The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Come let us reason together

My dad could sound his most Biblical and profound when he said the words, “Come let us reason together.”

I wonder if it’s maybe because he was only 18 when he joined his older brothers, left the farm in Adrian, Oregon, and went off to World War II.  He once said in an interview that when he came back, “The world was on my heart.”

Lots of those kids came back deeply changed, I know.  Not everybody ended up letting that change roll around inside his brain and heart and end up influencing him to decide to pack up three youngsters and head to Ethiopia, one of the countries devastated by World War II.

This weekend, I got to talk to two people who were in high school with me in Ethiopia.  The decisions our parents made so long ago led to feelings of alienation from our own cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents back in the U.S., in many cases, but gave us a family of cousins by shared experience rather than by blood–a family most of us then got uprooted from when WE became eighteen and left Ethiopia and sometimes never saw our Ethiopian friends and those grafted-on family members again.  (I’m the one on the right in this picture by the way.)

I fell into a conversation with one of my grafted cousins about how hard it seems for Americans to have civil conversation about important issues these days.

It’s hard for Ethiopians and Ethiopian-Americans, too.

Hard to find common ground across cultures and language lines.

Hard to find common ground within cultures and language lines.

I guess that must be part of the human condition.

Hard to listen.  Hard to not have our feeeeelings rise up and swamp us and make us mad at each other.

So weekends like mine in the DC and Philadelphia areas are particularly sweet.  Bete–on the right in this picture–is such a connector.  She planned an Ethiopia Reads event with some adoption parents that brought people together to have fun and make a difference for kids in Ethiopia.

One of the coolest things, I think, is that Bete went to high school in Addis Ababa at the girls’ school I hung around as a kid–and where my brother taught when he decided to return to Ethiopia in the 1980s.

(This is his basketball team, which won the championship that year.)

Bete and I have sweet memories of the same patches of ground in Ethiopia, even though we didn’t hang around those patches at the same time.

Now we also have sweet memories of spending time together in the school where she teaches and with our new mutual friends who put their efforts into raising money for libraries in places like this girls’ school.

We have new SWEET friends…

the best possible reason for finding a way to let our hearts respond to the words: come let us reason together.

Let’s tell our stories in the best and most honest ways we know how.

Let’s listen.

Let’s plant apple trees in Maji, where I grew up.

Let’s plant libraries in America and Ethiopia.

Let’s, like Lanie, find out we can make a difference in our own back yard or someplace far away.

Let’s create the places where we can all–big or little–feel the power of making life a little better for someone else.

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