Thursday, August 9, 2012

Saundra Smokes

Saundra Smokes passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday in Syracuse.  She was a columnist for the Post-Standard for years, and only returned in May to write again in her hometown.  She was writing during the years before I tried to get my charter school off the ground, and she was an inspiration to me, pushing me (although she had no idea) to go out there and do things I never thought I could ever do.  But I should do them because I believed in them, no matter how hard.  Because it was the right thing to do.

I never wrote to her, as I had planned to do since her return.  I wanted to say thank you.

But this is a column she wrote that was hung up in my house on East Street in Skaneateles, and then made its way with me to Elbridge.  It resides on the back of the pantry door.  To remind me.

Put Resolve in Your Resolutions

One of my sister-friends and I were talking about the foolishness of making the same old New Year's resolutions.
I am going to lose weight.
I am going to get organized.
I am going to be on time.
I am going to exercise.
I am going to spend more time with my family.
I am going to learn a new skill.
And on and on.
Not that these goals are not worthy goals.
It's just that most of them are self-centered, and most of them keep finding their way on the list year after year - sometimes decade after decade.
What if - my sister-friend and I reasoned - what if all of us made new kinds of  resolutions?
Attitude resolutions.
Character resolutions.
Community resolutions.
We weren't talking about vague "I want to be a better person" or "I want to do more for my city" promises.
We meant specific, identifiable, reachable goals that would benefit others - loved ones,co-workers, neighbors.

What would have happened if, years ago, President Clinton had made a character resolution list and decided that he was no longer going to mess around on his wife, ignore his marriage vows, hurt his young daughter, jeopardize the office in which he was serving?
What if he had decided to deal with his lust problem and gotten some help to get himself in check?
Maybe we wouldn't be where we are at the moment - wrestling between censuring the man or putting him through a Senate trial to determine whether to remove him from office.
All of us have a list we can make that goes beyond giving up ice cream or reading more books.
Why can't people who have biting tongues make a point of controlling what comes out of their mouths?
What can't parents who holler and scream and say any old thing to their children resolve not to talk to their kids any old way?
Why can't bosses who think they know it all decide they don't, and listen to their employees?
Why can't employees resolve not to whine about everything?
Why can't the folks who are cheating on their loves resolve to stop lying and cheating and manipulating people?

Why can't those who are being cheated on , lied to and manipulated, resolve to stop the abuse or get help to stop the abuse?
Why can't family members who aren't speaking to each other resolve not to let another year go by without addressing whatever it is that is keeping them apart?
Why can't fathers resolve to acknowledge the children they pretend aren't theirs?
Why can't people in the caring and nurturing professions - doctors, nurses, teachers - resolve to treat all their patients and students with respect, affection and dignity?
Why can't neighbors resolve not to disturb the peace of the neighborhood by playing music too loudly or letting their dogs run loose?
Why can't people in the social services field resolve not to think of themselves too highly and forget that they may some day be where their "clients" are?
Why can't every person resolve to make a difference in the life of one child this year - by being a mentor, volunteering at a Boys and Girls Club or community center, becoming a Big Brother and Big Sister, joining an "Adopt a  School" program?

Why can't people resolve not to tell one racial joke, not to make on racial slur, not to contribute in any way to racial stereotyping or racist behavior?
Why can't customer service employees resolve to treat the public the way they would like to be treated?
Why can't companies resolve to truly assess the working conditions of their employees?
Why can't lawmakers resolve that every person in this nation will have a health-care plan as good as the one the lawmakers have?
Why can't lawmakers resolve that every child will get the kind of education their children are getting?
Why can't parents resolve to keep abreast of what is happening with their child in school?
Why can't parents resolve to not let the schools raise their children?
Why can't people resolve not to have to be motivated by the holidays to reach out to the needy?

Why can't the folks who want to lose weight resolve to give the money they would have spent on cookies, doughnuts and lunches that could pass for dinners, to charity?
Why can't people who are always stirring things up, always gossiping, always trying to cause trouble, simply stop it?
Why can't we all put some resolve in our resolutions?

I will miss her column, and miss her.