Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
In Love's Arms
“I’m going to marry you one day.” Beth said to her long time crush Jake. She wore her favorite blue teddy bear shirt. Her four-year-old blue eyes shined in the sun.
“No you’re not, you’re a girl.” Jake said.
The California afternoon wind blew his light brown hair. Jumping off the monkey bars he laughed back to class.
Sitting alone and confused she didn’t know what to do. Beth sat high on the monkey bars crying. How can her future husband just leave like that?
She was going to get him, but how? “I will not let him get away! I won’t! I won’t!”
15 years later:
“I love you, too, Jake.” Hanging up the phone she caught her mom smiling. “What?”
“When is he coming in from France? He’s been there for awhile.” She sat down on her black leather couch. The house was made up of different Indian stuff. On the walls were different dream catchers. Her mother was a full blood Cherokee Indian. She passed away when Beth was eight.
“He has a lot of schooling to do right now. Maybe this Saturday.”
Fixing her short overalls she thought of Jake. Who would have thought they were going to date when she turned five?
“Is he still living in Colorado?” Her mother Kay wore a white tank top with tan pants. And long blonde hair with pretty blue eyes. She was the most beautiful woman on Earth. And Beth is looking like her by the minute.
“Yeah, I hate having a long distance relationship.” She plopped on a leather chair.
“It’s ok baby, you know he loves you more than anything in this world. Love will keep you together.”
Beth could not help but smile. Her mother is and will always be her best friend.
Jake sat in his hotel the school rented for him. School of law. He loved going overseas for everything. But he missed being with Beth. That hurt him the most.
Spending the lonely nights in the hotel made him think of how much it would hurt to spend the rest of his life without her in it.
Getting up off his bed he went into the bathroom. Watching his reflection in the mirror, all he could think about was Beth. He would leave Thursday, and get there Friday night.
Turning off the light he jumped into the cold bed. On a coffee table near his bed rested a frame with them in it. It was taken at a beach about two years ago. It was the best time of their lives.
It was Thursday morning and Beth waited for Jake’s morning phone call. He would call at eight — it was ten.
Beth got out of bed and got her favorite blue tank top. She took off her shirt and screamed at the top of her lungs.
“What? What?” Her mother came rushing into her room. Staring at her naked daughter she saw the lump of her breast. “Does it hurt?”
Beth could only say “No.” Looking at the lump, she cried in pain.
“Let’s get you to the doctor.”
“Ok, let me get dressed.”
Shutting the door behind her, the room became silent. Shaking she put on her shirt, and ran out into the living room.
“Mom, where are my blue shorts?”
“In the dresser, second drawer.”
Finishing getting dressed she hopped into her car. Her red mustang drove like a baby.
They waited for the doctor to come in. Beth could not begin to think she had cancer. As her mind drifted off her cell phone rang.
“Hello?” Her heart skipped a beat, hoping it was Jake.
“Hey, how are you?” He asked out of breath.
“Could be better. Why didn’t you call me this morning?”
“Sorry, school got ahold of me today.”
“Why are you out of breath?” Looking stunned she stared at her mother.
“I’m so sorry, he’ll call back.” Her mother gave Beth a hug.
The doctor came in, and greeted his self. “Hello. I’m Kevin Baker.” He smiled while examining her breast.
Everybody Has A Dream
Some years ago I took on an assignment in a southern county to work with people on public welfare. What I wanted to do was show that everybody has the capacity to be self-sufficient and all we have to do is to activate them. I asked the county to pick a group of people who were on public welfare, people from different racial groups and different family constellations. I would then see them as a group for three hours every Friday. I also asked for a little petty cash to work with, as I needed it.
The first thing I said after I shook hands with everybody was, "I would like to know what you dreams are." Everyone looked at me as if I were kind of wacky.
"Dreams? We don't have dreams."
I said. "Well, when you were a kid what happened? Wasn't there something you wanted to do?"
One woman said to me, "I don't know what you can do with dreams. The rats are eating up my kids."
"Oh," I said. "That's terrible. No, of course, you are very much involved with the rats and your kids. How can that be helped?"
"Well, I cold use a new screen door because there are holes in my screen door."
I asked, "Is there anybody around here who knows how to fix a screen door?"
There was a man in the group, and he said, "A long time ago I used to do things like that but now I have a terribly bad back, but I'll try."
I told him I had some money if he would go to the store and buy some screening and go and fix the lady's screen door. "Do you think you can do that?"
"Yes, I'll try."
The next week, when the group was seated, I said to the woman, "Well, is your screen door fixed?"
"Oh, yes," she said.
"Then we can start dreaming, can't we?" She sort of smiled at me.
I said to the man who did the work, "How do you feel?"
He said, "Well, you know, it's a very funny thing. I'm beginning to feel a lot better."
That helped the group to begin to dream. These seemingly small successes allowed the group to see that dreams were not insane. These small steps began to get people to see and feel that something really could happen.
I began to ask other people about their dreams. One woman shared that she always wanted to be a secretary. I said, "Well, what stands in your way?"
(That's always my next question.)
She said, "I have six kids, and I don't have anyone to take care of them while I'm away."
"Let's find out," I said. "Is there anybody in this group who would take care of six kids for a day or two a week while this woman gets some training here at the community college?"
One woman said, "I got kids, too, but I could do that."
"Let's do it," I said. So a plan was created and the woman went to school.
Everyone found something. The man who put in the screen door became a handyman. The woman who took in the children became a licensed foster care person. In 12 weeks I had all these people off public welfare. I've not only done that once, I've done in many times.
"But what if I break my arm again?" my five year-old daughter asked, her lower lip trembling. I knelt holding onto her bike and looked her right in the eyes. I knew how much she wanted to learn to ride. How often she felt left out when her friends pedaled by our house. Yet ever since she'd fallen off her bike and broken her arm, she'd been afraid.
"Oh honey," I said. "I don't think you'll break another arm."
"But I could, couldn't I?"
"Yes," I admitted, and found myself struggling for the right thing to say. At times like this, I wished I had a partner to turn to. Someone who might help find the right words to make my little girl's problems disappear. But after a disastrous marriage and a painful divorce, I'd welcomed the hardships of being a single parent and had been adamant in telling anyone who tried to fix me up that I was terminally single.
"I don't think I want to ride," she said and got off her bike.
We walked away and sat down beside a tree.
"Don't you want to ride with your friends?" I asked.
"And I thought you were hoping to start riding your bike to school next year," I added.
"I was," she said, her voice almost a quiver.
"You know, hon," I said. "Most everything you do comes with risks. You could get a broken arm in a car wreck and then be afraid to ever ride in a car again. You could break your arm jumping rope. You could break your arm at gymnastics. Do you want to stop going to gymnastics?"
"No," she said. And with a determined spirit, she stood up and agreed to try again. I held on to the back of her bike until she found the courage to say, "Let's go!"
I spent the rest of the afternoon at the park watching a very brave little girl overcome a fear, and congratulating myself for being a self-sufficient single parent.
As we walked home, pushing the bike as we made our way along the sidewalk, she asked me about a conversation she'd overheard me having with my mother the night before.
"Why were you and grandma arguing last night?"
My mother was one of the many people who constantly tried to fix me up. How many times had I told her "no" to meeting the Mr. Perfect she picked out for me. She just knew Steve was the man for me.
"It's nothing," I told her.
She shrugged. "Grandma said she just wanted you to find someone to love."
"What grandma wants is for some guy to break my heart again," I snapped, angry that my mother had said anything about this to my daughter.
"You're too young to understand," I told her.
She was quiet for the next few minutes. Then she looked up and in a small voice gave me something to think about.
"So I guess love isn't like a broken arm."
Unable to answer, we walked the rest of the way in silence. When I got home, I called my mother and scolded her for talking about this to my daughter. Then I did what I'd seen my brave little girl do that very afternoon. I let go and agreed to meet Steve.
Steve was the man for me. We married less than a year later. It turned out mother and my daughter were right.