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By April Nickell
I listen to a lot of podcasts and every now and then tears spring to my eyes on the subway. I am always surprised by this and try to figure out what has moved me. It is often because of human connection. I just listened to a Bill Moyers about activism where he interviews Howard Zinn. He tells about Janora Dalinger, a 23 yr. old woman who, while at a sit-in strike against unfair working conditions of the 1930’s, got on a loud speaker and rallied the crowed against the violent police. The men tried to stop her from getting involved but she pushed them away. Her speech made women walk into the chaos of the protest in order to help the powers that be see the violence of their acts. Men don’t like to hurt women. What is it that allows an individual to walk into violence in order to bring about change? It is connectedness. You may get hurt or die but you are part of something bigger than you. There is power when we realize we belong to each other.
This woman’s voice caused action and then the retelling of the story affected me. Encouraging people to tell their stories and listen to others stories is what Jaradoa is all about. I keep thinking about what Jaradoa has done on the very limited budgets we have and thinking that none of it is possible if we didn’t feel like we belonged together. (if any of you Lost fans are feeling like Rose in the final season thinking – “if you say ‘live together, die alone’ one more time, I’m going to hurt you!” rest assured – I leave that line to the high drama of Lost!)
Here we are heading into load in this week with very limited staff and funding but what happens is volunteers, members and friends show up to help make it happen. Some of my favorite memories are looking around the theater in the middle of load in and seeing, writers, actors, directors, designers, friends, my neighbors and even my parents working on something. I think this even playing field of everyone diving in and doing what they can for the production is what makes our play time like the Kicknick or ‘family’ potluck so much fun. I am not saying painting a set is the same as this woman’s rallying speech, but I am saying what makes either of them work is the same thing – knowing we belong to each other.
There is no outside, no other, only all. Jaradoa is a family now and hope everyone we encounter can become part of that family and remember this whole city, country and planet are part of that family. We belong to each other. We are on the same team. So we love. That is the team we are on. The loving body of the universe!
(Click here for a link to the Bill Moyers Thee Journal that made me cry! He interviews Howard Zinn around 28:00 minutes)
I thought I would share this reflection I wrote on the way home from our final day of Play On! at MS 22.
Sometimes I am struck by the beauty in the world. I see it in human connections, or when people are kind, when they face their fear, or when someone is strong enough to be honest about their life experiences. Today we finished a cycle at MS 22 and I heard a kid say to another: “Thanks for working with me on that. It was fun.” It was so simple and struck me as truly beautiful.
There was one girl who seems to carry a lot of anger and was difficult to manage in the classroom. At one point she was standing face to face with her teacher yelling at him to shut up and she refused to leave the classroom. But how beautiful was the smile she gave me when I pulled her aside the other day and told her how smart and clever her ideas were and that she was a leader — that I was excited to see all that she could become if she could learn to process her anger. She partly looked at me like I was an alien but she also grinned from ear to ear and it was breathtaking.
Another student wrote a hilarious play – yes it was about a guy with a mental illness that made him think his butt was on fire, but hilarious nonetheless! When his peers performed his play, the pride and joy in his eyes was one of the most beautiful things I saw today.
Jeremy was a student that refused to participate and was constantly interrupting our first few sessions but one day after I asked him to control himself yet again, he ripped off his name tag and threw it and his notebook to the ground. So on my way out that day, I was so happy to run into him and let him know I saw his reaction to my scolding and that I was really sorry I hurt his feelings, that I hoped he knew how much I cared about him and that I hoped he would try participating again next time. Once Again, I received a look like I had two heads BUT he started to participate, co-wrote a nice play and ended up being a rock star today, acting in about 3 plays! We voted him Most Improved Player, a title which he was proud to own. It makes all of the struggle worth it.
I guess we sometimes have a hard time expressing what mercy, beauty and truth really means to us, but today I knew that if all Jaradoa ever did was see the beauty in students who rarely recognize their own beauty…it would be enough!
We couldn’t do any of this at MS 22 without all the donations we received in December. Thank you to all those who participate in Jaradoa – donors, members, volunteers, allies! This work matters. Thank You!
Sometimes around Jaradoa we enjoy a good inspirational quote. So this week’s blog is the first of a series called Nuggets of Wisdom, chock full of nougaty insight. Because “mercy, beauty and truth” is sort of our mantra, we thought we’d start with quotes about mercy. Take any you like, or share your own favorite!
“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”
— Winston Churchill
“Nothing can make injustice just but mercy.”
— Robert Frost
“Heaven have mercy on us all—Presbyterians and Pagans alike—for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”
— Herman Melville
“If you believe, as the Greeks did, that man is at the mercy of the gods, then you write tragedy. The end is inevitable from the beginning. But if you believe that man can solve his own problems and is at nobody’s mercy, then you will probably write melodrama.”
— Lillian Hellman
“The essence of justice is mercy.”
— Edwin Hubbel Chapin
“Think carefully before asking for justice. Mercy might be safer.”
— Mason Cooley
“When having my portrait painted I don’t want justice, I want mercy.”
— Billy Hughes
“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
— Abraham Lincoln
“Much that we call evil is really good in disguises; and we should not quarrel rashly with adversities not yet understood, nor overlook the mercies often bound up in them.”
— Horace Mann
“Computers are like Old Testament gods: lots of rules and no mercy.”
— Joseph Campbell
“May we not succumb to thoughts of violence and revenge today, but rather to thoughts of mercy and compassion. We are to love our enemies that they might be returned to their right minds.”
— Marianne Williamson
“Pretty woman, I don’t believe you, you’re not the truth.
No one could look as good as you–mercy!”
— Roy Orbison
“Teach me to feel another’s woe, to hide the fault I see,
That mercy I to others show, that mercy show to me.”
— Alexander Pope
“There are two things that Jack Bauer never does. Show mercy, and go to the bathroom.”
— Kiefer Sutherland
“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute of God himself;
And earthly power doth then show like God’s
When mercy seasons justice.”
— William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice: IV, i