Friday, May 21, 2010

The Civic Soapbox essays have moved . . .

They will now proudly be posted every Friday on the WMRA blog, which seems to get much more traffic. It's, hopefully, a way to get these fine listener essays more readers!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Turning into our Mothers by Diane Farineau

“I’m turning into my mother!” my friend exclaimed, a few weeks ago on one of our long Sunday runs. She had just been talking about something she’d said to her son. We laughed and rolled our eyes in unison. Our mothers come up a lot during these run. It seems we are both actively turning into them.

A few mornings later, I was out early watering plants before I left for the day. As I dragged the hose around the garden I was conscious of the silence, the calm, the sense of peace. My children were asleep, and there’s nothing wrong yet. Everything was as it should be. I was at one with my yard, my planet. But then I realized we were not alone, Mother Nature and I. There was another mother present, my own. I remembered her doing this when I was a child, being up, out in the garden and back in again before my brothers, sister and I ever woke.

As I stood in the soft loam and dewy grass, I realized that I have indeed become my mother. It wasn’t just this gardening piece, it was other things….big things like my need for order, my desire to make things right. It was little things, like planning and making lists and even the running, which she too, took up later in life.
What is it about becoming our mothers that makes us roll our eyes? Even though I’ve long since shed my awkward teenage years, when for example, my mother had routinely been right in pointing out that the outfit I’d selected was going to turn out to be inappropriate, she still, to this day, has the power to reduce me to uncertainty with just a look. And she still OFTEN knows what is best for me.

Standing there in my yard, it hit me hard that becoming my mother was actually a blessing. I have been fortunate to have her by my side, even when at a distance, for 45 years. I have incorporated her wisdom, her habits, her quirks, her loves – even her dislikes—into the fabric of my own being. I could suddenly see from this vantage point that my mother’s life has been a trail of trinkets, dropped along the path for me to gather, and if I could, keep.

Someday my mother will be gone, which scares me because I think I will not, possibly, be able to function without her physical presence in my life. And yet, I realized that she cannot ever leave me completely because she is now a part of me. I am becoming my mother and I will never again roll my eyes when that thought comes to me. Because I know now that this what will keep me from coming apart at the seams when she is no longer able to walk through the garden with me.

                              --Diane Farineau is a writer living in Charlottesville

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Springfest vs. Volunteerism by Mike Grundmann

When the Springfest riot broke out in Harrisonburg on April 10, the opposite kind of activity was going on across town, and JMU students were at the center of both. Dozens of students were helping with the annual Blacks Run cleanup, where almost 3 tons of trash were collected.

The nest day 35 members of the JMU swim club helped the city clean up the Springfest garbage the next day.

There have been plenty of shame-on-yous leveled by JMU community members after Springfest: President Rose and a professor both wrote a scalding letters to the student newspaper, The Breeze, and at least two students wrote confessional pieces. Dozens of readers added their comments. The Breeze also probed the riot’s causes in a piece on mob psychology.

The following week, a group of students spontaneously formed to start patching up relations with the city and offer volunteer work. The group members are talking with city leaders so its volunteer efforts can be meaningful.

I’m the Breeze faculty adviser, so pardon me if I cite a few stories just from this semester, which prove the altruism permeating the student body. After the Haitian earthquake, a group struggled desperately to reach its $30,000 fundraising goal. A 25-hour basketball game raised money for orphans in Mozambique as well as the local Boys and Girls Clubs (one organizer played for 18 hours). An airplane-pulling contest raised money for a city mediation center. The women’s lacrosse team served a Sunday meal at the Salvation Army. The annual Relay for Life, a cancer-benefit walk that’s an overnighter, drew about 2,000 people and raised more than $150,000.

Just using examples from my own journalism classes this semester, one student spent spring break helping the homeless in Nashville, and another helped build a shelter for homeless teen girls in Belize.

It’s not just volunteer hours that JMU students contribute. The university is also a lab for the kinds of technology that will save the world. One student in 2008 invented a new type of concrete mixer that will raise the standard of living in a Ugandan village. An electric motorcycle that students built has set a speed record. Students are also designing bicycles that disabled people can ride. Others are experimenting with nanotechnology, which will produce eventual wonders in medicine, manufacturing and space travel. There’s a lab with printers, quote-unquote, that make 3-D objects; the prediction is that we’ll all have such printers at home in 10 years. And, from the president on down, there’s a major push to minimize waste in energy and materials. JMU just won a governor’s award for that

I’m continually impressed by how many of my students list activity or office-holding positions on campus, the vast majority of them service-oriented.

Did some of these same students also attend Springfest? Yes. Did they throw bottles? I don’t know, but I doubt it.

I’m not saying all this because I’m the booster type. I’m a journalist by training, and you know how skeptical we can be. I’m doing this because the Springfest riot really surprised me, and I wanted you to know why I was surprised.

    -- Mike Grundmann teaches journalism at J.M.U. and advises the Breeze, the student newspaper.


About Me

I write for lots of different venues, so this blog provides links to those places. Plus, occasionally, stuff that appears no where else . . .