Tag Archives: hope

Grandma Cao

I watched The Apology tonight on PBS. It is a harrowing story of sexual violence and of official denial and the refusal of people to acknowledge and address past wrongs. It is a story endurance and perserverance in the face of such violence–physical, social, and psychological.

The documentary “follows three former “comfort women” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Seventy years after their imprisonment, the survivors give their first-hand accounts of the truth for the record, seeking apology and the hope that this horrific chapter of history not be forgotten.”

I stand in awe of the grandmothers who tell their stories. Their courage and grace amazes me. I grieve for their experiences and for all the women who did not survive this violation. I am grateful for their willingness to share their stories and to filmaker Tiffany Hsiung and those who have captured and preserved their stories.

Grandma Cao, one of the women featured in the documentary, died on October 22.

Tiffany Hsiung has written a reflection on Grandma Cao, the grandmothers, and the realities of telling stories of sexual abuse and violence. The contemporary parallels are clear, painful, and instructive.

Here are some quotes:

It has been almost a decade since I first met Grandma Cao, and some other survivors of World War II. History might refer to them as “comfort women,” a euphemism given by the Japanese Imperial Army. But to me, they are “the grandmothers” and what started out as a journey to uncover these atrocities, soon turned into an exploration of one’s perseverance.

The grandmothers I interviewed told me that back in the old days — and even today — people will say things like, “Well, if it really happened then why didn’t you say something sooner?” Or, “The only reason you are saying this is because you want money and attention.” Sadly, this rhetoric is still often heard today as a defense when a woman publicly discloses her experience with sexual violence.

For many survivors, the decision to speak out is a daunting one. The thought of negative repercussions can be worse than burying it deep inside of you forever.

For victims of sexual violence, the biggest fear about speaking out is not being believed and, thereby, being re-victimized. Society has perpetuated a culture of shame that has resulted in decades, or even lifetimes, of silence for survivors of sexual violence. Something has to change.

Watch The Apology. Read Tiffany Hsiung’s article. Believe survivors. Break the culture of shame. Challenge rape culture. “Something has to change.”

See you along the Trail.

 

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Filed under Current Events, Human Rights, Movie

Holy ground

Last night, Friday October 19, 2018, I stood on holy ground.

The gathering took place at the Joel E. Smilow Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx. About 100 men of all ages gathered in the gym for a teen forum.

Teenagers sat in the bleachers. The elders, ranging from 30 to over 80 years old, sat in chairs on the gym floor facing the teens. There were fathers of some of the teens. At least one  grandfather. Staff from the club. Friends. Friends of friends.

Several men shared their stories. Stories of mistakes. Of keeping on in the aftermath of a son’s death. Of endurance. Of the values of freedom and equality. 44416412_10156534705201063_6388540716364070912_nOf despair. Of hope. Of redemption.

When they finished, the teens asked questions. Why should I stay in school? How do I stay strong? How do I avoid the trouble of the streets? What do I do when the trouble comes looking for me?

The elders answered honestly, speaking from their experience.

After two hours, the group stopped and shared dinner. One on one conversations took place in the dinner line and as they ate. The evening closed with a promise to meet again and to meet on a regular basis.

When they do, wherever they do, the ground will be holy.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Family, Friends, Human Rights, New York

Always smiles

photo (57)It rolls around again today as it does every year. Anniversaries have a way of doing that.

Some years it almost sneaks up on me and grabs me unaware. As if I could forget. As if I would forget if I could.

Other years, like this year, memories of the day enter my  consciousness well in advance. I have to consult the calendar to verify the date.

The pain has lessened some over the years. The empty, heartache remains.

Forty-two years ago today, my father died. A private pilot, he and another administrator were flying to Harrisburg to advocate for funding for the local school system.

Though they had tickets on a commercial airline, they decided that my father would fly. The plane went down near Emlenton, Pennsylvania, the crash site only located the next day. When I arrived at JFK a day later, after a college choir trip to Europe, family members met me and broke the news and shattered my heart.

Because grief lasts, I raise a glass to remember loses and acknowledge pains. And because love never ends, I raise a glass to give thanks and to celebrate love shared past, present, and future.  On this anniversary, I raise a glass to William Koenig, to his life, to the time, the far too short time, we shared. To music made well and badly. To tears and a multitude of remembered smiles. For some years there are tears, but always there are smiles.

Goodnight and joy be with you, Dad.

Goodnight and joy be with us all.

See you along the Trail.

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I saw joy

I was feeling grumpy.

OK, I was feeling grumpy-er. Always play to one’s strengths.

IMG-6692I was walking down Fifth Avenue, heading to Rockefeller Center.

Visitors to New York filled the sidewalk. They stopped in the middle and made quick turns. They abruptly countermarched, heading back uptown without warning.

My blood pressure rose. My ire increased. And then I saw her.

She sat in a wheel chair, looking at the lights and the sights.

I do not know her name and never learned her story. It was inappropriate to ask. But I wondered.

Was this her first time in New York – the culmination of a long-time dream?

Was she a long-time city resident?

Was this an annual visit?

In the end, the reason mattered not. All that mattered was her face.

She glowed. Amazement. Wonder. Delight. Many words could describe her face and bearing. But the one that works best for me, is joy. Simple joy. Pure joy. Unabashed joy. I have not seen such joy often, but I have seen it enough that I recognize it when I do.

I saw joy that day and I carried it in my heart to Rockefeller Center. I hope it showed, just a little, on my face.

See you along the trail.

P.S. – the photo was taken inside the Time Warner Center on the same day. I did not get any photos at Rockefeller Center. I will be back.

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Filed under Advent, New York, Photo

Lent 2017, day 36

“The Psalmist [Psalm 146] gives an image of the God in whom we place our trust and hope: Liberator of Prisoners, Lover of Justice and Righteousness, Caregiver for Orphans and Strangers. What do you think it means for us to place our hope in the Holy One?”
Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty
Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar

This Lenten season I am using a new resource to explore the Belhar Confession: Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar, edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in which I serve as a teaching elder (pastor), added the Confession of Belhar to our Book of Confessions in 2016. This confession came from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Books, Lent, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

It comes this night

It comes this night.

Faintly,
ever so faintly,
it comes.

Above the roar
of anger and hatred,

Above the howl
of prejudice and bigotry,

Above the maelstrom
of systems and structures,

Above the crash
of violence and war,

Above the groan
of doubt and despair,

Above the dis-ease
of heartache and heartbreak

Above the tumult
of turmoil and trouble

Above the clamor
of struggle and strife

Above it all,
despite it all
because of it all,

It comes.

Faintly,
ever so faintly,
it comes.

A baby’s cry,
proclaiming
life and
love and
justice and
peace and
hope,
this night
and all nights.

24 December 2016
Goochland, Virginia

 

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Filed under Advent, Poem, Uncategorized

Until we meet again, Ted Hickman

14316837_10209909925482586_6630254089391490747_nOnly 17 short days ago they gathered to bid me farewell. My colleagues and friends from the community of nongovernmental organizations at the United Nations; my friends and colleagues from the Presbytery of New York City.

Ted was there. And after the words were spoken and the time came for people to leave, Ted and I looked at each other across the room.

We smiled. We moved toward one another. And as we had done before, threw open our arms and walked into an embrace, two bears seeking to engulf each other.

He whispered into my ear. Words of thanks. Assurances of prayers. Best wishes for what lay ahead.

I whispered back. Words of thanks. Assurances of prayers. Best wishes for what lay ahead.

As we disengaged, I said my final words. I refused to say goodbye as I left New York. And so I said to Ted, “Until we meet again.”

Only two short hours ago I received the email from the office of the Presbytery of New York City.

“In Memoriam” read the subject line. I had received enough emails with that subject to know what it meant. Someone had died.

I was prepared to learn of a death. I was not prepared to see Ted’s gracious, smiling face. Nor did I expect to read these words:

It is with deep sadness and grief for his family and this presbytery that I tell you that Theodore (Ted) Hickman, the Moderator of our Presbytery of New York City, died last night in his sleep.

Ted was 51.

My initial shock has given way to deep sadness and grief.

I grieve for his family … for Duryea Presbyterian Church where he served as the Commissioned Ruling Elder (pastor) … for his colleagues at NYU-Langone Medical Center … for the Presbytery of New York City … for all who knew and loved this good man.

I grieve for a song and life ended too soon. Too soon.

I grieve for what might have been.

I grieve for myself.

I grieve, knowing that, in life and in death, Ted, and all of us belong to God.

I grieve, knowing that love never ends, even death can never sever the cords of love that bind us together.

I grieve, believing in the resurrection.

I grieve and proclaim “Alleluia.”

I grieve and remember those final words I said:

Until we meet again,
my friend, my brother.
Until we meet again.

Note: the photo of Ted Hickman is the one that appeared in the message from the Presbytery of New York that announced his death. 

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