Red Boot Ramblings: The Forgotten Ones

RED BOOT RAMBLINGS:

(Reminder… After two years…working on Capitol Hill on a project exploring what’s going on with all the polarization in America…I set off on a quest to discover what’s at the root of all that “us and them”. I drove from Charlotte to Las Vegas and interviewed hundreds of Americans. I thought now was as good a time as any to share those Red Boot Ramblings…to remember that we are all in this great nation…together. Here’s my first journal entry from that trip. I love ya’ll. It’s long and can be also found at my blog at www.mollybarker.com.) It gives me hope this morning and all mornings to remember this journey.

Red Boot Ride Ramblings 1: We are Small Like the Grass

(1) At the Jiffy Lube with the Forgotten

There is so much to share…to say.

Friday August 1, 2014. It is the first day of my cross country journey. I’m in the Jiffy Lube. Waiting for my “rental car” to be prepared for my trip.

We are waiting: me, a man, a woman and their small son. Obama comes on the television…he is talking about the conflict in Israel.

The man and his family are African-American. The man mumbles. “All lies. I’ve gotten to where I tune even HIM out.”

I ask him, “What’s your name?”

“I’m James. This is Gabriel,” he motions to his four-year-old son. “And this is my wife Michelle.” She smiles at me.

“So what happened?” I asked him as I nod my head toward the television screen.

“It’s what happens to everybody. It becomes about the money. He’s forgotten us.”

And so I ask him. “What do you mean by “us.”

James moves his hand in a circular motion, indicating the waiting area…it feels as if he is including me, but I’m not sure if he just means his family.

He continues. “I’m just doing my thing with my five kids, my wife. It’s hard. I work. I try to maintain the peace in my home, my life. He has forgotten who he is, where he came from. He has forgotten US.”

We sit in silence.

Gabriel begins to “play fight” with his dad. They wrestle like two puppy dogs in the chair…there at the Jiffy Lube.

Their play stops and Gabriel hops in his dad’s lap.

“I think all of them (he motions to the TV) need to get in one room and fight between themselves. Instead of sending us to do their war for them, they need to do it.”

He pauses, takes a deep breath. “Wars are not between people. They are between leaders.”

The man behind the counter lets me know that my car is ready. I say bye to James. Gabriel gives me a high five and Michelle smiles.

(2) The Feather

August 2, 2014: I’ve got this ongoing game with myself. About two weeks ago, I was running one morning and for whatever reason noticed a rather small bird feather resting gently on the path of my approaching feet. I took it as a symbol that I was on the right path…a blessed path…a path with wings indicating that this new project I’m working on is one I must pursue.

The next morning, I saw another one. I wasn’t looking for it. It was just there.

I’ve seen a feather on every run since then. I’m not looking for them. They just become seen and when I see them I laugh and think, “Oh there you are, of course.”

(3) Will and Gandhi

I arrive in Winchester, VA thirty or so minutes before our Red Boot Coalition gathering there. I am not nervous. I am excited. Scared but not nervous. I’m scared because the power of what appears to be unfolding in front of me is so beautiful, so powerful, so possible that I am scared of it. Do I have the courage to do this? Do I even want to
do this? Am I cut out for this?

People begin to arrive. Allison Freeze Major has offered her home. Prior to the trip’s beginning, I asked, through social media, if folks would be willing to host a gathering in their home…to talk, to listen with each other.

There are fifteen or so in a circle.

We begin. On this day I have found the words…or the words have found me. Like the feather on my path each morning, I see them and they come and we talk and we share and we cry and we laugh and we imagine and we create.

Something awesome comes into the room, when a woman who lives from the heart and leads with compassion, begins to cry sharing how she has felt judged by some individuals in her community because of her party affiliation. She is a Republican.

We listen and let her cry.

I look around the room and see the seekers, the open, the heart-driven, the compassionate, the vulnerable, the
real, the innovative, the unifiers…people who care deeply about each other, even though they may have never met.

We brainstorm.

We imagine how things could be different in leadership because that’s where the ideas flowed…people begin rapidly sharing them:

 What if folks like us came together and emotionally supported those of us in our group who were brave enough to “go first”…to run for office with an entirely different mindset than the system currently supports.

 If we no longer spoke through political ideologies, but spoke from the heart about the things that matter, like our children, listening to each other… if we were willing to truly dig deep to the heart of a matter and together find new solutions to some of our world’s most pressing problems. This isn’t about compromise…this is about co-creating!

 If we came together in our local communities and together created safe spaces for those who wish to run for office, to be themselves, to speak without ridicule, to be heard…to be supported because we really trust them.

 If we really trusted each other…leaders and people…because we are, after all, the same.

 If we participate in the political process not to win or be right…but to do what is best by sitting down,
creating safe spaces for people to listen to each other and build solutions together.

 If we were overtly transparent and vulnerable by admitting we don’t always know or have all the answers…that sometimes we did stupid stuff when we were younger…heck even when we were older…but that through it all we have learned, grown and continue to learn and grow because we are after all remarkably human.

We all feel a tremendous amount of positive energy emerge in the room…this is possible…because we are at this very moment creating the space right here right now…what has been done cannot be undone, so if we can do it…and we WANT to do…surely there are others.

In closing each person shares how they can contribute to the Red Boot Movement.

 A 19-year-old woman shares, “I can take the time to learn a little more about the political process. I don’t have to go all in, but I can begin to dig in a little bit.”

 A 27-year-old shares, “I’m going to seek out a friend who differs from me politically and ask to talk with her. To do as we have done here. To really dig down underneath and invite her to be a part of the Red Boot Movement, by having a conversation with her that goes to the heart of the matter by speaking from the heart…telling her I care about our relationship and I want to understand her.

 After several other people share their takeaways, Will, a free-spirited 24-year-old…his hair in a tight ponytail
on top of his head and a smile to light up the world, says. “I’m just gonna be it.”

We all pause…feel the grace of the moment.

I share with him later that he and one of the world’s greatest leaders have a lot in common. “Gandhi said the exact
same thing you know? Be the change.”

He smiles that smile and I wonder if Gandhi smiled like that.

(4) The Bottle Cap

This morning I go for a run in Winchester. I’m running through neighborhoods. The sun is shining. It is a beautiful day. I decide to go to the local high school track to run a couple of miles there. Three girls are playing soccer with heir dad down on the track infield.

I am starting mile 2 when an orange bottle cap catches my eye. I reach down to pick it up…concerned someone may not see it and twist an ankle…when my eyes are pulled to the side of the track where three bottles await the family on the infield. One of them is a Girls on the Run 5k water bottle.

I can’t resist. “Excuse me,” I say to the father. “Did one of your girls do Girls on the Run?”

“Yes,” he says. The girls run over.

The oldest says, “I did it this past year and I’m going to do it again.”

The middle shouts as if she has just won the lottery, “I’M IN THIRD GRADE NOW SO I GET TO DO IT!!!!” She lifts her hands up in the air and does a small victory dance.

The youngest pouts and says. “I’m not old enough.”

I tell them that I am the founder. They think it’s kinda cool, but soccer on this beautiful morning is way cooler.

I finish my run…and of course, see a feather on the way back.

(5) Grass

I am driving somewhere. Tomorrow it is Rochester, NY. I am going North. I have no idea where I’m going to stop…just somewhere that seems cool. My cell service and wi-fi are spotty so I don’t know where I am exactly except heading in the right direction for my Red Boot Gathering at Molly Harrigan Huff’s tomorrow.

I want to stop and write and enjoy this beautiful fall-like-feeling afternoon before I head to my hotel. Starbucks would be great. I can write, sip the hot stuff and read.

I take the exit off the highway toward what looks like downtown Williamsport and of course, a Starbucks is there.

I sit down, open my book to read a bit. It is a book by the sage Osho.

The title of it is “Courage, the Joy of Living
Dangerously.”

I open the book and return to where I have been reading. I am at this section:

“When you move into life, what do you see?

A great storm comes, and big trees fall. They should survive, according to Charles Darwin, because they are the fittest, strongest, most powerful. Look at an ancient tree, three hundred feet high, three thousand years old. The very presence of the tree creates strength, gives a feeling of strength and power. Millions of roots have
spread inside the earth gone deep, and the tree is standing with power. Of course the tree fights—it doesn’t want to yield, to surrender, but after the storm, it has fallen, it is dead, it is no longer alive, and all that strength has
gone.

The storm was too much—the storm is always too much, because the storm comes from the whole, and a tree is just an individual.

Then there are small plants and ordinary grass–when the storm comes the grass yields, and the storm cannot do any harm to it. At the most it can give it a good cleansing, that’s all. All the dirt that has gathered on it is washed away.

When the storm has gone the small plants and the grasses are again dancing high. The grass has almost no
roots, it can be pulled out by a small child, but the storm was defeated.”

I think about what’s happening in my life and I marvel at the Red Boot energy…it is a grassroots effort created by the whole of us.

I feel so small as I write this and I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

 

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