Love as a healing force, Part 1

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson

This blog is about Paul Robeson and my husband.

My husband is a huge fan of Paul Robeson, the actor/singer/lawyer/athlete/activist who died in 1976 at age 77. Hubby recently presented a talk about Mr. Robeson that got me thinking about love.

Paul Robeson exhibited love in his daily life. He sacrificed his career, his livelihood, his reputation, his mental health and, ultimately, his physical health for love. Paul so loved freedom that he acted on his values and convictions, regardless of the consequences he ultimately endured.

Paul Robeson, an internationally renowned star, reminds me of another man I knew, a local civil rights leader named Leroy Boyd. Leroy died in 2010 and was recently memorialized at the annual banquet of the organization he helped to found in Pensacola, Movement For Change.

Speaking at the event, the Pensacola police chief admitted to not always seeing eye-to-eye with Leroy, but he delivered the most favorable comments. Leroy called the chief often to discuss and attempt to resolve issues of discrimination and sometimes violence carried out by the police department toward someone in the community, usually a minority.

The chief closed his comments by saying that, whatever one thought of Leroy’s opinions, one had to admire his passion. In all the times Leroy called the police chief, he always called to help someone else, never for his own benefit.

Paul Robeson and Leroy Boyd both exemplify the power that love has to transform lives. Their commitment to others, to a better world, to a world that they knew was possible is a reflection of their belief in love as a healing force. They gave of themselves even when their gifts were not appreciated or acknowledged at the time.

In her article “Primal Reverence,” Kendyl Gibbons writes that “the primal experience of reverence … Comes in the stories of human experience that move us with their courage, with their dedication to justice or beauty, with their embrace of sacrifice for the larger good.”

Gibbons lists people such as the Rwandan hotel keeper Paul Rusesabagina who sheltered 1,268 refugees to protect them from the genocide, Harriet Tubman, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and now politician who faced oppression and 15 years house arrest but continued to push for democracy for her people of Myanmar.

To this list I would add the names Paul Robeson and Leroy Boyd.

To read the other blogs in this series:
Part 2
Part 3


Just grow up!

Parenthood is a defining phase in a person’s life. A little, vulnerable creature is depending on us completely for her life and sustenance now and for the next 18 years of her life. Talk about responsibility!

Historically, women have shouldered most of the responsibility of childrearing. As a result, mothering is directly correlated with maturation for women. Women’s own views of themselves as mothers as well as societal expectations around motherhood influence women’s behavior.

In general, mothers are more future-oriented than non-mothers of the same age. They tend to be more stable and more risk-averse. Mothers statistically perform the majority of childcare duties and are more often primary caregivers of their children.

Recent changes in gender roles and cultural shifts mean that fathers are increasingly involved in childrearing and parenting duties. Fathers today spend more time with their children than fathers of days past, and they are more aware of and responsive to their child’s needs and emotional development than their fathers were.

Father or mother, parents’ attachment to their children inhibits the parent’s desire and/or their ability to stay out all night, disappear for days at a time, spend all their money or otherwise engage in immature and self-centered behavior.

I presented a webinar this week entitled “After Incarceration: When the Parent Returns.” The goal of the webinar was to educate fellow social workers on how we can positively engage with families affected by incarceration and help parents reintegrate into their families after release from prison or jail.

Some of the questions I fielded during the webinar related to what social workers can do when other family members or the other parent (mom or dad) acts as a barrier to the formerly incarcerated parent resuming the parent-child relationship. Sometimes the immaturity of other people in the child’s life is the greatest barrier to the child having a normal relationship with both parents.

Research on child development and long-term research on the human life span shows us that children are best served by the involvement and love of both parents in their lives. Certainly, there are exceptions to this when the child’s safety is at risk. In many cases, though, it is immaturity and an unwillingness to put aside personal differences that cause problems between parents and their children.

Being a parent means nothing if not putting the needs of your child ahead of your own wants. Adults make mistakes, but children needn’t suffer for them.

To parents and others who are allowing their own immaturity to affect a child’s relationship with mom and dad, just grow up!

Change your glasses, change your life

A display case features two choices of eyeglasses. One pair of glasses shows the world as a dangerous place. The other pair shows the world as a place full of beauty and majesty that fills the viewer with gratitude. Which pair of glasses do we choose?

A recent blog described our perspective on life as a choice between the set of glasses that we wear each day. Glasses make a useful metaphor for our perspective, our point of view.

Thinking of our perspective as a set of glasses first draws our awareness to the fact that we have a perspective which colors our view of situations. Things are not always as they first seem. Just as a speck of dust on our lenses can disturb our view through our glasses, our past experiences and baggage can color our take on what happens in our lives.

Someone who feels generally positive and optimistic about things would see each new opportunity as manageable, even fun. A person who has been hurt, who is distrustful and cynical would approach a challenge as a bother, an annoyance and not much fun.

The glasses metaphor also underscores the idea of our perspective as a choice. We may not have a choice in whether or not we have a perspective. (Everyone does.) We do, though, have control over which perspective we adopt.

Just as there are many types and styles of glasses — from designer frames to cheap , disposable dollar-store pairs — there are an unlimited number of perspectives we can take. We can choose to look at life as a gift or a curse, an unpredictable thrill ride or a logically unfolding chain of events, a miserable and meaningless exercise or a wondrous journey of discovery and growth. We pick the perspective that suits us.

Finally, in thinking of our perspective as a set of glasses, we remember that our perspective is changeable. The glasses are not glued to our face. We can switch one pair for another. We have the ability to do that.

Let your attention go to your glasses. Which pair are you wearing right now? Are they the right pair for you in your space at this moment in time? is this perspective working for your life?

If you don’t like your glasses, change them. The change may make a world of difference.