Saturday, March 12, 2016

#152 Help and confidence

Dear all,
    I am awed, once again, by the beauty of spring as it is beginning to unfold around us.  The threat of global warming makes it feel more important than ever to delight in and value the earth that envelops us. 
    As a mother, I rejoiced in our son Tim's trip to Nicaragua with this three year old, who got to hang out with friends in his first language.  I was glad to add a generous dose of help and love to our son Andrew's family out in British Columbia as they face Erin's multiple ankle surgeries, though sobered by the health ripples of childhood leukemia treatment of the 1990's.
    As always, I am glad to be alive in this world amidst all its joys and challenges.

Help and confidence

Something had happened to my computer, leaving me unable to get on the Internet.  Nothing I tried made a difference, except possibly to make it worse. Nobody around me could help.  The Apple Store seemed to offer the only hope.

I had never gotten tech help there, and couldn’t quite believe there wasn’t some catch.  I’m generally suspicious of institutional bureaucracies, and of putting myself in the hands of people with power.  I would rather stay away, but there seemed to be no alternative.

So I walk into the store with my unusable computer, my story, my need, and my suspicion.  What I get is a revelation:  pure help, served up with kindness on all sides.  It takes two visits, but I leave with a system that is not only restored but improved, and a head swirling with new thoughts and images about help.

Why is this experience still reverberating after days?  Well, help is something that I struggle with in general.  I’m used to not asking for it, not getting it, assuming it’s not there, managing on my own.  So this was a striking reminder that my habits and assumptions come from deep in the past and are neither the best fit for current reality nor the best prescription for my emotional well-being.

But there’s more.  What was it that allowed all the staff in this store—and I interacted with many of them over those two days—to offer their help with such warmth and generosity?  While good customer service training may play a role, I can’t believe it explains the whole.  I think the key likes in the fact that they knew they could help.  We were coming in with problems that had solutions; we didn’t have access to those solutions, but they did.  They could afford to be kind, because they were confident.  And they had each other.  When one part of the puzzle I brought in was outside someone’s expertise, he was totally relaxed about letting me know that he needed to consult.  He wasn’t worried about the outcome, or about his self-worth.  He didn’t try to make what he knew be enough when it wasn’t.  He didn’t need to defend his limitations or worry about them.  He knew that together, they could do anything that was possible to be done.

I begin imagining other things that might be fixed in such an environment.  Maybe children could bring their malfunctioning families to the store.  They would describe the problem they were experiencing and an employee would say, “Oh yes, we can help you with this.  We know what to do.  We’ve seen this problem before.  It may take a little while, but we can straighten it out.”

Or maybe people who are concerned about the climate could bring the planet to the store.  They would explain what was broken, and an employee would say, “You’re right; this is a bad problem.  I’ll have to call in all my colleagues—and actually there’s a role you’ll need to play here too.  Let me explain the process.  It will take quite a while, but don’t worry.  We do know just what has to be done.”

As these scenarios were finding a home in my brain, I started wondering about the times that people come to me for help.  Do they see me the way I saw that staff, as unwaveringly confident, kind and able?  That’s a pretty humbling thought!  While I do try to be kind, I often don’t feel all that confident, and there are lots of problems I can’t solve.  But it reminds me of the importance of sharing every bit of real confidence I do have.  And when I don’t, maybe that’s where my co-workers—my fellow human beings—come in.  What would it mean, and what would it make possible, if we all could rest in the confidence that we have each other, and that together we can do anything that is possible to be done?


Invited to Lent
not my tradition but interesting.
What to give up?

Then a new invitation:
What would God
want you to give up?
Work as a to-do list
all production, no joy?
This pops into my head, unbidden.
I’m in.

The discipline and tradition surround me.
If others can do this
have done it for centuries
are doing it right now
then so can I.

I remember, repeatedly
that there is joy to be found
in any moment as I work
(I also forget).

The forty days
is somehow comforting.
I’m not stuck with this choice,
not trapped.
I can always go back to
work without joy
if that’s what I want.
It’s just for Lent.

Imagine - A new economy is possible!
Chippewa tribe bans fracking

Members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians banned fracking on their 77,000 acre reservation in 2011, one of the first such bans in North America.   Some initially thought an oil and gas boom would be a good thing, but they learned that the frackers would drill right through their precious aquifer, risking contamination of their drinking water and lakes.  They learned that at a nearby reservation in the heart of the Bakken oil fields, fallout from a fracking boom included a spike in violent crime, pollution from contaminated materials dumped on the reservation, damaged roads, and increased demand for social services.

Receiving this information, the Turtle Mountain tribal council unanimously voted to ban fracking.  An impoverished tribe left millions of dollars on the table, saying “We all know that in the very near future, water will be more valuable than oil or gold or anything else.”  The council has since adopted a water code that solidifies the tribe’s stance on fracking, and with the help of a Department of Energy grant, the tribe is moving into developing the abundant solar and wind energy resources of the reservation.

Some things that have made me hopeful recently

The Moral Monday movement, started in North Carolina, that invites a grassroots fusion of economic and social justice issues within the framework of morality.

The new white working class mayor of Philadelphia who doesn’t seem to have trouble identifying with the strengths and needs of the minority community, and who is putting out a very progressive agenda for the city.

A small timber and mill town in southwest Washington with a desperate need for jobs, whose commissioners voted unanimously against a proposed $1.25 billion oil refinery and propane export terminal, on the basis of environmental and health concerns.

The comeback of the monarch butterfly in its winter sanctuary in Mexico, more than tripling the area they cover from last year.

More resources

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.

Recent posts on other web/blog sites:

In, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.


Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  (or just google the title), a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years.  NOTE THE NEW URL. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to  I'm currently posting at

Pamela Haines

To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.