Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Avon Series: Part III — Help or Hurt?


Here come six Johnny Cuckoos, Cuckoos, Cuckoos
Here come six Johnny Cuckoos on a cold and stormy night.

(GROUP) What have you come for, come for, come for?
Oh, what have you come for, on a cold and stormy night?

(SIX) We’ve come for to be a soldier, soldier, soldier …

(GROUP) You look too mean and dirty …

(SIX) We’re just as clean as you are …

One of the six dances over to the large group. Continue:

Here come five Johnny Cuckoos…

This the game I chose to remember Avon in our tribute workshop. Great fun, as always, especially when one person is left singing back boldly to the remaining 150 or so…”I’m just as clean as you are!”

And as I do more and more, I suggested that teachers wanting to use the game understand—and communicate— what its deep lessons are for. As follows:

“Nobody is mean and dirty just because they happened to be born into this race or that, found themselves preferring one sexuality over another, were brought up in this religion or that, came from a family with this amount of money or that amount. When it comes to these matters of no choice, we are all equally clean. What makes us mean and dirty is the content of our character, the choices we make, how we think and how we act and how we treat others. That is the only standard of judgment, not what some hate ideology or right-wing radio (one and the same) or allegedly religious person or pseudo-scientific pseudo-scientist or morally despicable president tells us to believe so they can preserve some warped sense of self-worth based on putting down others. And even those who spew that venom and those that mindlessly drink that Kool-aid still may have some pure, clean part of themselves worthy of love, but never had a teacher or parent or friend recognize it and encourage it and draw it forth and bless it and praise it.

So the question before us, kids, is how will we use our precious life? How we will use this precious body, this unique heart, this capable mind? Will we use them to heal or harm? To help or hurt? To honor or hate? To feed hope or hopelessness? Those are the choices before us as we consider how to live our life.

And if we find ourselves shouted at by the angry mob, told to leave or to shut-up or accept that we can never be what we dream to be, told to accept someone else’s ignorant version of who we are, what will we do? Slink away? Shut down? Join the crowd and find someone else to try to make feel unworthy and call them mean and dirty?

Or will we stand up tall, look them straight in the eye and sing from the bottom of our being, “I’m just as clean as you are!!” And then show ourselves in our dance as we join the large group on our own terms. Kids, this game is a way to practice this, because there will many times in your life when you’ll have to stand-up even when it’s scary and unpopular and you feel alone in the face of the mob. Might as well practice it now!”

“Here come six Johnny Cuckoos…”

PS Though I get little opportunity to directly converse with people carrying the banner of hate or the less bold (but equally harmful) flag of unquestioned privilege, I imagine stepping out of the heat of the conversation and asking: "Is what you're saying or doing designed to heal a broken situation or continue the hurt? To help someone in need or hurt them further?" That could make for a different kind of conversation. 

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