May 8, 2020 by Grace Cooper
Open Cyber Circle: Week of May 3rd
Our team aims to stay mission-driven during these questionable times. While the world feels like a sci-fi movie, we continue to encourage the writing and sharing of personal narratives. We continue to support shared reading and shared writing. We continue to rely on the most important of human traditions: sharing stories, because every story contains lessons for the audience. They spark questions and curiosity. Stories teach us to love. To forgive. To be just. To strive for something better. Stories connect us, even–or especially–when we feel isolated and alone.
Each afternoon, we at ConTextos will engage in shared reading and writing to help us connect, to reflect on our pasts, to envision the future. To author a brighter future. Over Zoom, we will provide a short reading or a prompt, write for no more than 10 minuets, and share our writings as a group. Please fill out this form if you’d to join us.
Prompt: I was a changed changer
We were at the final performance of the Telling My Story Program at the Women Correctional Facility in Windsor VT. Excitement was all around. We felt good, empowered and proud. We had wings… After the performance a lovely old lady came to me to congratulate me. People tend to do that not knowing that the real hard work is on the participants. She wanted to make me feel good; she wanted to “give me” something; she wanted to complement me. At the end of the conversation she said to me “this program is extraordinary”, and I looked at her in the eye and told her “it’s too bad that it is extraordinary; it should be ordinary”. She looked at me politely and smiled; she understood what I said and left puzzled. I drove back home with wings- with crying wings.
Prompt: I was a changed changer
I am a teacher. That title I do not take lightly. I have in the palms of my hands spirits that will be released into the world, and each one of those spirits will influence other spirits. So, I must be careful about how I speak – word choice, tone, when not to speak, etc. – because words matter.
I get mad and I let my anger show to my students. I also tell them why I am mad. It usually stems from frustration because they are making a conscious choice to not step up and rise to meet their own expectations. The next day, I will apologize if I happen to say a four letter word in the middle of my venting. However, I will not apologize for my anger. See, when I was a baby teacher, I thought that I could not get angry at my students. It isn’t professional. They are just kids. They don’t know any better. So, I would take that anger home, and have to figure out ways to relieve that pressure. That caused way too much stress.
I continually preach to my kids that they need to allow themselves to be human, be kids now, express who they are. I have to be the example. We are all dealing with human beings. Amazingly beautiful in our flaws. The more I show my whole self, I hope that they will allow for their true spirits to come out. Smile, cry, be angry, apologize, be silent, speak with conscious thought. I had to change so they could change.
Prompt: My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless
Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? What is it all for? These questions have plagued mankind like impatient children in the middle of a cross-country road trip. People trying to find justification and purpose in an unreasonable and chaotic world. Is it as simple as meandering through this life following arbitrary rules and sometimes conflicting regulations so we can either go to paradise or purgatory in the next? Is it to be the very best, like no one ever was? How does one find their true calling? What if it never calls? Why did it not call? I don’t think there is a divine plan or a way things are supposed to go. The sum of our actions may not have a result. Does that sound bleak? Perhaps. I think there is some humility to be gained in realizing we are but farts of stardust in the winds of time. But if everything is but fleeting moments, wisps of time and whispers of space, then I think that makes it all the more precious. Our actions and inactions may not all be trapped forever in the amber of a moment for anthropologists to later decipher and decode or for Ma’at to weigh our hearts and decide our fates, but there are some that will live on in the hearts of those we touch however lightly or heavily, and that touch can be one of harm or love. The choice is ours alone. There are pieces of us floating around in people’s memories, of that “I” that we presented in that particular fragment of time. We don’t know what will stick, it may be so insignificant we don’t even recall it ourselves. Perhaps we feel out of place because we are placeless. We are placeless because we are in all places we have left our fingerprints. Although we may disappear without a trace, we are traceless because our traces have been absorbed. People breathe in our stories and interactions and exhale new life, decisions, reflections. Maybe this is all for nothing, but maybe it’s all for everything. And that, my lovely ducklings, is the beauty of it all.
Prompt: Invite one another in
Inclusive. Equity. Justice. Planet. Thriving. Celebrating. Healing. Becoming. Loving. Leveraging. Teaching. Listening. Risking. Sharing. Flowing.
Supportive. Helpful. Aware. Healthy. Bold. Possibilities. Asset-based. Circular. Viable. Collaborative. Bountiful. Verdant. Diverse. Ebullient. Employed. Cared For. Respected.
Family. Community. Village. Block. Home. Invite one another in.
The people want segregation
This piece was written during circle in our new program Into A Black Beyond. IABB is a digital reading & writing circle for Black Chicagoans…
Follow My Lead
I am already behind the power curve from an excessive mistake I made as a teen...this killing not necessarily greater than the recent others but…
A Letter of Gratitude
And yet, in both of these places ConTextos calls home where we work with those who are bearing the deepest wounds we find illuminating hope.…