Thursday, November 5, 2020


Hope is the thing with feathers

that perches in the Soul,

and sings the tunes without the words

and never stops at all…


                                    –Emily Dickinson


That “glad bird of happiness” that alit on my shoulder last week is struggling to sing still, but truth be told, the tune is wavering. It almost disappeared Tuesday night, but then its song grew stronger in Wisconsin and Michigan and now has migrated to Nevada. Maybe will still visit Pennsylvania. But it is a nervous bird, unsteady and flitting about and wondering if it can ever sing again if the worst happens. Emily goes on:


                      And sweetest in the gale is heard

                     And sore must be the storm.

                    That could abash the little bird

                   That kept so many warm.


But the thunder rages to drown it out, the hunters are out to shoot it down from the sky, the bulldozers are hard at work to destroy its habitat.


                     I’ve heard it in the chilliest land,

                    And on the strangest sea.

                   Yet, never, in extremity,

                   It asked a crumb of me.


And I here’s where Emily and I part. My bird of hope needs me, needs you, needs us, to protect its habitat so it may sing on. Its little song alone is not enough without the work to sustain it, preserve it, alert others to its call, pass on its gift to the young ones. My bird has asked a lifetime of such commitment of me and I’ve responded as best I could. I’ve brought the messy issues of politics (without naming candidates) into all my classes with the radical notion that the truth of the untold stories matter, I’ve revealed the many songs the bird sings and no two alike and given students of all ages the skills, knowledge and faith that allows them to discover how to both play the old songs and begin to create their new ones. 


Today that thing with feathers is trembling with fear that its songs will be crushed while still courageously singing on as it can. Wavering, but still alive. May its song gush forth in triumph!


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