suffering and hope

Last week I went down to the high school where I'm going to be working starting in August (did I mention I got a job? I'll be an independent study teacher at Oasis High School.) I went to watch some senior presentations. The 12th graders had pursued a chosen topic over the course of several months. They wrote papers and did some kind of project and then it all culminated in a presentation to a small panel of adults and students. I thought it would be interesting to see what students were interested in and just to remind myself what high schoolers are like and what kind of work they do.

I listened to four presentations: Selena (the singer), the internal combustion engine, violence and children, and gun violence. This last wasn't so much a presentation as a testimonial, a witnessing. The visual aid consisted of pictures of the presenter's cousin and her brother's best friend who were both shot within the same week during this past year. She didn't have statistics or solutions, she simply talked about these young men and the families they'd left behind, including a baby each. She mentioned her best friend from several years ago who'd also been killed on the street. Before she'd said much, she was crying, her mother in the audience was crying, I was crying, and I think others were too. It is impossible not to respond to raw grief.

How, then, do we human beings continue to cause such pain to each other?

In the previous presentation, two sisters, one of whom was herself pregnant, had investigated the effect of violence on children. They researched child development and then visited a first grade classroom. They asked the 6- and 7-year-olds what "violence" means and were surprised at the specific examples the children offered. They asked how many children had personally experienced or witnessed violence, and every single child raised a hand. They asked the children to draw pictures showing what violence is. They shared those pictures with us as part of their presentation. I especially remember one: a drawing of three people, two close together and the third a little apart. All three seemed to be scratched out with strong red crayon marks. The young artist had explained that the two people on the left were her cousins who had died, and the third was herself. The red seemed to link them all together with pain.

On NPR yesterday I listened to some Palestinian and Isreali teenagers talking about the ways their thinking had been changed at Seeds of Peace summer camp, how they had developed friends they never thought they'd have. It made me cry and gave me hope.

Blog revives!

City life continues to surround us with dizzying sensory input. So many first impressions have already faded, and I regret not blogging about them at the time. I also wish I'd been taking more pictures. Anyway, some pictures follow which represent a few slices of the past month and a half.
My parents and my sister at her roller derby debut. Posted by Picasa
My brother and his girlfriend C at his masters degree graduation ceremony. Posted by Picasa
We live in the upstairs half of this house. Posted by Picasa
This is growing just to the side of our front steps. Anyone know what it is? Posted by Picasa
View from our living room, northwestern corner, down our street. The rapid transit elevated track is sort of visible. Posted by Picasa
View from a window in the "sunroom" at the back (southside) of our house. Posted by Picasa
While in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, we visited the Australia section of the Arboretum. Posted by Picasa
Kite in the hands of a skilled kite-flyer, Ocean Beach, San Francisco. Posted by Picasa
One of the American bison (buffalo) that lives in Golden Gate Park. Not sure if that's a winter-to-summer coat thing or a health problem.  Posted by Picasa