Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I spent Monday evening at the library with three new Dream Keepers. What a blessing. Every week I meet at least one young person whose eyes light up at the possibility of writing a poem. They rush into our special room and seem delighted all the way up until they get that blank piece of paper. Then I hear, "No, I can't."  

This week a tween named Isaiah told me he could not write because he hated his own handwriting. He begged me to let him go back on the computer. I could see his fear but also his deep wisdom. I wanted to see what he might say. So, we made a deal. If he wrote one poem, he could go back on the computer. I offered to be the scribe if he'd play the poet. He agreed! So we worked and worked at it until Isaiah got his I AM poem written. (YES YOU CAN!)

In the middle of the writing, we had a deep conversation about who had better-looking eyes (him or me) and how we'd describe each other's skin (caramel brown for him, pastey white for me). Then Isaiah asked, "When you were little, were your people prejudiced?" I almost fell off my chair. No one had ever asked me that. I talked about what it was to grow up in a town without many people of color. He talked about what it is like to live in a neighborhood with no white people. 

I went home amazed and delighted that I had this deep conversation about race and prejudice with an 11-year-old African American boy. I'd gone into the evening feeling sick and tired. I was less-than-hopeful that tweens and teens who didn't even know me would want to write with me—especially boys. Then I met Isaiah. He wrote a poem. We had a conversation. Not one where I did all the talking, and he said, "Yes Ma'am." We had a real conversation—with talking and listening on both sides. It seems that this time I was the one saying, "No, I can't." Isaiah reminded me, "Yes we can!"

This phrase of Obama's—YES WE CAN—has stuck with me throughout this campaign. I am thinking that we'd all accomplish a whole lot more—in our lives, in our communities, and mostly in our relationships—if we believed that we can get along and we can get things done.

Yes we can!

I thank Isaiah for teaching me that. If you want to read Isaiah's poem, check out the Dream Keeper's Web site.

If you need more inspiration, 
watch this video 

1 comment:

  1. What a joy and privilege to walk with a youth and really connect.