Walking a path to the top

Bird Droppings October 14, 2009

Walking a path to the top


            I recall thinking back a month or so when while visiting Macon Georgia to see my son who goes to Mercer University that I went out to the Indian Mounds. I am drawn to this place and its antiquity. On my visits I walk the stairways climbing to the top of the Great Temple Mound and look out in each direction. It was not too long ago I was talking about the Indian mounds on line and felt I needed to go there and my youngest son provided the timing as his college was over at 1:00 and he needed a ride home from Macon. I took several pictures and sprinkled a bit of sage and sweet grass to each corner of the world.

As I walked to the mound a sign addressed the sacredness of this spot of earth. It read simply to please understand many peoples consider this place sacred. There was a list of things not to do at this point. No smoking, ball throwing, Frisbee throwing, kite flying and several others including no picnicking. I wondered as I walked down if finding peace within was ok here on this special place. It is a place of solitude when no one is around in the middle of Macon Georgia. From atop the mound you can see the main streets of Macon. I often have wondered as to all the energy and thoughts that have mingled here for many thousands of years. It is still a very special and sacred place for The Muskogee Creek nation.


“Come; let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children.” Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux 


It has been eight years since I did a research paper on the causes of issues with children. When I first started back to teaching in 2001, it really was not all that much different from the early seventies when I last taught. When I wrote the paper I was looking for commonalities among children who had issues in school and in life in general. I listed drugs use, alcohol use, jail time, probation, age, sex, drivers licenses, wealth, social status, child hood illnesses and whatever else I could find measurable numbers or information on. I did not question students all my information was on their public record.

As I looked deeper students, children with problems I found were made in most cases they did not just happen. Indirectly we created each of the issues that manifested its self with in these kids. In an old Divorce Magazine.com article entitled Help for Generation X they listed statistics in 1970 that 72% of the adult population was married and in 1999 only 59% and dropping. It was interesting that in statistics the number of divorces granted is down per 1000 people, but up per number of new marriages. As I researched nearly eight years ago in the group of students I was looking at I found that two out of twenty eight lived with their natural parents.


“It seems that the divorce culture feeds on itself, creating a one-way downward spiral of unhappiness and failure.” David Brenner, New York, July 14, 1999, Associate director of the Institute for American Values


“There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” Leon R. Yankwich


I have found myself at one time prior to NCIS hooked on the TV show Law and Order, the hit TV show which now runs it seems all day long in one form or another. I am captivated by the errors and flaws within our society. Although I really like the adage from Leo Yankwich of illegitimate parents.


“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Michael Levine


As I researched deeper in reasons children have issues often I found issues were learned and the examples were set at home. Be it drugs, alcohol, and literally any number of issues presented had been directly related to home situations. Children learn what they live both positively and negatively as Dr. Laura Nolte writes extensively about and is featured in her Children Learn what they live poster of the early seventies. Yesterday the news was filled with stories of teenagers, young people who had gotten into trouble. I remember back to a news flash nearly six years ago, in Minnesota a young man killed nine people in a shooting spree. Elsewhere here in Atlanta area drug arrests and gangs permeate the news.

Several years ago I was walking outside my room when student came up sheepishly and hugged me and apologized. I am so sorry for what happened was her comment. It was that this student was in a fight with another student in the cafeteria and I had pulled them apart.  It was a strange feeling being thanked for breaking up a fight, by one that was involved. I can now say she is in college and doing well however. Interesting thing just two years ago her younger sister was in a similar situation except I only walked up after the fact and again an apology.

Back several years ago I was at a basketball game and parents were yelling at each other over their kids, in front of the audience to a point a resource officer was involved. It really is no different than thirty years ago when I coached basketball in Macon Georgia and the kids liked this old crude gym better than the new gym. Parents could not fit inside and kids could just play basketball with no parental yelling to be heard.


“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop


I never met the man but my father would often speak highly of him as he was my brother’s physician in Philadelphia when John was at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. In later years Dr. Koop was Surgeon General of the United States. I seem to be always looking for answers midst all the questions.


“Children are curious and are risk takers. They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous. A child initially trusts life and the processes of life.” John Bradshaw


Perhaps it is the breaking of trust that causes issues to arise. Years ago I did a graphic on the development of trust, showing stages in how trust develops with a child and then into an adult. We are born with a universal trust as an infant, you instinctually trust. As you grow you learn to not trust and eventually come full circle learning to universally trust again.


“Trust evolves. We start off as babies with perfect trust. Inevitably, trust is damaged by our parents or other family members. Depending on the severity, we may experience devastated trust, in which the trust is completely broken. In order to heal, we must learn when and how trust can be restored. As part of this final step, if we cannot fully trust someone. Then we establish guarded, conditional, or selective trust.” Dr. Riki Robbins, PhD, The Four Stages of Trust


It has been a few years since I read a book by Dr. Temple Grantin, Animals in Translation.  Dr. Grantin’s unique view is that she is autistic as she looks at animals in a different light than we do, since she operates actually on that instinctual level as well. She stills functions in a world of trust and maintains for her all is learned trust. In a family setting what more so than parents leaving, could display trust in a child let alone destroy that trust.  When they come to school we as teachers assume and then want them to lead normal lives and have “normal” trust.


“When a parent is consistent and dependable, the baby develops sense of basic trust. The baby builds this trust when they are cold, wet or hungry and they can count on others to relieve their pain. The alternative is a sense of mistrust, the feeling that the parent is undependable and may not be there when they are needed.” Eric Erikson, Eric Erikson’s, Eight Stages of Life


Sitting writing here with my three sons all going to be home this weekend from school and work it is so easy to say no problem.  Then I think back to when I clicked to Yahoo News and the Red Lake shootings were the headlines of the day and how and why a 15 year old would kill nine people and himself.


“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux, Holy man


In 1972 or so I met a young man in Macon Georgia, a Muskogee Creek whose grandfather was the medicine man to the Creek nation up until his death. At that time my friend was a year older than me and still is from last I heard. In his tribal name he was called Red Clay; he was and is an artist, a brilliant painter. My family has many of his pieces of sculpture, drawings and paintings. In 1975 or so he went through a divorce after his wife lost a baby. Every day that I have known him he has been drinking. He was once the most requested teacher in Bibb County now an itinerant carpenter and Professional feather dancer, although I have been told he recently retired from dancing and is now a lead drummer in Pow Wow circles in the Southeast.

There was a comment that stuck with me and an image. He painted a small acrylic painting that my mother has hanging in her office area. It is of three burial platforms in the prairie. The platform in the front of the picture is for a chief or man of importance, the second for his wife and the third for a small infant each a burial platform. The infant platform was for his unborn baby from so many years ago. He told me nearly twenty years five ago he would not live past forty. Now over sixty he has but just barely. As I look back and think of how we respond and how we set that example for our children.

I think to my effort a few weeks back to walk up the mound in Macon. My back was bothering me from driving so much and it was a difficult pathway to follow to the top. It was something I was to do. I am still not sure why. I am writing about how youth have lost touch with the sacred in life in a paper for graduate school. How we seem in our technological world to find answers in Google or Ask Jeeves, never do they even consider an unanswerable question. So much of our lives is immediate and now, communication being a key component of that immediacy.

I started reading Kent Nerburn’s books several years ago. He taught at the same Red Lake High School in Minnesota of the massacre and I have referenced many times the editorial he penned after the event.


“This Red Lake story is hidden beneath two layers of mythology and misunderstanding that pervade contemporary American culture: “rural” and “Indian reservation.” In each lies a series of expectations and misconceptions that obscures the truth of events and makes what takes place there something “other” than the workaday affairs of our urban and suburban lives. Watch, now, and see if that mythology and misunderstanding obscures the truth.  I know Red Lake. I know those kids. They are just like my students asleep in their beds here in Oxford, just like your children brushing their teeth and packing up their books down the hall from where you are reading this paper. It was Sitting Bull, the great Lakota chief, who said it best: “Come, let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children. “Those children in Red Lake are your children. Hear their cries and the cries of their parents as if they were your own.” Kent Nerburn


I wonder as I sit thinking back a day or five years and wonder could I have done something a bit different. I had a phone call from a friend and tried to return that call and did not get through. I always wonder what if? Each time I drive by the Diagnostic Center in Jackson Georgia I think back to 1977 and a former student who maybe I could have done something more for. He is serving three life sentences now in a psychiatric unit. So today as I wandered in my thoughts please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.  



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