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

Support what you love

The lovely and elegant (and yummy) Strings restaurant in Denver will be the latest gathering of people interested in books, Ethiopia, kids, reading and writing, not always in that order.

Friday, September 23 · 5:30pm – 7:30pm

That’s tomorrow!

Here I am outside the restaurant just after having had tea with Lanie and one of my talented and imaginative young friends who had dressed Lanie in a festive holiday outfit.

On that particular trip to Denver, I spent most of the time at CCIRA doing presentations to reading teachers, laughing, being inspired by their feisty attitudes about doing well what they know how to do, not buckling under to the pressures of making reading and writing nothing more than filling a fact into a blank.

One of the people who attended one of my sessions and bought some of my books lives and works in South Africa.  She’s eager for a reading culture to take root in communities there, and she knows it won’t happen without good mentoring and modeling, which she works to provide.  I hope we can bring some of the book club ideas and also the Little Hands books that grew out of that South Africa project to Ethiopia.

As a first step, some of the American educators who volunteered in Ethiopia last summer carried with them a DVD that shows how reading and writing and telling stories and making safe, welcoming spaces for kids and stories all connect in powerful ways.  Sometimes we take it for granted that such things are possible for every child everywhere.  But they aren’t.

Hope and community.

How we humans crave and need such things.  I can see that here in Portland where the community of my foo (family-of-origin) is now rooted.

Not long after we moved into this house, one of my brothers-in-law came over with clippers and gloves and snipped and pulled and yanked and slashed his way through the blackberry thicket that was growing by our back yard shed.  I’d been loving fresh blackberries on my cereal.

Right from my own yard!

Still, I could see that something had to be done.  My brother-in-law makes jam, and he was eager to add blackberries to the various berries he’d already smooshed into jam this summer.  I thought he should grab these while the grabbing was good.

Also, I could see how aggressive a mood the blackberries were in.  In their determination to grow and thrive and dominate, they were even climbing up and over the shed.  Getting ready to munch it down for all I knew.

Unfortunately, mint was growing amidst the blackberry stickers, and it all got chopped out, too.  For a few days, I mourned the leaving of the blackberries and mint.

Then, one day, I was walking in the grass in the back yard and I noticed that a fresh, summery smell was wafting up from under my feet.

I looked down and saw…mint plants.  Hundreds of them.  All over the lawn.  Seeds had blown and rooted themselves everywhere.

My siblings assure me the blackberries WILL BE BACK.

The mint is still out there for me to enjoy every day.

That’s how my upcoming Denver trip feels to me, too.  So many of the rich and powerful people in this world think it’s perfectly okay for them to treat the less rich and powerful humans on this earth as cogs in their wheels, pawns in their plans.  But there are lots and lots of us and we tend to be stubborn and determined.

We aren’t all that easy to get rid of.

Reading and writing and telling our stories are some of the ways we stay strong.  They are also ways we share what we know and care about–and plant new ideas and dreams and skills.

As Isak Perlman just said on the classical radio station over my ear, “Support what you love.”

That’s what this Denver trip is all about.

Support what you love.

3 thoughts on “Support what you love”

  1. Thanks for thinking of me, Jane. It is people like you that pull back the curtains of my little world and offer a view of possible ways to help (even in the smallest way). To see outside and care.
    Lots of love to you and thanks for the wonderful articles (I especially loved “Our Stuborn, Greedy, Angry Hearts”)

  2. Dear amazing author, friend, and source of worldly inspiration…
    How lovely to see you once again at Strings. Being surrounded by Ethiopia Reads supporters inspired me once again and I am contemplating my next move.
    I love you! Mary Beth


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