In Unity with Inspiration

(this piece was written following the appearance of candidates Obama and Clinton in Unity, NH)

Democratic Candidates Obama and Clinton, Unity, NH 2008 (LLoyd Salasin-Deane)

~for the children

4:30 am
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Marlboro, Vermont

Dear Community of ALL,

Yesterday, I had the great privilege of attending a political rally in Unity, New Hampshire. I use the word “privilege” because I could afford the time, the energy and the gas it took to devote an entire day to this journey. I also had the privilege of the company of my two young sons, Aidan 7 and Lloyd 12. It was their enthusiasm that fueled this endeavor for me.

Despite being born in the sixties, I grew up with little inclination to participate politically. As a young adult I found politics disconnecting and depressing. When I moved to Vermont at age 30 that changed.

Suddenly things were on a small enough scale that I could manage the attention and faith it took to begin to get involved. Vermont’s Town Meetings were my springboard. Political humans like Bernie Sanders and Jim Jeffords were accessible and worthy.

I still wasn’t hardwired to fully engage in the political process, but I began to hope for my own sons. They attended town meetings with me, ate a chicken supper beside Bernie, and participated in walking with his senate campaign down Main Street in the 4th of July parade.

Lloyd and Aidan showed more interest in politics in their short lives than I had in my entire life. In fact, much of their sand play with peers at South Pond was politically based.

When I went to tell my boys that Obama and Hillary were going to be in New Hampshire–less than 2 hours away–they gave an enthusiastic, “Let’s go!” That was all I needed to take the next step to get the tickets and pack us up for my first national campaign event.

I don’t have the poltical savvy to know all the reasons why I shouldn’t have been inspired by Senators Clinton and Obama, and I never will. My mind just doesn’t operate that way. I am much more interested in the internal politics of our own hearts and spirits than I am driven by what happens on the outside with others.

That said, I do want to be part of the change. Like Gandhi, I want to “be the change” that I want to see in the world… rather than just complain that it doesn’t exist. And though I have never been politically minded, I have always had a passion for history, and a deep fascination and regard for the spirit of this country–for our Declaration of Independence and the freedom we created in it.

9/11 was for me and for many others the spiritual “bottom” of my political experience. It left me wanting to disown this country once and for all; and it also caused me to realize just how much I loved this big bully. I grew up, politically speaking, around 9/11. I began to realize that my participation or lack of it played a part; and that for whatever reason, I was tied up in this country–in its identity and actions.

On the drive to Charlemont, New Hampshire where we boarded shuttles to Unity, I explained to my older son–and to myself–what a “leader” was all about.

“It’s like one of those amazing teachers you hear about,” I said, “like that guy in Los Angles that took that poorly performing class and made them math wizards. Those kids were disconnected, self-absorbed, criminal, disenfranchised–and rightly so…

“And it wasn’t as much about the teacher’s greatness–but that inside each of those students was greatness and he helped them find it,” I continued. “He lead them to it. He created a place of belonging for them. He believed in them. He inspired them to their own strengths and greatness. That’s what this country needs in a President.”

I looked over to see that my son’s nose was back in his graphic novel. But once at the rally, under the bright afternoon sun, surrounded by trees and fields, Hillary and Obama echoed my voice–albeit in their political speech writing ways.

She said that it wasn’t about one person, that it was about the change we wanted to create.

He said that his hope lies in the faces of all of us, in our basic decency and caring.

Balance (Lloyd Salasin-Deane)

For me–seeing them together like that–two leaders–male and female–black and white–I felt complete.

I don’t know if these two beautiful people have the answers, but I do know that the answers lie inside of us–inside each of us. I discover that every time I work with someone in my role as a life coach.

My hope, and the reason why I bought my very first bumper sticker (that says “HOPE”), is that these two people can lead us to our own inspiration to change.

It pains me and I know it pains each of you that we live in a world where children are hungry. It brings me to tears that I don’t know what to do about it. It anguishes me that great suffering is happening on “my watch” while I eat my organic cereal and type on my laptop to you.

“NOT ON MY WATCH!” I want to scream, but I don’t know where to direct my voice and my energy and my passion.

So many of you have that clarity. I see you act on behalf of others in so many ways.

Social and political activism have never had the clarity for me. But I am a writer and a thinker and connector; and that is what I have to offer to make the change.

We don’t have to do everything. We don’t have to be good at everything…”You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. ” (Thank you dear Mary Oliver for planting that seed.)

That’s why there’s so many of us, to make it easier. Our talents and interests and gifts blend like circles on a beautiful hand sewn quilt. Let’s get stitching so that we can cover this world with a blanket of warmth, and food, and protection, and safety.

I know I am idealistic. That’s how I came. And I know that many of you know much more about the process because you’ve actually been participating for a lot longer.But maybe there’s a place for me to inspire you with my innocence and heartfelt conviction.

I know our leaders are imperfect, but is that where we want to focus our attention? How would this country and its ideals ever been born if we had focused on the imperfections of our forefathers!?

And I know this country isn’t perfect either. There’s history books filled with our sins against humanity.

But there’s also a light, and that’s what I want to follow and help grow.

I see the light of hope in my children. They each wanted an Obama t-shirt that showed his face in red, white and blue with the word, CHANGE, below it. My oldest wondered why I didn’t buy the “CHANGE” bumper sticker. I explained that I couldn’t put one man’s face on my car–but I could put the word “HOPE” out about him–appreciating that my sons’ would be the change.

That morning, ahead of the rally, the three of us stood under a hot sun in a parking lot at a race track in New Hampshire–waiting for the school bus that would take us to UNITY–to the playground of an elementary school–where the groundskeeper in suspenders was crowned “honorary mayor” for the day, and introduced not one–but two candidates, that I had respected for President.

Unity’s “Honorary” Mayor (the school custodian) introducing Obama (photo credit: Lloyd Salasin-Deane)

Behind us in that shuttle line of hundreds, stood two elderly women, who looking around them at all the young people, said with pride, “This is our future.”

On the return bus ride to the racetrack after the rally, I looked at all the folks around me– in front of me and behind me–and I thought, This is my country:  the elderly man with Parkinson’s beside me, the college students laughing in front of me, and the family, behind me.”

Obama/Clinton Rally Attendees on the bus ride back to their cars. (photo credit: Lloyd Salasin-Deane)

I’m not writing to tell you to believe in Obama or even that I do; but I believe in us, and I know that we need a leader to bring the change that we need in this world—not cheaper groceries or gas prices for us–but provision for all and stewardship for the blessing of this earth.

At the end of this long day, the boys and I raced home to the pond. I wished Hillary and Barack could join us. I’m sure they needed the swim more than we did, and I would have liked to see them out of their suits enjoying the gift of Vermont.

But alas, they have a different dharma…

No doubt, they’re off on a plane to do more of what they did in Unity–more speeches, more politics. God bless them.

Obama and Clinton leaving the podium; Unity, NH 2008 (photo: Lloyd Salasin-Deane)

I find myself praying for Obama and his family, that they would be safe from the dangers of this world so that our country might be led by a man who I saw to be “good.”

Obama stood, not more than 6 heads in front of me, and I took him in–not his words or his plan–but his spirit. That’s what I went to see.

Barack Obama~Unity, NH 2008 ~photo credit: Lloyd Salasin-Deane)

I had to wake my boys before 7 in order for us to be there on that field when Clinton and Obama stepped out of the newspapers and into the world. Now that it’s summer, Aidan is the hardest to wake. But when I said to his shut eyes, “Aidan, today is the day we go see Hillary and Obama,” he jumped out of bed like it was Christmas.

By noon, under that hot sun, in a crowd of thousands, he broke down in tears, begging to find any way to get back home. Lloyd and I created a little world under a beach towel for him and he found his strength to go on.

Though they were only 15 feet ahead of us, Aidan could only see Hillary and Obama when I lifted him up on my shoulders. He spent most of the time on the ground, half the size of those around him–but he said that he was glad he came.

And when we got to the pond, he told his cousin all about the rally with pride.  And to my surprise, my older son’s classmates were enthralled that we had gone to the rally and ran to find him to see these photos he took and to hear about it.

My popularity index as a parent immediately rose, having plummeted the week before when I was not among those many Marlborians who made sure their kids found a television to watch the night-long Celtics win. “You put us all to shame” said a father about the journey I made with my boys.

“They were our community representatives,” a mother clarified.

I have great hope that this beautiful man of color and character might be our country’s representative.

My husband tells me that both Michelle and Barack Obama made the maximum individual contribution to Hillary’s indebted campaign the other night, and that Barack has asked his supporters to donate what they can to offset her great debt.

Today, I’ll make my first ever direct financial contribution to a political campaign at a national level to both Hillary and Obama. I like the feeling of supporting his campaign and supporting Hillary with hers that has ended. I like the spirit of it.

That’s what drew me to Unity, New Hampshire yesterday morning–the spirit of it.

And did you know that the school groundskeeper that introduced Hillary and Barack, was a Republican?

United we stand, divided we fall. My greatest hope is that we can co-create a world and a country that we are proud to call our home–and that when our time comes to leave this place, we can say that on “our watch” unity and beauty prevailed.

Do I believe a political leader can provide the change we want to see in the world?

No.

But I hold great hope that we can co-create it with his leadership.

Help us to be the always hopeful
Gardeners of the spirit
Who know that without darkness
Nothing comes to birth
As without light
Nothing flowers.

-May Sarton

The Gift of Christmas “Presence”

If we are forever yearning for ‘more,’ we are forever discounting what is offered.” Julia Cameron

You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.” – Stewart Emery

Kelly Salasin

I remember the morning that the Christmas “train” took my son on the journey from innate graciousness to maniacal greed to absolute dissolution.  He was three.

Since becoming parents, neither my husband or I got much sleep on Christmas Eve with the anticipation of our son’s joy.   That first Christmas, he was only a few months old… so it wasn’t exactly what we’d been waiting for.

His second Christmas was much more satisfying–though fleeting.  After unwrapping a handful of presents, our one year old simply refused to look at any more.  He shook his head “No,” to each pushy request from his parents, finally exiting the room to make his point– teaching us about “too much.”

By his third Christmas, however, our two-year old had fully joined the culture of gluttony. He never left the room once until everything was opened, upon which he said very matter of factly, “I want Santa bring more.”

The turning point, from graciousness to greed, came at our son’s fourth Christmas. Like a train wreck, we watched  it unfold right before our eyes.  The morning started out sweet enough, as he played with each “present.”   But soon his pace began to quicken, and he began ripping apart paper without even looking to see from whom the gift came; and then he began opening one after another without taking notice of what was he received.

Ironically,  we had once begged our son to keep opening gifts, while now, we scolded  him to slow down.  But he couldn’t stop himself.  He just kept plowing through the present(s) until there was nothing left– at which point he collapsed into tears, completely unsatisfied with his bounty of gifts.

We” had created a monster!

After that year, we encouraged the relatives to send less– and since that was mostly a hopeless cause– we bought much less ourselves, even re-gifting things from year to year.  That same Santa Moose showed up each Christmas along with holiday themed books, films and toys.

By 5 years old, our son had so many things that there was no need to buy more once our second son came along.   So we kept re-gifting–wrapping up forgotten treasures each Christmas.  Eventually, what was found under the tree was much more of what was needed~ new bed pillows, a ski coat, a sled to replace the broken one. The few toys that our sons did receive were treasured more and more.  Last year’s gift of digital cameras were played with for days on end.

Each year, we reigned Christmas in just a bit more–even cutting back on feasting and celebrations to create the space needed for the feelings we treasured most~ magic and grace and generosity.

But it’s still a slippery slope–for me.  I begin each holiday gently just as my son began that Christmas morning that transformed him from gracious to greedy.  As the weeks progress, I begin to need “more” and anxiety grips my stomach with both desire and fear.  Will I have enough?  How will I pay for it?  Am I missing out on the experience of abundance by not buying?

Soon the addictive aspect of consumerism kicks in and I reach the maniacal turning point of just wanting to shop and spend, spend, spend.

That’s where I found myself last night— coming out of the beverage store with a costly bottle of Baileys Irish Creme. I don’t even drink it anymore, but it was the holidays, and I used to love it, and everyone was buying fancy liquors, and it was the season, and I wanted to be fully part of it–even though I had just bemoaned that that I had just spent most of my budget for the month on fancy foods for the holidays.

I joined the throngs of shoppers at department stores in last minute shopping and filled my cart with things I wanted to give and to get.  I was rapturous with desire, craving the feeling of plenty!

And then I remembered my son.  I recalled how his rapture turned to dissillusionment –and I felt my own within it.  I restrained myself from a big covetous purchase and I returned another.

I began to soften.

I let the need for “more” go… and today, I sink into a slow pace with Christmas carols and cookies and writing about the gift of “presence” that needs—plenty of empty space— to be received.

~

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.”~Wayne Dyer

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