About making a commitment
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”
-- Satchel Paige
I am the storyteller. I love it. Kids at QUEST gather round me and I tell tales. I want them to know things about life and the world. I want them to know that America is not the only nation that had slaves. I try to make my tales age appropriate.
Last week we discussed multitudes of things. The Congo for instance; I told them about the warlord from the Congo who had just been indicted and sent to jail for 14 years. I told them how he and his army of followers went to the tiny villages in his country and demanded support from the people. “You can give one of three things,”' he demanded, “money, a cow or your child.” I explained that was how a large army of black children became the army of the Congo.
“Couldn’t they have given a cow?” one girl asked me. We talked about poverty. We watched the movie “Sophie’s Choice.” We discussed the children’s army in the Crusades. We talked about responsibilities and options. This was something that held huge interest for these kids. They compared gangs to armies of youth and they made well thought out and intelligent points. Uniforms and religious garb and gang colors have much in common after all.
Facebook has offered a lot as well. SURPRISE! I showed them a picture on Facebook of a dog ad who had been a bait dog and was used as such by Michael Vick. This is a dog fighting community and no one at QUEST had ever given a lot of thought about what dog fighting was all about. This was a great quote on Facebook. “Pits (pit bulls) are smart and eager to please, so if you want them to be vicious they will do so.” And look at what happens to these animals. So we talked about heroes; Michael Vick had been to many of these young boys a hero. We talked about being an athlete and becoming rich and famous. Is that enough to make someone a hero?
We talked about the commitment you must make to whatever species you have for a pet and how the same follow through is what teaches you how to be a good parent. Many of them had never followed a line of thinking which spoke to personal responsibility and truly doing what you said you would. This was an eye opener.
Then there was the chimp story. This was real fun. In Berlin, Germany there was a group of chimps living in the Berlin Zoo, they got together and plotted a well-executed escape. There was a big old tree in their enclosure and they worked as a team to break the branches off the tree and build a ladder, and then -- they all climbed over the wall, a massive prison escape.
One young man, a 12-year-old who thinks he’s something, broke in and said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, let me see that.” So I showed him the newspaper story and all the photos of the chimps strolling down the streets of Berlin, and then we talked about animal intelligence. I told them about when I was growing up my science teacher believed that animals had no intelligence at all just instincts. “Dumb animals,” is how he put it.
My, have times changed, we talked about all that we don’t know, how we are only beginning to learn about different kinds of intelligence. Some apes are actually better at certain types of math than we are. And memory? Let me tell you, most of the great apes remember random number sequences that are beyond calculation. One scientist had to close up shop because his ape was punching numbers into the computer for 72 hours and his mind showed absolutely no signs of slowing down.
Then of course there’s the gray parrot. But that’s another tale. We finished up yesterday with a photo of two men and two dogs in a skiff somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, pulled up next to the boat with its long nose over the edge was a dolphin, and sniffing at the dolphin was a large dog while the second dog just looked on. Just 3 animals, 2 different species in a boat being curious and friendly, the two men were not necessary. They were the outsiders, the onlookers, the observers of a magic moment. Serendipity indeed.
Let’s talk about the Lennox movement. Lennox was a chocolate lab bulldog mix, who was seized from his owners in Belfast, Ireland, because of a Breed Specific Ban. Lennox had never harmed anyone in his 7 years of life but because of the B.S. Law he was seized and caged for 2 years. His owners fought long and hard to save his life. But in the end they did not prevail. They even offered to uproot the entire family and move elsewhere. But the dog warden got her way and about 11 days ago Lennox was murdered. A cause celebre immediately widened across the globe. This started on Facebook and they were able to get enough signatures to get both Eukenuba and Purina to pull out of sponsoring the Belfast Dog Show. From everywhere came texts of this ilk. These 2 are from my animals:
“I was rescued from a kill shelter in Georgia just before I was about to be executed. I was filthy, my coat was covered in feces and urine and was so disgusting I had to be shaved. Several of my back teeth were cracked from being struck. I was afraid of brooms and my new home ladies cane. I have a permanent limp and am even afraid of the wind and my own shadow. I may bark but when brought over to confront what I am barking at I hide and whine and shiver. I am so happy now, at first when ever my person left the house I would sit at the window and howl. But now I know I belong here. I sleep on the bed, I throw my toys around the room and when my person comes home I am so excited I lick her and lick her but I am so gentle because she limps just like me. At night I guard and watch over my person and sleep with my chin on her hip. I would lay down my life for her. I have lived here for 6 months. I am Lennox.
"I was taken from a boy that was torturing me on Grant Avenue I was 3 weeks old. I now have permanent kidney and liver damage. But nothing stops me for long. My body is stunted and deformed, but I can climb on my person's lap and hang on her arm with my teeth and never let go. I am a fat cat and I trust no one. The vet is afraid of me. But my person and my dog love me. That is a very strange feeling. My dog and I race each other to the door when our person comes home. I am fat cat Ernie but today I am Lennox.
We are many, we have been abandoned and abused. Our whole lives have been an exercise in survival. No one stays with us for long. We trust no one. But we have hearts and we feel and we know that here we belong. Here is home. We wrote this together because we wanted our voices to be heard. We are 7- we are 3- we are 11- we are 9 months- we are 13-15-6-12-17-19-25-8-4-31. We are all ages and colors and everything. For most of our lives we have been Lennox.”
Last night I purchased the book “The Lost Dogs,” ihe story of Michael Vick's fighting dogs, which tells the story of the rehabilitation of dogs who have been used as entertainment for jaded and ignorant people. This is my next project for the Car Club.
“I really admire bees’ sense of common responsibility… Although sometimes individual bees fight, basically there is a strong sense of unity and cooperation. We human beings are supposed to be much more advanced, but sometimes we lag behind even small insects.”
-- The Dali Lama
What happened to the Squeegee Folk? The guys who ran up to your car to clean your windshield for change? The squeegee folk, the impoverished folks in the ghetto, people without means or hope -- those who, as Ray Charles said -- “Ain’t got nothing yet.”
And all the folk in the hill in wheelchairs. There is one in particular I have been seeing for years, bearded and long haired and yes, kind of dirty. But today he had a nice clean green shirt on and when I told him how great he looked he smiled and smiled and we laughed and shook hands, and he made a little joke. Because you see, someone had actually seen him -- saw he was a person, and made him feel special. It didn’t take much and God it sure made me feel good. And here again we all are Lennox on this earth. I love this line by Samuel Beckett: “Try again - - fail again -- fail better.”
I leave you today with this:
“It’s not that I don’t love you,
you know how much I do.
And it’s not that I have found someone to take the place of you.
It’s just fear that builds within me,
every time you touch my hand
and a dread that shakes my body,
that even I don’t understand.
So I am leaving,
this time I’m playing it smart.
I am going to walk away from love,
before love breaks my heart.
Oh, you’re clinging to me tighter
than you ever had before,
I don’t understand it.
But I know it is going to take everything I’ve got
to keep walking out the door.
But those arms you got around me will let me go someday.
And I’d rather leave you holding on,
than pushing me away.”
-- David Ruffin
To all the Lennoxs, past-present and future
Lie Easy- We will never forget