It has been a week — a season really — of going back to the basics for me. I learned this practice in my late teens/early 20’s from a friend who was there for the typical college crises of break-ups, questioning faith, and changing majors. One day as we sat in the Forum — the gathering place for Honors College students at UCA — I listed the burgeoning load of seemingly unanswerable questions swirling in my head. She sat across from me, leaned forward, and pulled me into focus, eye-to-eye. Then she said, “Now tell me what you do know.”
That’s a short list. Perhaps shorter now even than it was then. But the exercise of starting with what you know and then working outward from there is clarifying.
I was invited to speak to a group in Bentonville recently about the work I do with Arkansas Strong. There were a lot of questions about different things our government in Arkansas is doing and how it may affect people’s lives. These were good people of all ages, willing to work together across party lines, because of values we all share.
I told them about being at the Capitol one day from 7 am till 9 pm listening to teachers. The last one, who was from Bentonville, walked out of the House Ed Committee meeting with me at 9:15 pm. She had a 4-hour drive ahead of her and would get up early and teach the next day. She was there, not really because she stands to lose a lot personally from the implementation of LEARNS. She serves an affluent school district and already makes a decent wage. But she was there because she believes in the value of public education for everyone. She knows it is not just about her and her school, but all of us. So she was there to speak alongside others from all over the state.
I have a lot of questions about what I see happening in Arkansas right now: unnecessary pain inflicted on the vulnerable by the powerful in our state. The amount of difficulty ahead is something I cannot know.
But here is what I do know: what that little group was doing by meeting and planning action, what this teacher did— what so many teachers did as we stood together for ourselves and each other, because of the values we believe in that sustain a better Arkansas for all of us — is the way to overcome it. One issue, one day, one moment at a time.