June 8, 2020 – Lady & The Baseball Bat

Today is June 8, 2020, today is Best Friend Day! It’s a great day to celebrate and honor your best friend! Since you are still social distancing, it might be a bit challenging to take them to lunch. But you can still meet up with them via Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, or just by phone. Do not underestimate the power of these platforms to strengthen friendships and to even make new friends.


let’s start the week with a little dance…

This video comes from Cynthia, a regular reader in Washington State. Thanks Cynthia! This is a fun flash mob dance from Russia to an 90-year-old tune by Irvin Berlin, Puttin’ on the Ritz, or, since it is from Russia, is that “Putin on the Ritz?” Sorry, bad joke…totally irresistible though.


…And a smile with chickenman – episode 52

Benton Harbor (aka Chickenman, aka “Yo-Yo”) is still at his high school reunion.


Lady & The Baseball Bat

When I first saw her she was just a few feet off the trail in the woods behind a house, which I presumed to be hers. She was bending down to tie a shoe and she had a small, metallic blue baseball bat with her. It seemed curious to me that she had the bat in the woods but I figured she had her reasons. I greeted her, she returned my greeting, and I continued on the trail.

We have a 2.12 mile walking trail that encircles our neighborhood. I know it is 2.12 miles in length because every tenth of a mile is marked for those of us who use the trail for exercise. The markings are also handy in case someone falls or takes ill on the trail. Emergency services will know more accurately where to go.

I didn’t think much about the baseball bat or the woman as I continued my walk. I just kept on moving, focused on making my goal of 3.5 miles in 60 minutes averaging 3.5 mph.

When I got to the opposite end of the trail I met the woman again. This time it was clear that she was walking the trail…with a baseball bat. As we met I moved slightly off the trail (out of range of the bat just in case) and I greeted her again and she returned the greeting again. This time, as I moved on, I found myself wondering why she had the baseball bat.

The baseball bat was a first for me. I’ve seen people carrying a lot of things on the trail, but not a baseball bat.

However, I’ve also heard of people having interesting experiences with wildlife on the trail. Some have reported being dive bombed by birds. Some people have even reported the same thing from bats at sunset – the rodent kind, of course, not those from Louisville Slugger. I’ve run into wild animals on the trail myself. Typically it is rabbits, squirrels, deer, turtles in the pond, and an occasional woodchuck. Of the more intimidating variety, I’ve also seen foxes and a coyote. The meanest I’ve encountered to date, though, are the Canadian geese who are tending to their young goslings on the pond. I give them lots of space when they are hanging out on the trail. One of the grown geese guards the family while the other parents it. The guard goose has a pretty nasty stink eye.

After seeing the coyote on the trail, I went out with a walking stick for a couple of weeks, so I can appreciate that someone might want to take a bat. But, really, a bat?

As I kept thinking about the bat I tried to remember what else I had observed about the woman in our brief encounters. First, I’ve mentioined it already, I noticed her gender. Second, I noticed, generally, her age…probably older than me, which puts her in the late 60’s or even in her 70’s. Third, I noticed she is black.

Mulling over those observations it suddenly hit me (a thought, not the bat) what all three had in common: vulnerability. Each, and together, gender, age, and race made the woman highly vulnerable. It would be easy to rationalize away the bat by simply saying she was protecting herself from the wildlife. I didn’t actually believe that to be the case though. This is a time when the most vulnerable among us are feeling more vulnerable than usual.

At this point the reflection turned inward. “What is there about me,” I wondered, “that makes me a threat to other people, especially to those who are already feeling vulnerable?” Of course, there is that I’m white, I’m male, and at age 66 I’m still in reasonably good shape. I suppose all of these could make me intimidating to some people.

Then I wondered if the lady with the bat thought I might be someone she should fear. There was a part of me that wanted to turn around, catch up with her, and let her know that I’m harmless. However, by merely turning around, catching up with her, and telling her I’m harmless would likely only confirm some of her fear…especially the part that I might be a bit weird. Sigh.

We never really know how people perceive us, eh? I know how I want to be perceived, but threat is in the eye of the beholder. One of the things I’m revisiting in this time is how I am perceived and received by others. That’s not a bad thing at all. How I wish to be perceived is an idealized vision of myself. If I hold that vision before me and strive to attain it, then I think I could be contributing to making this a safer place for all after all. No baseball bat needed.


“what do you want to say?”

This is the question that was asked of people in Minneapolis near the area where George Floyd was murdered on May 25th. Photographer John Noltner documented their answers with words and beautiful portraits. The video below compiles and shares the answers to that question. I have attempted to embed the video via Facebook below. If it doesn’t appear, then simply click on this link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1378217865699829

When you’ve finished watching the video, visit the National Conversation Project to learn more about ways you can keep engaged. Much appreciation to my friend Beth Howard for introducing me to this video, as well as the National Conversation Project and the photography and work of John Noltner. On May 31, 2020 Beth was in Minneapolis, two blocks from where George Floyd was murdered, giving away pie to members of the community. When we all do what we can, when we can, from where we can, it matters.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health.

Tom

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