Tag Archives: Children

We are the Same


I was brought up in an inter-racial neighborhood.   My grandparents were Italian and immigrants and in those days, so were Irish, Jewish, Polish and other ethnic groups.  We understood prejudice because we were prejudiced against, too.   Our street was primarily black and white families.

Our family had many close ties with the other side of the street.   Everyone did, because it was a long narrow street and in many ways, we all depended on one another. For example, my mother got a part-time job and left the key to our house with a sweet black man, Mr. Wind.  Mr. Wind was there every day sitting on his stoop with his dog, Blackout, when I returned from school, with the key in his hand to our house. This was very comforting to a nine-year old who worried she wouldn’t be able to get into the house if Mr. Wind for some reason was not there. Mr. Wind was always there. He was a gentleman and respected by all, including my family.  My family may have been imperfect, but their love and respect for our neighbors left little room for prejudice. I am grateful that love prevailed and prejudices got blotted out.

The main attraction for me was a family who lived diagonally across the street from us. They had a daughter – among a handful of children just like our handful of children – and she was my age.   Frances also had the same name as me  and when my mother called out for me, both of us showed up at the door.   Usually Frances got there first, and I remember my mom saying, “No, not you, ..the other one”.   And they would laugh.  It became a ritual and game between them.

I knew Frances from when we were toddlers. Although we were the same age, she was always bigger than me and the first black person I met in my life.   I thought and still do that she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. She was athletically and majestically built, more than a head taller than me, and carried herself proud like a gazelle.  She also was the darkest black person I ever saw – like an onyx jewel.   What I remember about her the most was the big smile she alway had that lit up her face.

When I had to wear a patch due to a lazy eye, it was she who stopped alI the sing-song name-calling from the kids (One-Eyed Frances) that was so hurtful.  It was understood in the neighborhood (and in school)  that Frances was my protector since we had the same name, were the same age and in the same grade and school. Frances came by every day to ‘pick me up’ and we would walk the 6 blocks to school. And return the same 6 blocks every afternoon. Safely.  Nobody ever challenged her.

One of my earliest memories of Frances was one extremely hot summer day (no air-conditioning in that neck of the woods), my mother called the littlest ones together and said she would hose us down in our backyard. All the other five year olds scampered like crazy, flinging off their clothes and whiggling around in the cool, refreshing water. Except me. I was shy about being with all these kids and taking my clothes off.  But I really wanted to be part of it. Frances came bounding over like a stallion as only Frances could, and tore off her clothes and jumped around, and said, “Come on, it feels so good!” And I just kind of shied over. And then Frances said something that stayed with me all my life. She said, ‘Come on, we are the same’.

“We are the same.”   What a wonderful thought – she thought that I was like her – what a compliment to me!

I have many happy memories of being best friends with Frances. She was over at our house all the time and received many hand-me-downs from my sisters that were too big for me and perfect for her. It was a long time before she finally invited me to her house and showed me how her mother did her hair. I remember feeling so honored that she invited me in.

Frances was my undesignated protector all through kindergarten to  the 6th grade. One time, a gang of ‘next street’ all-black girls followed a group of my gang of all-white friends. Comments went back and forth and they started chasing us. They were older than us and I was scared. When they finally caught up with us, I blurted out that Frances Scott was my best friend. The whole mood changed and they left us alone. Frances loved it when I told her – she laughed and said I owed her money for being a bodyguard.

As I got older, I was given my own key to the house which I promptly lost one day walking home alone from school.   I panicked and was on all fours when Frances came by and got down on all fours with me and didn’t give up until we found them.  No others passing by offered to help.

We were in the same class up to 6th grade and both 12, when our family moved that year. The neighborhood had some robberies, violence and even a murder.   My parents felt we should move to a safer neighborhood.  And we did at school’s end.  My mother worried about me ~ a 12 year old ~ because some days a week during that summer I would take the bus – a 30 minute ride – back to the old neighborhood – because I missed my friend. I felt I had left my identity there. But I found that I had taken it with me.

The years passed and I lost track of Frances.  During in my early 20s,  I took my toddler, who hurt his arm, to the emergency room at the hospital near our old area.   While I was waiting, I saw Frances. She was angry and talking to a police officer who was next  to her brother. Focusing just on her and not the situation, I gravitated over to her, and simply said, ‘Frances’. Her angry face registered recognition and her dark eyes fleetingly softened over for me. I was going to hug her, but she regained her anger and said that the police were questioning her brother. She was being a protector and caretaker for her brother and I understood that. She was doing ‘her work’ but her eyes told me that ‘we were the same’.

I tried in later years to find her, but to no avail.   More years passed. Then, one day, my sister attended a funeral in the old area, and saw Frances’ sister.  My sister told her I was seeking Frances and could she have her phone number.   She obliged.   I called her the moment I got the number.    Frances answered and we talked for quite awhile. I told her I wrote a story about her and how important she was in my life and I still loved her.  She told me, ‘You give me way too much credit, you were the one getting all those high marks in class.”   She also told me she was not well health-wise, she was a grandmother of two children, and worked as an accountant.   She asked me to email my story to her friend as she did not have a computer.   I did so.  It was similar to my words here.

The next time I called her, the line was disconnected.   I had no other way to reach her, and sent an email to her friend to no avail.   Some months later, my sister called me to tell that Frances had passed away and sent me the online obituary.    I was the only one who wrote in her guest book and told the world that my angel had passed.

I am so grateful to God that I had Frances in my young life. She was truly my angel, my friend and my sister. She was bigger than me;  in her alpha role she could easily have bullied me, but she didn’t.  Instead she adopted me.  Rest in peace, my friend,  you taught me about caring, sharing, and equality – we are the same.

© Marie Coppola revised January 2017

 

How to End a Bad Relationship

You can get along with all of the people some of the time; you can get along with some of the people all of the time but you can’t get along with all of the people all of the time.    A spin on the old adage.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that we simply can’t get along with everybody. If we are lucky, we have good relationships with our family and friends and in-laws, but every once in awhile, there is someone who becomes a ‘literal thorn in our side’. Sometimes, it is apparent why this happens. But other times, as much as we analyze and pick the relationship apart, conversation by conversation, we can’t understand totally why this happens.

Call it karma, call it fate, call it ‘that’s life in the big city’, it can play havoc with our lives. This is especially so, if it is a family member, a spouse, or an in-law.  It can be someone we are close to and see frequently; or it can be someone we’re not so close to and see infrequently. The latter can be spaced out in visits (if you have to visit them at all) and can be managed. Somewhat.

But, what do you do when it is a sibling, a parent or God forbid, a spouse?

If and when you are immersed in a dysfunctional relationship, emotions can override logic. If it is a parent or sibling, we are talking a major challenge. If it is a spouse, it can be catastrophic.

    

What do you do? Do you bite your tongue in all conversations, hold back lashing down to a minimum, feign sickness to avoid them? Work more; socialize less, bury yourself in a book?

Or do you join in when they are around, feel stressed out and pray that the day turns out ok and not into a fiasco. Others are counting on you to ‘join’ in the group and just ‘keep cool’ or ‘chill out’ or anything short of sitting on you and duct-taping your mouth.

Well, there are many variables here.  In a family matter – a parent, a sibling, a child – there is a history here and lots of interchanges. Some issues are so interchangeably tangled, that unless the ‘diametrically-opposed players’ come to a prayerful compromise and exchange of promises and a sincere heart change, there is little hope that they will link arms and have a drink together. In fact, drinking may make it worse.

A spouse you don’t get along with is much more challenging. This is a life commitment you both made. Serious and truthful conversations, role playing (perhaps with a third party), and a sincere desire to change the situation is warranted if you want to right it. It’s not going to go away by itself. One person can’t change it; it needs both. Make that three – add God. Positive actions, prayers and verbal affirmations help to get issues out in the air and looked at.   Three steps forward and two steps back – but keep forging ahead and praying while you do it.

It may work out.  It has worked out.  And made relationships stronger. But it also hasn’t worked out.  And relationships end.

I had such a person in my life. This was a ‘long-history person’. We simply were like oil and water. Things said were not taken the way they were meant; get-togethers became strained with stress; attempts to make it better made it worse; and the chasm opened wide and threatened to swallow us.

This relationship caused additional spiritual stress for me: didn’t God tell us to forgive seventy times seven?   Aren’t we supposed to ‘love one another as He loves us”?  How could I reconcile this fractured relationship with my faith?   How could I change into something I wasn’t?   I tried and tried and couldn’t and didn’t .

One day, at church service, there was a visiting minister.  His topic was ‘You Can’t Get Along With Everybody’.  I was all ears.   His sermon was loving, prayerful, scriptural and reality. He looked out at all of us and said, “You have to face the fact that you won’t get along with everybody in life – it could be someone close, a loved one or even a child of yours. You simply will not have a good relationship with them.” And then he offered, “Even Jesus did not get along with everyone. As a native Nazarene, he was not always welcome in his own neighborhood; people mocked him that “he was a carpenter’s son – how can He think he is a Son of God; we knew Him as a child playing’.” Jesus left his hometown and started traveling with His ministry. And when He and/or the Apostles were not welcome in a town, He told them to ‘wipe the dust off their feet’ and move on.

Please understand that this minister was not suggesting that you disregard any and all people that you don’t get along with and wipe them off like dust.  Remember, we are all imperfect.

Life is a compromise with almost everybody. It is usually a loving compromise and returned as such. Sometimes people have life changes and within those changes, people temporarily behave differently and relationships change with them. They may be going through a rough time; and they need your patience and love. I’m not talking about these kinds of ‘not getting along’. They are transient and natural in all our lives.

I’m talking about the constant, never-ending, always-the-same negative and destructive relationship that causes stress every time you connect.

I talked with the minister after the service and told him I felt bad about this relationship that I just couldn’t seem to embrace. He answered, “There are some relationships you can’t fix. Thank God they are few, but they simply will never be what they are supposed to be. You have to walk away and leave them. Withdraw from them; they will eventually harm you. Wipe the dust from your feet and move on. But always, always pray for that person, forgive them and forgive yourself.   But always pray for them.”

I found a serene feeling of letting go that day. And I followed his advice. I also began praying for that person. And that was very difficult for me.  The first few prayers were stifled and stiff and seemed to get stuck in my throat.  But I kept at it and in time, sincerely meant the prayer. I pray for this person to this day. I pray for her peace; I wish her well-being and remind myself that she is loved as a child of God just as I am.   With my change in attitude and prayer, I feel differently about this person.  We may – never be close but the awful feelings of animosity are gone.

There is no judgment or blame here — it’s just that….”As one face differs from another, so does one’s heart.”

©Marie Coppola  Revised May 2013

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy to The Children ~~

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“I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authorityvested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 15, 2018, as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday.  I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service programs and activities in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy.”

 Martin Luther King, Jr., a minister, activist and a prominent leader in the African American civil rights movement.  He was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 192 was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee at age 39.

His legacy was realizing civil rights in the United States and he is known as a human rights icon.

Some of the highlights of his legacies are:

the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and buses began to operate on a desegregated basis in 1956.

He was a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

He led the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech to over 200,000 marchers.

In 1964, he became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination, through non-violent means.

He was anti-Vietnam War and anti-poverty, based on religious principles.

He was posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.

He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

In 1986, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established a U.S. national holiday.

This peaceful, equality and rights Baptist minister had a dream of a world where discrimination would be changed and be made illegal. In the 1950’s,  Ameica was not a place where all men were created equal. In many places in the country, discrimination against minorities was legal. Dr. King preached nonviolence and urged all people to be peaceful in their efforts to change inequality in America. His focus was on the future of America’s children.

This focus on children is the basis of my review on a children’s book, entitled “Martin Luther King, Jr. (My First Biography)” by Marion Dane Bauer, published the end of 2009 and is a slim, 32 pages long.

In keeping with Dr. King’s focus on the children of America, the book explains how Dr. King believed what his mother told him as a boy, that ‘he was just as good as anybody’. That encouraged him to want to spread that message to everyone and this book is designed to repeat that message to kids 5 years old to eight years old.

And he did bring about the change that allowed all children to go to the same schools and eat at certain restaurants regardless of their skin color. Dr. King, in his work and acts, allowed that all children could play in the same playgrounds, and dine in restaurants that previously would not let them. And the laws were changed. All children could drink from the same water fountains and use the same restrooms. People became strong in believing that ‘they were just as good as anybody by showing them they could have any seats on buses, in school and lunch counters where it was not allowed before.

This book is excellent for all children and especially for those who feel left out or different or don’t believe that they are not equal or the same as others. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that he and all persons were just as good as anybody else and this book relives the legacy he left to all of us.

 

© Marie Coppola Revised January 2013

God Bless Our Fathers


 There are all kinds of fathers. Some fathers protect, mentor, guide, support, teach values, play sports, add humor, and help in bringing up their child or children. There are other fathers who, for a variety of reasons, are absent, either emotionally or by distance and play a small or no part in bringing up their child or children.

Children need both parents’ influence for a balanced upbringing. They usually get more nurturing and care-taking from their mothers. Fathers can supply discipline, authority, companionship and an example as a role model. Role models are important for both boys and girls. Boys look to their dads as the type of father they want to be when they grow up; girls look to their dads as models of a possible future mate. Fathers’ praise, unconditional love, encouragement, support, and guidance are as important to children as the fostering acts a mother supplies.

Research has concluded that the father/child relationship is more important than once believed. With a baby, a father is usually more physical at playing games than the mother and makes a playful and joyful contribution to a baby’s life. As small infants and children, they can receive assurance and empathy from a dad when mom is not available or busy with something else. School age children benefit from the caretaking of dads who help with their care in transporting them to school and activities, helping them with homework, or teaching them responsibility. Many fathers join in sports activities with both boys and girls through softball, baseball, football, soccer and form a lasting team tie with their kids.

During adolescence and puberty, the dad can take on more of an ‘advisor’ role as the child may focus more on the mom and her guidance at this age.  But the father is in the background, offering advice and decisions about what is going on in their lives. It’s a busy, bustle time within a family and a time when a child can spend some quality time with their father on a trip to the mall or a sporting or camping event.

Personally, I loved to play cards with my dad and we spent many hours together with him teaching me pinochle and all kinds of card games that I love to play today. The time together is more  an endearing, special memory.

Children who have both parents who express these characteristics are blessed, indeed. Sometimes, they may have grandparents, step parents, or guardians who also exhibit traditional and loving nurturing.  Studies show that a father who exhibits love, kindness and faith values to his children – in turn foster those values that their children will emulate with their own children.

And sometimes, there are children, who, for various reasons, may be absent a father. He may have died, or separated away from the family, or simply is out of the picture. There can be a family member or male friend who can pitch hit for an absent father and help fill the void a father leaves. An absent father in a family could make his child at a higher risk of drug abuse, smoking, alcohol abuse and other risk-seeking behaviors. Other problems with absent fathers can be unhealthy relationships with others, poor grades in school, and problems in social relationships.

It’s hard for children to understand parents who are not good at parenting or not available for them. What they get is what they see. Teenagers can be a challenge to raise in any family and it is made even more difficult with fathers who seem to be immature, irresponsible or simply not there.

If you have such a father, remember, we are all imperfect and in time, hopefully, they might realize the strong bond of family they have with you. If for some reason, this is impossible, and you will never have a relationship with your biological father, at some point, you will have to accept this. It is not always possible to make the natural connection that would have been there. It is not your fault; but it’s time to get past it and move on. To suffer with it if there is no solution, is not beneficial to you or anyone.

At some point in our lives, all of our fathers will leave us. For those of you who mourn a lost father, for whatever reason, take heart. We still have a Heavenly Father, Who will never leave nor abandon us. There are at least five places in the Bible, the phrase ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ – Deuteronomy 31:6; Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57; Hebrews 13:5. Our Father in Heaven wanted us to be sure to read it!  He promises always to embrace you, love you, guide you, help you and save you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Never. He is the Ultimate Parent; and He’s yours, forever.

Recently I heard a great quote by Sigmund Freud: ‘I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”  I will add: A father’s protection is needed in childhood as is our lifetime need for Our Heavenly Father’s protection. I pray for all children that they will have both.

 

© Marie Coppola, Revised 2014; some rights reserved.