"The Journey is the Destination"—a Life Lived Out Loud

Our good friends Eva and Yoel Haller invited Rob and me to a special Santa Barbara International Film Festival luncheon last week to celebrate a new film about an extraordinary young man named Dan Eldon. "The Journey is the Destination" tells the compelling story of how Dan, in his brief lifetime, inspired people to work for peace and social justice in parts of the world where both are in short supply.

Dan was born in London in 1970, and the family moved to Kenya in 1977, where his British father headed the east Africa division of a European computer company and his American mother, Kathy Eldon, was a freelance journalist. He attended the International School of Kenya, where he met students from around the world and developed his insatiable appetite for travel and adventure. While Kenya remained his home, he traveled widely, and, following in his mother's footsteps, became a journalist.

From an early age, Dan worked to help others. When he was 14, he raised money to pay for open-heart surgery for a young Kenyan girl. At 15, he helped support a Maasai family by buying their hand-made jewelry and selling it to fellow students and friends.

After graduating high school in 1988, Dan attended college in California and Iowa, but ultimately returned to Africa to pursue a career as a freelance photographer. His work caught the attention of Reuters' editors, and Dan was hired as a staff photographer covering Somalia's terrible famine in the early 1990s. As the situation worsened, violence drew American intercession and the attention of the international community. Despite the danger, Dan continued to work in Mogadishu, hoping his images would bring attention to the unfolding tragedy in Somalia. In July 1993, American forces mistakenly bombed what they thought was a meeting of warlords, and many innocent civilians were killed. Dan and three of his Reuters colleagues were killed when a gathering mob turned on them. He was 23.

Dan's mom, Kathy, founded a nonprofit organization—Creative Visions—to honor Dan's legacy. "The Journey is the Destination" is the realization of Kathy's long-held dream of telling Dan's story. A book of the same name features the drawings and artwork he jotted in his journal.

We met Kathy at the luncheon last week, as well as Maria Bello, the actor who portrayed Kathy in the film. It is a deeply moving and ultimately uplifting film, which also screened at the Toronto Film Fest and opened the DC Independent Film Festival this week.

Creative Visions continues to honor Dan's memory, supporting individual artists working to effect positive social change. You can find out more about Creative Visions here, and read more about Dan's story here. Kathy has also written several books about her own journey, which is just as inspiring. See her story here.

Dan's extraordinary life reminds us that all of us, each of us, has the power to bring about positive change in our world. If you have a chance, see the film. And support Creative Visions.

An 11-point Plan to Open Dialogue, Support the Oppressed, and Resist

With Joan Bolton at Santa Barbara's Women's March in January. Don't you love her sign?

With Joan Bolton at Santa Barbara's Women's March in January. Don't you love her sign?

Last weekend I attended a Huddle Up event sponsored by Santa Barbara members of the Women's March Support Team and ActionNetwork.org. We had a great conversation about ways to keep the resistance movement vital and moving forward.

Below is my list from the discussion—I think #4 is probably the most important, and I'm interested in doing this in Santa Barbara. Let me know if you want to help me organize something.

1) Use the power of your purse and boycott products and companies that support the administration. You can find the list at grabyourwallet.com.

2) Say thanks by tweeting or writing a company and Congress members whenever they take a stand—Apple, Lyft, the two GOP women senators who voted against Betsy DeVos, etc.

3) Keep talking to Congress—attend town hall meetings, call, write postcards, etc.

4) Create dialogue and conversation with those who support the administration. It’s tough, but we have to learn to understand each other and find common ground.

5) Stand your ground: express your beliefs even as you welcome others to the table.

6) Encourage faith communities to speak out. There’s been a noticeable lack of comment from the very people who claim to care for the poor, disadvantaged, immigrants and others who are discriminated against.

7) Support refugee populations—monetarily, materially, spiritually (my favorite blogger Jon Katz says his tiny community in upper New York state set up a way for people to buy needed goods through Amazon for refugees getting settled into the community. It’s been a huge success).

8) March! There is a Tax Day March on April 15, and an April 29 march in Washington, D.C., for jobs, etc.

9) Organize. Ask local businesses to host events to raise money for various causes: ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, etc.

10) Support your local mosque. Reach out and ask if there’s anything you can do to support the Islamic community. Organize a town hall with various religious and community leaders to talk about how best to communicate with Trump supporters and to resist the administration’s policies.

11) Write! Raise your voice.

For our mothers, for our sisters, for our children.

Remembering My Dad, and a Republican Party That Was

Today would have been my dad’s 91st birthday. A lifelong Republican, he would be astounded and appalled at the state of our nation and world if he were alive today.

The rise of the Orange Menace would have left him deeply puzzled. And ashamed. His GOP cared about small businesses and worried over the size of government, but it always acknowledged its relevance and necessity. His GOP was never mean-spirited or bent on punishing the poor for being poor, as this Republican Party has been since the 1990s. His GOP would never have considered abolishing two of the nation’s signature social safety net programs—Social Security and Medicare—that raised a majority of our elderly out of poverty and eased the ravages of old age.

His GOP understood that a functioning democracy required people of good faith on both sides of the aisle to hold the interests of all people in equal measure. His Republicans knew that governance required negotiation and compromise, and placing the common good above their own craven grabs for power and money.  

How far we’ve strayed from that principle.

I am slack-jawed at the recklessness with which the GOP has moved to abolish the health insurance of more than 20 million people in this country. The chaos that will ensue in both the health care and insurance industries will be equally devastating.

Are there no grown-ups in this party? People who can put all Americans’ interests above their own? Who do they think they are helping?

These truly are dark days.

A Poem for the New Year

Liberty

 

buttermilk scones, hot and dry

fruit compote of raspberry

and peach

 

NPR’s soft jazz sings

me through dawn’s edge

 

at the kitchen table I look out to the orchard

that bears

the breath of sweetness

 

out onto the grasses beyond

where moles till the ground

in spring

 

when it seems the days

will never

grow short and dark

 

when my company will be more

than imagined

homecomings

 

with hot scones, warm jam,

and Darjeeling

you sent from India

A New Year's Reflection

Things I am grateful for:

·      my love

·      my friends and family, especially my precious daughter

·      writers who share their lives, loves and words

·      my work and the people who entrust me with their books and dreams

·      my sweet dog, Chevella, who turns 14 next summer

·      the ability to read and think and appreciate ideas

·      meaningful conversation with interesting people

·      the wonder and blessings of travel

·      my home and the ability to share it with clients and friends

·      the possibilities of the future

·      my own writing projects, which feed my soul

·      wise women friends who provide support and succor when I need it (and you know who you are!)

·      the opportunity to live in a beautiful corner of the world

·      walking on the beach with my dog

·      mentors who guide and encourage me

·      good health

·      deep, intimate relationships with people I love and care about

For these things and many more, I am profoundly grateful.

May your 2017 be filled with meaningful work and relationships, may you experience all good things, and may your loftiest dreams come true.

Happy New Year.

Sleeping with the Enemy

A very personal and political piece posted this week on WritersResist.com, a little out of the ordinary for me, but the times are anything but:

I have been sleeping with the enemy for more than two years. Rob is a Republican. But on the morning after the election, he held me close as I sobbed and promised, “It will be okay.”

He promised. But he doesn’t know. And nothing that has happened since that morning has made either of us feel better....(continue reading)