Hole Makers

We’ve all heard that old saying, “Kids can be cruel.” And it’s absolutely true.

As a teacher, I’ve seen it all from children; you name it, I’ve probably seen some version of it. There’s not much that kids do that can surprise me. I’ve had to hand out my share of discipline in order to keep the classroom functioning. Now before I go on, let me say discipline is not the same as punishment. Punishment is a grown-up’s way of getting back at a kid. It is often harsh and severe. Discipline, however, is redemptive.  It’s meant to help a child understand that there are consequences for our choices. Discipline builds respect, over time. Punishment breeds fear, resentment and rebellion (I think it was Paul who admonished early Christians, “Provoke not your children to wrath.”) Punishment leads to abuse. Discipline leads to understanding, eventually, hopefully…and sometimes, it takes some ingenuity and often words are the strongest tool at our disposal.

This past week I may have administered the best discipline in my entire teaching career. I was at my wits end on how to handle the bickering of some students. We’ve had trouble with some children saying mean and hurtful things to others. I had already talked and taken away privileges, but none of that worked. So, when one little girl told a little boy that he was weird and that everybody hated him (words that crushed his spirit), I got that teacher look on my face, then I closed my classroom door. I shooshed them and stood there with my head slightly bowed and my hands behind my back. I was secretly praying to get through to the kids about how cruel words, criticism and unkindness take a long time to get over, a lifetime. Then I saw a hammer, board and nail in my mind’s eye. I didn’t have those objects for my demo, but I did look up and see a screw in the wall.

I showed them the screw in the wall and asked them what would happen if I took out that screw. Everyone said, “It will leave a hole.”

“That’s right,” I replied. “In the same way, every time we call another person weird or stupid or ugly…every time we say ‘you can’t do anything right,’ or ‘everybody hates you,’ we are making a hole in that person’s heart. Maybe I could fill this hole in with putty but underneath the putty, the scar is still there. When somebody says something mean to you it feels like they put a hole in your life, in your heart, and it never goes away. And pretty soon people are going around putting holes in people because that’s all they know how to do.”

Then I asked them,  “Who in here has ever had someone put a whole in you?” Every hand in the room went up. Every one. And the oldest one is only eight years old. Wow! Our words have such power.  I told them that if they put holes in people with their words then whenever the person they hurt grew up, they would remember them as the person who hurt them. I went on. I told them the poignant story of how someone had said mean things to me when I was their age and how I never forgot those mean things and how every time I thought of some kids I had known then, I always remember that they made holes in my heart with their words.

They sat, 24 first graders, in stone silence. It was remarkable. Some of them had downcast eyes, others near tears. I think they really understood. We ended up having what may have been the best week out of this year. On the way to the playground yesterday, I overheard one little girl say to another one that a thought had crossed her mind but she didn’t say it, because she didn’t want to make holes in people. It was the same little girl who had spoken so unkindly before. I knew she meant it. And I knew that some of those kids would never forget that unkind words are like screws that bore into our lives, leaving scars, and just maybe a few less kids will be cruel.

Storms and Stars

No storm lasts forever


of how hard  wind blows

or  thunder bellows

regardless of how violently

lightening rips clouds

or rain pounds earth.

Every tempest eventually whimpers,

whimpers then surrenders

to steadfast stars




of temporary tantrums.

longing for home

Headed down the highway.

Rain is coming down.

In the mirror I can see

the lights of our town

another lump in my throat

another knot in my chest.

The hardest part of going

is always leaving home.

never knowing where

how far or how long.

No road can ever take me

where I really want to go,

a quiet, still place within

that all spirit travelers know.


I am Raven

always hearing

spirit words

a phantom




I conjure wind

in dry grasses

rolling clouds

and drops of rain

ancient keeper of wisdom.

I am Aniwayah, Wolf,

holding closely

songs of my pack.

She Who  Walks

With the Sun upon

the earth and heralds

morning light.

Whose Clothes do You Wear?

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table. Outside an October rain is coming down in torrents, and I’m reminded of an observation I made about myself years ago. I once said in a journal that I rarely wrote about what happened to me but rather what happened in me. I remember thinking that if someone in the future tried to piece my life together by my journal entries they would find it difficult. However, a person would be able to see a pattern of internal changes and growth.

Through my journals, I can see a spiritual journey and whether we want to believe it about ourselves or not, we are all on a spiritual journey. A part of being on that journey is discovering truth about oneself, true truth, not what the people around you say. My daddy used to say, “People say a lot of things about William Henry.” Then he would get a soft sad look in his eyes and, for a moment, press his lips together in quiet determination, “It don’t matter what people say about him, it only matters what God says about him.” My dad gave me an understanding that has shaped my life, possibly more than any other single revelation.

Everybody has his or her own version of reality and they will try to force you into that version, which may not be what’s best for your spiritual journey and if they are trying to force and manipulate, it’s not best for theirs either. They just don’t know it at the time. Some people may say, “Yes, but this is a good thing.” A good thing is not necessarily a God thing, meaning that just because somebody suggests something or wants you to fulfill a certain role, does not make it right for your life.

In a way, life is like women on a shopping trip. They often travel in pairs, packs or trios. One of the ladies looks at an outfit. She likes the colors, but she knows inside herself that the attire is not for her, so she starts to hang it back but her friends tell her that it’s in style and that it will flatter her figure. They talk her into buying it, because they all like it; they think it suits her. She gets home, wears it once and feels uncomfortable all day. She hangs it in the closet and it remains there until it goes out of style; she ends up selling it at a consignment shop or donating it to charity. She wasted her money on somebody else’s version of what fit her best when she should’ve listened to her own instinct and been true to herself. In life, many people do this. We listen to what others think will “suit” us. Sadly, others don’t always know what suits themselves; much less what suits someone else.

I once had an acquaintance walk up to me and say, “I’ve got an outfit and some shoes to give you. They were my daughters.” I responded with a thank you and pulled the outfit out of the bag. It was ugly. It was the boldest, brightest thing I’d ever seen made of cloth and the shoes were totally not me. In addition, the clothes were five sizes too big and the shoes were three sizes too big, but she was certain these things would “fit” me and “suit” me. She stood there going on and on about how good I would look in them.

I was flabbergasted. Had she not noticed that I was smaller than that? Had she not noticed that I never wore flashy things like that? Internally, I reminded myself that her intentions were probably good, so I said, “Thank you, but I’m sorry. These won’t fit me.” At first she acted a little shocked. Then she said, “Well, can’t you just take them anyway and give them to somebody else?” And I got a little angry. She wasn’t looking out for me at all. She was just looking for a convenient and guiltless way to get rid of her daughter’s old clothes. I put them back in the bag and handed it to her, “Take them to Good Will.”  That lady’s gift was like a lot of things that people try to push on us in life, it was convenient for her agenda and she wasn’t thinking about weighting me down with the unnecessary baggage of something I couldn’t use.  She just wanted to dump her baggage on me and be on her way.

In the same way, people often try to ascribe things to us, project things on us that are not true of us and if we believe them we will find ourselves living someone else’s reality. I think it takes courage to say, “This doesn’t fit me.” There is a freedom we find in the things we leave behind.

October Friday

Janie’s got cancer

won’t live long.

She’s maybe fifty.

I hold her hand

tell her be brave

sing to her.

At work

they fuss over

papers, binders,

reports, phone calls,

bus passes and why

haven’t I finished

that massive mural?

It shouldn’t take

long, just snap

out a masterpiece

already. Outside

clouds have turned

autumn and maybe

I have, too.

If I were Janie

would they hold

my hand? Walk

to the edge of life

with me? Deadlines

are for the living.

I think I am part

crow because all

I want to do

is fly.

I’m about to confess something.

I have habits.

Oh, I mean everybody does, but in the course of my life I have developed some habits. I sometimes fall short of them and get off track for a few days, but eventually I come back to them.

I have a habit of taking walks. Walks clear my mind, help me remember who I am. I talk to my Creator when I walk, talk about whatever enters my mind. Sometimes I just think, but I always come back feeling better than before I left. When it is warm, I often pull my shoes off and walk barefoot across open fields and country roads. I love the feel of earth under my feet. It’s a connected feeling. I just meander and see what comes up, like turtles at the pond, and see what lands, like cranes or wild geese. There is no therapy better than a walk.

I have a habit of doing physical things. I like to walk and hike and garden. I love to train in kung fu. I love to build things and make things.

I have a habit of creativity. I can never stop designing…curriculums, paintings, projects. I am always writing and thinking about writing and playing music. Creativity flows out of me. It’s not an effort, but it is a habit, and I’m highly addicted to it, so much so that I’m not even a little bit ashamed of it. I am openly a creative-addict. If I’m restricted and not allowed to create I become antsy and snippy…agitated. I was created to create.

I have a habit of quiet time. I need it, everyday. People always ask me where I get my energy. I get it from the quiet times. I get it from moments when I am allowed to re-center myself, to remember to keep the main things, the main things.

Those are a few of my favorite habits.





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