by Marion Marks
This evening’s Reconciliation Dinner in Shreveport will recognize citizens who were chosen because of contributions they made in spirit as well as demonstrated success in community racial reconciliation. “Rising Voices” (younger citizens who have made significant efforts to encourage the spirit of reconciliation) as well as some deceased citizens whose lives appropriately fit this description were also recognized. The deceased Shreveporters who blazed a path in our community and worked to create a better environment are referred to as “Pioneers.”
Learning about contributions of Pioneers who facilitated change that improved the lives of all citizens and the quality life for Shreveport requires that we learn from history. Current leaders and rising voices, our best hope to effect change in the future, live in the shadows of these Pioneers.
An immediate take-away from this event is to recognize that lessons we teach to our youngest children come alive in the images of those who seek change. Sunday School lessons should resound with the necessity of honoring the Golden Rule and respecting the rights of others. Simple truths that adults easily forget too often go without proper notice as adults over focus on material possessions rather than the relationships that yield long-term benefits.
Robert Fulghum, in his classic work, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, codifies simple rules we might post on the wall in public places to remind others that it’s the little things we do that make life better. Fulghum writes, “These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first worked you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”
Here are simple lessons, summarized in more of Fulghum’s quotes:
“Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away. Most of this “something” cannot be seen or heard or numbered or scientifically detected or counted. It’s what we leave in the minds of other people and what they leave in ours. Memory. The census doesn’t count it. Nothing counts without it.”
The Pioneers list from the Reconciliation Dinner is far from complete, but, it’s a beginning, and those who know the story of others whose names were not included are encourage to help add names for future inclusion. I am reminded of many in the last week! We encourage others to take up this project and take over where the charter group left off.
Recognize successes! It can be far more rewarding for the community if you work for positive causes rather than always look for small pot holes in the road or cracks in the sidewalk.
Shreveport has many obstacles to overcome, many roads must be rebuilt, many water and sewage lines need to be repaired, but nothing can be accomplished easily if we don’t learn to work together in better ways. Understanding simple lessons and internalizing them can make that work far less distasteful.
Fulghum teaches a simple lesson the city would do well to promote: “Knowledge is meaningful only if it is reflected in action. The human race has found out the hard way that we are what we do, not just what we think.”
City leaders know many things that can make the future of the city better, but they also, all too often, live by the motto: “Why do it and pay for it today, when we can do it, enjoy it and make our children pay for it.”
So many simple lessons we can learn and apply and teach that would make our city and our lives better, but big, important work requires that we face the hard cruel world without flinching. Facing difficult tasks is really one of the most important things we should have learned in kindergarten.
Perhaps we will have to learn the hardest lesson Fulghum relates: “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will only break our hearts. . . .”