By Sher Maryn LeBay
The other day, I went over to your grandmother Anna’s house in Point Edward to learn how to make oatcakes and biscuits. I am an American and I never heard of oatcakes before. Your grandmother saw one of my stories in the paper and invited me over to taste some. Your grandfather kept a close eye on us; I noticed he was there whenever the oven door opened. Did you know he puts molasses and peanut butter on his biscuits?
Well, we were sitting at the little roundtable having our tea when your grandmother jumped up to show me the family photo hanging over the piano. She is very proud of all of you. And there you were in that plaid shirt and gray tie wearing that bright smile. And then she zeroed right in on you Anthony and told me a story I want everyone to hear. They will know why in a minute…
Like a lot of boys and girls who are ten and a half, you watch TV. For sure you see things that can be scary and yougo over the words and pictures in your head. You’re smart; you know when someone is angry or kind or when their happy or sad. And being that you are still a little boy you start wonderinghow safe you arehere in Cape Breton.
That’s natural, Anthony. We all want to play with our friends, go to school and get tucked in at night and feel safe and sound.
Your grandmother told me how you saw the man who wants to be president of my country talk about building a “beautiful wall” to keep out the Mexicans and how he doesn’t want any Muslims to come into our country either. Being on top of things, you noticed that most of the people he wants to round up and throw out of my country have darker skins than many Americans.
For sure the man running for president would say that has nothing to do with anything but being that your skin is darker just like your dad’s, I guess you got worried.
I understand. I remember the first time I saw the witch in the Wizard of Oz. Icried when she stole the little dog,Toto, from Dorothy. I was so frightened she would find out where I lived and steal my dog, Mabel. She didn’t but I kept watch for a long time.
So being frightened by the man on the TV, you went to your mom and asked for her help: “Mom, will you take me to Home Depot so we can buy some paint? I want to make my skin lighter so what is happening to the Mexicans and Muslims will never happen to me.”
Your aunt cried when she heard what you wanted to do.
My eyes were watery, too.
Now I want to tell you a couple of stories Anthony because this is important.
When I was a younger woman, a handful of powerful people in my government went behind everyone’s back to send money and provide training to a group of men who were fighting to overthrow the government of Nicaragua. (I don’t know how far along you are in geography but Nicaragua is located on the ribbon of land that joins North and South America).
Our president at the time didn’t like the Nicaraguans. He was afraid of having “Communists” anywhere near the United States and risking contagion, you know, much like when you can give a cold to someone else. He was afraid Nicaragua’s ideas would spread to other little countries on that same strip of land. He wanted to stomp out the cold before it got worse.
He feared the Nicaraguans just as much as the man that you saw on TV fears the Mexicans and Muslims. I didn’t agree with my President then, anymore than I agree with the man running for president today.
But I wasn’t famous or powerful so what could I do? Well, I decidedto goNicaragua to live. When I landed in Managua (that’s the Capitol of Nicaragua), I shook my head in disbelief. It was the tiniest airport I had ever seen and all along the road to the airport, shack-like houses with aluminum roofs stretched as far a set eye could see. These were the poorest people ever, Anthony. Why were we so afraid of them? I didn’t know. I still don’t.
I lived up north in the war zone in a town called Ocotal. I saw a lot. It was hard for the kids there. Real hard.
Many years have passed. Much that is old about us Americans is still the same. What can we do, Anthony? How can we respond to the scary man on TV?
I will tell you.
There is an old Cherokee story of a grandfather talking to his grandson and it goes like this:
The grandfathersays: “ Every human being has two wolves living in their heart. One wolf is greedy, angry and violent. The other wolf is loving and compassionate and kind.”
The little boy looks hard at the old man and says “Grandpa, which wolf will win the battle for your heart? And his grandfather stares back into the boy’s beautiful dark eyes and replies:
“The one I feed.”
There are Americans, many of them, who get up every day and watch what you are watching on television. We reach into the refrigerator for the milk, fill the bowl with cereal and feed our loving wolf. We try to do the very same for lunch and supper. It doesn’t matter where we live. Our task is no different.
I went to Nicaragua to feed the loving wolf. Many Americans did, too.
That’s a very simple way of telling you there are plenty ofAmericans getting up every day and feeding the good wolf.
And you can do the same thing, Anthony. You can open your eyes in the morning and say out loud: “Today I am going to feed the loving wolf who lives inside my heart.” It will spin your head to see just how fast every thing changes when you do this.
You won’t change the man on the TV, that’s for sure, but everyone you meet will say “Hey what’s that with Anthony? His heart is big and good.”
And that is how the world will get better and better for you and the other 10 and a half year olds.
For all of us, really.
Listen, I gotta go, Anthony. I’m late…But let’s get together sometime.
My sweet wolf needs lunch.
Sher Maryn LeBay is an American writer and photographer who is enchanted by the wonders of the natural world and inspired by the beauty of ordinary people. Her column appears every other Saturday in the Cape Breton Post. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story first appeared in the Cape Breton Post on July 30,2016