I realize just how clueless I was about parenting when I was a young mother. What seems obvious and easy was nothing close to either. Fortunately, I have many mom-friends who are just a step or two ahead of me. They continue to bestow nuggets of wisdom that stick with me even though I am 14 years into this parenting gig. I like to call them, teachable moments.
Teachable moments is one phrase I have hung onto. A teachable moment is one where I do not immediately call out the act or microaggression. Rather, I wait until we are in a safe, calm space to reflect with my kids.
Recently, a teachable moment presented itself to our family on our recent vacation to Moab, Utah.
My husband scheduled a jeep tour of Moab’s Wind Caves and we all piled in the safari-like jeep and headed out through the dirt and desert. Bumping and jumping through the rocky off-road trails we come upon an ancient rock with petroglyphs. We disembark and walk to the mammoth rock while gingerly traversing the terrain.
Our guide explains that they call this Birthing Rock. He talks about the Anasazi Native Americans. For reference, the people who first inhabited these lands. As he mocks the Birthing Petroglyph and points out where, “Harry Potter forgot his wand and instead borrows Indiana Jones’ whip,” I cringe. After which, he explains that the word Anasazi is actually not the way that people refer to the ancient society any longer but he thinks the word is “cool” so that is what he calls them.
To say I am in shock is an understatement.
But wait, it gets worse.
As he takes us around the far side of the rock, we see more petroglyphs with the words “White Power” etched in white over them. He explains that this is national news. As I make notes of his actions and watch my children, I realize we have another three hours with this person and I have to wait to discuss my teachable moment.
Next, we load back into our misery chamber and clamor up the rocky, red, stone and then back down again, ultimately arriving at Wind Caves. They are spectacular. Along the way, I learn that our guide is a rising sophomore in college, married, and this is his summer job. Later, he explains that he is a psychology major and then tells a story of a lady who was recently lost in the area for a month. “Nobody could believe she made it out. One day she just showed up in town. People were really surprised because she wasn’t right in the head.” Once more, I make note and wait.
At last, as I am eating Quesadilla Mobilla after returning from our misinformation trip, I sit with the kids. Chowing down I note:
- Our guide notes that the word Anasazi is outdated and harmful, yet he continues to use it. That is disrespectful. Not that long ago African Americans were referred to as “negros” and gay people as “fags”. In sum, these are derogatory terms that are harmful.
- Moreover, if you know better you do better. And damn it our precious Indigenous Americans are our history. Our REAL history. This is a prime example that shows that history is written by those who win. This marginalized community has been decimated during COVID. They are not privy to the resources, health systems and education that has been afforded to the privileged in America. Do not allow this to continue.
- One of my very favorite spiritual leaders. No, my absolute FAVORITE, is the Reverend Steven Charlson of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Father Steven Charleston is an Alaskan and Native American Anglican priest who offers regular postings of thought, insight, introspection. I follow his words on Facebook, his words move me. Here is his prayer for June 27, 2021: Like me, some of you may be spiritually fond of mantras, those little short sayings that we can call to mind to inspire us in trying to live a more intentional life. Please feel welcome to share one that speaks to you here; it may be just the focus someone else needs. As for my own contribution, here is one I have been meditating on recently: my love makes a difference. That may seem deceptively simple, but I have found it to be a powerful reminder that my life has an impact. I am not just a witness, but a participant. In the midst of the great events around me there is something I can do to help. And each time I share my love, in ways great and small, I alter the reality around me. I partner with the Spirit. I create change. My love makes a difference.
Firstly, Reverend Charlson, thank you for leading me. In addition, thank you for recognizing that my love makes a difference. Each of the teachable moments listed above highlights the importance of respecting our interconnectedness and how my impact absolutely impacts those around me. It is my intention to raise humans who are self-aware enough to recognize that when we know better we do better. I am raising critical thinkers who search for knowledge.
Readers, join me. Rise up. Do better. Most important, teach critical thinking and acknowledge marginalized communities.