Friday, November 7, 2008

"Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter..."

"Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes..."

George Harrison
"Here Come the Sun" *

I was a 14 year old junior high school student when the very cool and beautiful coed sister of my friend and neighbor Sam (not his real name) Nelson returned home for Spring break her freshman year of college having been bitten by the bug of political activism.  We loved her.  She was not only cool and beautiful, but smart and passionate...and Bobby Kennedy's candidacy was her reason for existing that Spring.  She was going to campaign during her break and we, her young admirers, were going to be her army of canvassers.   We loved it...I really loved it.  I loved thinking that I could make a difference in the world.  I felt a new sense of purpose in knowing that when I knocked on the front doors of identical homes in the seemingly endless string of cul-de-sacs in our subdivision, I was part of something bigger than myself.

I studied every piece of campaign literature that my role model had brought home from college with her. I started reading newspapers and magazines at the public library and talking to my parents about the choices they would  make through the power of their vote later that Fall. I began caring about something larger than my own small world of dance rehearsals, yearbook editorial meetings, clothes, and pop music.  My tastes expanded with my sense of the world, and I felt like a bird set free.  I was no longer just a suburban kid, I was a global activist for peace and social responsibility. I began listening to folk artists like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and The Weavers whose protest songs were to become the soundtrack for a generation of awakening global citizens.   Each conversation with a neighborhood voter helped me find my voice and my courage. 

Sam's sister returned to college leaving behind her a wake of passion and hope as wide and as long as the road we have all traveled in the last 40 years.

I continued to campaign and canvass for Bobby that Spring with a group of kids from our neighborhood who, I believe, realized that we wanted what she had.  We wanted passion, purpose, and to be inspired by a of peace, brotherhood, and care for others.  Later that summer Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention were beaten on the streets of Chicago and my political activism got put in a shoebox with the Bobby Kennedy campaign button and a thank you note Sam's sister had sent me from college...after I sent her a barrage of fan mail...following her Spring Break visit.   But my devotion to social responsibility and human rights advocacy never waned.  I've campaigned for causes and candidates I believe in, written newspaper editorials, gotten angrier than I want to remember, and prayed vigorously that love would govern and guide world leaders, community organizers, voters, the governed...and most especially my own thoughts, words, and activism.

Tuesday night as I watched more than 200,000 people gather on the lawn of Chicago's Grant Park and in celebration around the world, I felt like that 14 year old girl again.  I have been deeply touched by so many recent memories: our eleven year-old daughters canvassing in a suburban neighborhood for the candidate they had chosen to support even though they couldn't vote, the dignity of poised public servants in the face of vicious attacks on character, my husband's voice on the phone with his mother explaining policy and untangling rhetoric.   I was moved beyond measure by the image of Jesse Jackson weeping, unabashedly, in Grant Park with men, women and children from all genders, races, ages, backgrounds and neighborhoods. 

In his tears I could see the unstoppable outpouring of invincible courage, unyielding vision, irrepressible compassion, and fathomless, audacious hope lived, and died for, by human rights pioneers like Rosa Parks, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln...and yes, Bobby Kennedy and his brothers...each drop, one of a million, trillion tears flowing like a salty balm of healing and redemption over all the earth and through the streets of Chicago.  Countless tears gathering into a raging, rushing river of compassion that would carve out a space from the rock-ribbed hardness of selfishness and apathy where our hopes could gather, pool, and provide "living waters for the thirsty".

The span of forty years seems so truncated and comprensible the columns of a spreadsheet collapsed so that you can see both the first and last column on the computer screen at the same time.  For the 14 year old girl in me...and the 54 year old wife, mother, woman and human rights all makes sense somehow.

I am still weeping....

*For those of you who love George Harrison and "Here Comes the Sun" as much as I do, here is another version performed by George with Paul Simon.


  1. all the moments you're talking about here, from Bobby Kennedy to Jesse's tears.... you've been carrying that flame the whole time. beautiful post.

  2. it's a flame that has been a light for my my footsteps direction and purpose...and warmth to my heart when the world outside seemed cold and unfeeling this flame of hope for our future has kept my own heart from freezing over with despair and apathy...your friendship has been like that in the last few years Laura...i love you...