By Jim Segaar
When I reflect on our church’s new Affirmation of Values, I think of my parents. Bernice and Raymond weren’t rabble rousers or community leaders, but their values were obvious in the way they lived their lives every day.
Mom and Dad both studied their faith, and did justice, loved mercy, and walked humbly with their God. They taught us that all people are important and worth paying attention to, not through words but through actions such as feeding strangers and making friends across societal boundaries like race and economic status. They were strong in their faith, and I never heard them criticize anyone else’s. They were environmentalists before that word became common. They didn’t know they were “composting” when we put everything that would rot into the garden soil. When recycling became available, they avidly complied. I still remember Mom washing out tin cans, removing the labels, and flattening them so they could be recycled. Dad volunteered at a community “paper baler” that consolidated waste cardboard and paper into his 90s.
My parents never marched in a protest (at least not that I know of). They probably voted Republican consistently, and they never told us who to vote for. They never lectured us kids on “family values” or anything like it. They lived every day according to their beliefs, and we learned their values by watching and listening. Values weren’t statements they hung on a bulletin board, they were who they were.
I think Seattle First Baptist is a lot like my parents. For decades we’ve lived our values, even when we didn’t bother to write them down. We welcome the stranger, stand with the marginalized, open our doors and hearts to whoever society decides to shut out. And I hope that we take the values we affirm seriously, into ourselves, so that they shine through our individual and collective lives.
I recently heard an environmental advocate confess that he gave up a specific brand of ice cream to lessen his carbon footprint. Two thoughts came to mind. Wow you’re serious about this! But more to the point, living our values and protecting our environment doesn’t have to be about ice cream brands and protests. Each one of us can maximize the good we contribute to the world by paying attention to every decision we make, choosing to live like we know we should, even if it’s not always convenient. We can put the brakes on our own consumerism, drive less, fly less, heat and cool less, and thoroughly enjoy life in the process.
I’m glad we have an Affirmation of Values. Those statements can help us remember who we have been, and who we are. And now it is time for every one of us to live out those values in our daily lives.
Read our Affirmation of here...
By Nancy Roberts-Brown
This June I travel to Carlisle, Pennsylvania for my fiftieth Dickinson College reunion. In addition to the astonishment of being eligible for a fifty-year reunion, there is the wonder of realizing how very little I actually knew about much of Carlisle when I was there. I am particularly aware of how little I knew about the Carlisle Indian School. I’d heard of it and I’d heard of Jim Thorpe, the Indian athlete and Olympic Gold Medalist who, in 1907, was a two-time All American for the school’s football team. I now understand that this historic school has a legacy that lasts to this day – and that the legacy is not entirely pretty.
In 1879, the United States government undertook a project aimed at assimilating Native American youth into mainstream American culture. Amid predictions of the “extinction” of Native Americans without complete and rapid integration, Civil War veteran Lt. Col. Richard Henry Pratt founded the Carlisle Indian School as the first off-reservation Indian boarding school to “Americanize” Indians. His refrain, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” reflects his misguided philosophy. Building upon the lead of the Carlisle Indian School, in 1893 mandatory education for Native children became part of the United State’s assimilation policy that was forced upon Native youth and families until the mid-1900’s.
Children’s experiences at the boarding schools were typically bewildering and traumatizing. The schools were run with strict military precision. Children were forced to exchange their traditional clothing for garb favored by European Americans. Their beautiful long hair was shorn and their Native language names were replaced by English names. They were severely punished if they spoke in their native tongue. And as if losing all ties to family, tribe and culture were not enough, conditions in the school were horrific. There was rarely enough food and disease was rampant. Physical, mental and sexual abuse were regular occurrences.
This profoundly ill-informed, racist practice proved to be devastating to generations of Native Americans, and it was not until 1978 that, with the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the practice was finally prohibited. Included in the act is Congressional finding that “the wholesale separation of Indian children from their families is perhaps the most tragic and destructive aspect of American Indian life today.” H.R. REP, 95-13896, at 9 (1978)
Through my work with Native American families in the child welfare system, I am personally aware of the legacy of this policy. Deprived of their families, their language and their culture, Native American children lost touch with who they were. Traumatized by physical deprivation and abuse, they acted out in predictable ways, including self-medication with alcohol and other drugs. Moreover, the trauma did not end with the people attending the boarding schools. In a dynamic now understood as intergenerational trauma, not only the boarding school students, but their children and their grandchildren, as well, were affected. Consequently, it is not a coincidence that today rates of Native American incarceration are four times the national norm. Native American youth commit suicide at rates three times the national average and Native youth are placed in foster care at rates five times higher than rates experienced by white children. Tate Walker, social activist and editor of Native People’s Journal, states: “It is my belief that government and church-run boarding schools have had the single greatest negative impact on Natives, beyond wars or reservations or anything else the US threw our way.” (everydayfeminism.com/2015/10/indian-boarding-school-legacy) This is the heartbreaking legacy of the boarding schools that began with the Carlisle Indian School.
I am currently writing a book about parents I met while working in child welfare, showcasing transformational changes they made to overcome the issues that led them into the system to begin with. One chapter is about a Native American woman named Danielle, whose great grandmother and grandmother were both in the boarding schools. From the time of her birth until she was nearly thirty, Danielle suffered from the trauma that was her inheritance. Her life was a crazy quilt of addiction, rape, domestic violence and sexual trafficking. Five of her children spent time in foster care and she permanently lost custody of two of them.
Danielle is now Services Manager of the Peer Counseling Program in a large, local mental health center. She is parenting her three youngest children and working on her Bachelor’s degree. The story of how she brought an end to the intergenerational trauma that plagued her family for generations is a story of courage, resilience, culturally appropriate intervention, and the power of love. I tell her story to put into historical and cultural context the nightmare of her life and the lives of others like her, to demonstrate that with the right supports even the most wounded of people can change, and to uncover the largely unknown and unjust story of the Indian boarding schools.
Returning to Carlisle, I will have an opportunity to learn more about the Carlisle Indian School. As a part of a reunion weekend “Alumni College” I will take a class on the Carlisle Indian Schools’ Digital Resource Center. This center was established to increase knowledge and understanding of the school and its complex legacy and to tell the stories of the many thousands of students sent there. I am eager to learn about the project and its promise. Truth-telling is an essential part of healing. In any case, returning to Carlisle fifty years after my graduation, I am much more aware of issues of equity and social justice that I managed to miss during my college years. Although looking in the mirror I cannot appreciate many of the consequences of the passage of time, I am gratified that the years have granted me a potion of wisdom that allows me to more fully understand the community in which I received my “college education.”
By Jim Segaar
I forgot how much focus and and thought framing a house requires, but today reminded me. We’re building the walls for our little house in the meadow, which sounds simple. And maybe it is simple for someone who does it all the time. But for me it’s required a level of concentration as high as I can muster.
My world shrinks when I’m building something, and that is a requirement when framing a house. Today I was trying to factor in window sizes, and space for insulation, and structural requirements with our snow load, and basic carpentry skills that I haven’t exercised in 15 years, and aesthetics, and waste of materials, and overall symmetry, and counter height, and backsplash requirements, and the lifting capabilities of two 58-year-olds, and the timing of the delivery of the roof trusses, and so on and so on. All the while a combination of sunscreen and sweat ran into my eyes and my hands hurt from the work we did yesterday and my head throbbed because I had just bumped it. At that point my husband and co-builder Jim Ginn (JG) added another factor to the mix – how large the nailing strips are on the windows we just ordered, and my brain exploded. “I can’t think about that!” I huffed. “I can’t think about anything else right now!”
A few minutes later I calmed down enough to know that JG had raised an important point, and we had to consider the nailing strip sizes. And I admitted to myself that one particularly nasty part of the framing – the south window in the Great Room – which had given me no end of trouble the first time through, needs to be redone. And that actually made it all OK. Easy to factor in the nailing strips this second time through.
Finally quitting time rolled around, and I took a few minutes to sit in the shade and look at Facebook. I noticed a bunch of posts about world events I wasn’t even aware of. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the mayor of London in some sort of insult-a-thon. Muslim clerics in the UK refusing to say prayers for some dead terrorists. Identifying an Australian woman as one of the victims. And I realized I didn’t know what any of this was about. One Google search later I had some information about the latest attack in England, and all the information started making an unpleasant form of senseless sense.
And then I thought, “Here while people were being stabbed and run over and dying I’ve been fretting over a piece of wood that is twisted more than I would like. How can that be right?”
The obvious follow-up question is, “How can that be wrong?”
Times like this I remember one of my favorite stories about Jesus. His ministry was winding down, careening inexorably to its bloody end on a cross, and a woman anointed his feet with some costly perfume. His friends complained that it was a waste of money that could have gone to the poor, and a world-weary Jesus said, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26.10-11 NRSV)
My translation: “Chill out! There will always be pain and suffering and death to deal with. Live in this moment. Notice what is happening right around you, and appreciate it!”
A little later JG, our dog Otto, and I were sitting on the east side of our RV, in the evening shade, looking at our “lesser view.” One of the neighbor dogs, named Blue, trotted over for a visit, and Otto got all huffy and barky. Blue stopped abruptly and turned around, heading back home. Then Otto jumped in my lap and I enjoyed a rare few minutes of holding our aging pup, petting him while we both contemplated the world around us.
A world that shrank again. Small enough to exclude not only the latest atrocity in London but even the challenges of framing our house.
And I sighed in relief, and enjoyed the view.
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist