to the county offices, and the receipt put away in my file cabinet.
At this time of the year, the file drawer is bulging with papers: Notifications that we’ve almost met our medical deductible; charities begging for our annual contributions; Les Schwab’s receipt for installing our winter tires (as always, for free); a printed notice that the internet will now cost $15 a month more than it did the last 10 months.
I have to cram all these end-of-year papers into a couple of file drawers. When I do, I notice a file I’d forgotten was there. Penciled on the tab of the folder are the words “Inspiring Writing.” I pull the file out, and begin leafing through clippings, some yellowed with age and crumbling. Sorting through the papers, I begin reading. In these random pieces of paper, I find inspiration once more. Herewith, some excerpts.
Julia Alvarez in “The Nation,” writes about the rescue of the Thai youth soccer team and, thousands of miles away, other children waiting for rescue:
But before we could switch
channels and savor the jubilation
of watching them saved from the worst
that could happen, trotted out of the cave,
wrapped in tin foil like baked potatoes
and rushed under golf umbrellas
to the thunderous sound of a downpour
of clapping into the waiting helicopters,
their mothers, aunties, grandmothers already
readying the meals the boys had requested —
fried rice with crispy pork, spicy chicken —
we heard the crying
of children ushered into chain-link
enclosures, calling for their mothers,
their fathers, the wrenching
look of a toddler glancing up at the face
of a stranger speaking a language she didn’t understand…
Here’s Leonard Pitts Jr. writing about the 50th anniversary of Woodstock: “What drew the Woodstock generation together was ultimately not anger, but a hope — idealistic, naïve and impossibly young — that yet tugs at the imagination, the hope of a better, fairer, cleaner, saner, more peaceful world.”
Brian Doyle’s essay “Dawn and Mary” about the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Emma Gonzalez’s speech in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., both address the subject of gun violence. Doyle writes, “The next time someone says the word hero to you, you say this: There once were two women. One was named Dawn and the other was named Mary. They both had two daughters. They both loved to kneel down to care for small holy beings. They leapt out of their chairs and they ran right at the boy with the rifle, and if we ever forget their names, if we ever forget the wind in the hallway, if we ever forget what they did, if we ever forget how there is something in us beyond sense and reason that snarls at death and runs roaring at it to defend children, if we ever forget that all children are our children, then we are fools who allowed the memory to be murdered too, and what good are we then?”
Emma Gonzalez addressed the gathered crowd in Florida, “In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone, absolutely everyone in the Douglas community was forever altered. Six minutes and 20 seconds with an AR-15, and my friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice; Aaron Feis would never call Kyra ‘Miss Sunshine;’ Alex Schachter would never walk into school with his brother Ryan; Scott Beigel would never joke around with Cameron at camp; Helena Ramsey would never hang out after school with Max; Gina Montalto would never wait for her friend Liam at lunch; Joaquin Oliver would never play basketball with Sam or Dylan; Alaina Petty would never; Cara Loughran would never; Chris Hixon would never; Luke Hoyer would never; Martin Duque Anguiano would never; Peter Wang would never; Alyssa Alhadeff would never; Jaime Guttenberg would never; Meadow Pollack would never.”
Closer to home, both retired City Planner Cindy Walbridge and former Superintendent Dan Goldman weigh in on the issues of equity and empathy. Here’s an excerpt from Walbridge’s letter to the editor of this newspaper: “A friend recently observed that in Hood River we seem to value trees first, dogs second and people somewhere down the list. It’s laughable and heartbreaking at the same time. Years ago, the council adopted the concept that ‘if you work here you should be able to live here.’ This does not mean ‘If you can’t afford Hood River, move to The Dalles, Bingen or White Salmon.’”
From Goldman’s address to teachers and staff, reprinted in the Hood River News, “As teachers, our job is not solely to pour mathematics, science, language arts or any other content knowledge into the heads of our students. It is our duty to our profession, to our society, and to our students to lovingly teach them to learn and grow as complete humans … I am begging you to explore how you elevate the voices of the traditionally oppressed in your classes, to moderate the dominant narrative, and to address empathy and humanity directly and daily.”
And from John McCain, writing from his death bed, “To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves … we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times.”
The “Inspiring Writing” folder is mostly full of clippings that address serious issues, but there’s also room for a bit of humor. Herewith, three selections from the folder.
A conversation between characters in Pearls Before Swine — “What are you doing, Rat? Holding a funeral for the word ‘said.’ What happened to the word ‘Said?’ So the Rat goes, ‘Come to the funeral’, and I’m like, ‘Why?’ and he’s all, ‘You’ll see.’ To which Pig responds ‘Never mind.’”
I love wordplay — here’s some from Bizarro’s cartoon for Aug. 8, 2017: “Picketers outside the Parmesan Cheese Shredding Company carry signs saying ‘Make America Grate Again.’”
And finally, David Sarasohn’s commentary about the total eclipse, also from 2017. “Once, total eclipses created concerns about God being angry and the possible end of the world. Today we’re worried about cellphone overload and insufficient Port-a-Potties.”