Helen, my daughter, has always been a tough cookie. Second of two, she spent a lot of time when she was younger, keeping up with her older brother. She has this rare ability to offer up her tender heart with a kind of kick-butt attitude…a yin and yang kind of wholeness about her that if I’m really honest, I try to emulate.
I remember when she was about five or six…Hank had a few of his guy friends over. Everyone was outside, when Helen came running in the house.
“They won’t let me play with them cuz I’m a girl.”
“What do you think about that?” I asked.
“It’s not fair.”
We sat together for a moment or two. Sweat, dirt and this kind of I’m-not-quite-ready-to-give-up-look on her face.
“What are you going to do about it?” I asked.
“I feel like crying,” she said.
“That’s cool,” I said.
So she cried for a minute or two…and after a few extra snuffles to make sure it was all out, she said, “I still want to play with them though.”
“I’m sure you’ll figure out what to do about it.”
So off she marched…the front door screen slamming behind her.
Moments later, I heard something rise up outta that tiny little child the likes of which I had never heard…straight through the walls of my kitchen…a powerful, loud, determined, deep, masculine, LInda Blair from the Exorcist kind of voice erupted out of that child’s 40 pound body… a roar actually like none other:
“LET ME PLAY!”
I don’t know what happened next. I do know that I didn’t see Helen for another hour or so until the whole gang came inside for something to drink.
I am reminded of my time in Washington DC working with the Commission for Political Reform. For two years, 25 or so folks…mostly Washington insiders explored ways we might encourage a more civil dialogue at the highest levels of our nation’s political leadership. I remember at one point, I was told in no uncertain terms, that there were several words I should avoid at all costs. “Peace, Love and War.” These three words, according to Washington insiders, were surefire ways to significantly reduce my impact…these three words were quick to put me in a category where I would either not be taken seriously or be seen as too extreme to have any impact.
I thought that was really weird. Seriously…how the hell are we supposed to address the current war raging between our own leaders if we can’t talk about war, peace, love and all the interior and exterior landscapes that go with that? I didn’t get it…and frankly my not being able to discuss these topics…topics that I think are critically important to the dialogue…pushed me off the playing field.
And so, not quite sure of myself…I didn’t use those words and slowly, slowly felt who I am fall into the same game, the same conversation, the same ole rhetoric we’ve heard time and time again.
I was reminded this morning of Helen’s bold claim of space and feel a rumbling-of-my-own-a-coming…this mother-voice claiming space for a new conversation where we can talk about the things that really matter, like peace and love and war…the power of those both on the inside as well as the out.
LET ME PLAY, she shouts. LET ME PLAY, she dances.
LET ME PLAY!