My Psalm 127
A Sense of Home
In 1951, five years after the end of World War II, one million refugees were still trying to find a place to call home. The United Nations established the UNHCR refugee agency to help find “durable solutions” for these refugees. At the beginning of 2013, the number of worldwide refugees stood at 10.4 million with another 4.8 million registered in some 60 camps in the Middle East, the latter being mostly Palestinian refugees. Over twenty-eight percent of world refugees live in Africa with fifty percent living in Asia. These refugees live in either established camps or makeshift shelters. Half of the refugees under UNHCR concern live in urban areas. All refugees, though, face three possible resolutions: repatriation, local integration, or resettlement.
We easily understand those refugees from famine, fleeing religious intolerance, or who are victims of war or inhumane dictatorships. These numbers are staggering and certainly these people need our concern and assistance. However, they do not tell the complete story. What these numbers do not include are the refugees from daily life, those bullied for being different. Recently a judge on a reality show made the comment: “Same is lame!” The reality of living is that anything other than sameness, anything out of the accepted norm makes one a target.
Over forty-two percent of children reported being bullied and one in four reported having been verbally attacked more than once. Thirty-three percent of children report they have received online threats and almost sixty percent acknowledge that someone has posted something mean about them online. More startlingly, seventy-seven percent of students “admit” to being a victim of bullying in one form or another during their school years and at least fifty-eight percent state they have never told an adult about the bullying.
Home was once a safe haven and school was an extension of that. Today, in an effect to remain sane and safe, students are skipping out of school and becoming refugees of sorts due to bullying. The peer pressure recognized in the fifties and sixties that influenced teens has become a worldwide problem among all ages, especially in industrialized nations. The media perception that everyone must “fit in” or “be with it”, based upon pop culture stars who themselves lead very unhealthy lives, encourages the population that different is wrong. The old sports adage of “The best offense is a good defense” has led to attacks upon those perceived as different. Those doing the bullying are themselves insecure and feel if they attack first, then they are protecting themselves.
Once home was the location of personal development and that development was encouraged to be unique. In her six-week lesson plan entitled “A Sense of Home”, teacher Jamie Jordan developed a tool for teaching students to explore and celebrate their own identity and heritage while not being fearful of those of their classmates. She explains: “Many people may advocate that one’s home is a geographical location, a place within the soul characterized by family and memories, or somewhere that safety and love abound. Home may exist on several levels, such as cultural, societal, familial, and/or political. Defining one’s sense of home also leads one to self-discovery and self-definition, which I believe is a vital exercise for high school students. Many students during this time are highly susceptible to other people’s definitions and influences. By presenting a unit based on a sense of home and identity, students are allowed to open their own minds to their individual backgrounds and those places they call home.”
Jordan assigns students a variety of literature within the six-week course which explores different cultures and bi-racial living. She also includes a poem by Walt Whitman. While the poem speaks of Whitman’s native country of the USA, he could be applicable to anywhere.
“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
The fact that this poem could refer to America, Spain, Ireland, Africa (with some variations), Japan, India, Argentina, Canada, or New Zealand is evidence of the commonalities we all share. There is no basis for bullying, for separating people from the security of home. Living is not about making someone else feel bad or scared. It says nothing positive about someone if they can instill fear in another.
Jane Addams wisely said: “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” This is what we should strive for in our living. We will have peace worldwide when all have a sense of home and the security that comes with it, regardless of our geographical location, culture, religion, gender, socio-economic status, or age. Maya Angelou wrote: “The ache for home lives in all of us; the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Home is not the privilege of the rich, the powerful, or those that fit the general norm. Home is what we are promised by our birth. George Washington was correct when he recognized this commonality of all persons when he said: “Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected”.
My Psalm 127
My life is no more valuable than that of the man who sits beside me, O Lord.
The anonymous woman in line before me has the same worth as my soul.
We all share this planet and the basic needs of the living.
I have no right to place my needs above those of another.
You, Great Creator, made all things equal in their needs for living.
The air we breathe, the food we eat, the steps we take should be taken with love.
When we respect another, we respect ourselves.
When we respect ourselves, we respect our living.
When we respect all life, we respect our Maker.
The names may vary, the traditions differ.
The beat of a heart, though, is still the rhythm of life.
Deliver, dear Father/Mother, from the emptiness that separates us and makes us refugees from life.