Make Waves

Waves.jpgWhen the waves of life crash down on you, pick yourself up, get ready for the next one, and ride it like you own it!!!

I’ve enjoyed living only fifty miles or so from the beach for all of my life. While Galveston Island, Texas doesn’t compare to the grandeur of Destin, Florida or La Jolla, California it has definitely been adequate enough to bring me decades of pleasure. When I was still a young girl there was hardly any adventure that I enjoyed more than riding the waves of Galveston Bay. I loved how the water would lift me off of my feet and propel me in directions over which I had no control. The laws of physics created a ride that made me squeal with delight and I would spend literally hours repeating the process of floating and bobbing like a piece of driftwood over and over again until my mother demanded that I come back to shore lest the sun blister and burn my skin.

There is something liberating about freeing ourselves from the constraints of gravity and just letting go. When we allow ourselves to be one with the waves of the ocean we become part of a great cosmic ritual that ties us to the universe. It is a primal pleasure that gives us both a sense of our own power and the reality that we are but a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things. Somehow our worries and cares don’t seem to matter as much when we surrender to the surge of water that washes over us. We learn that thrashing and fighting against the tide may cause us harm, but simply floating and enjoying the ride will provide us with a rush of pleasure and happiness. Life is so much like that. There are things that happen to us that we can command and others over which we have little or no control. Knowing the difference will help us to lead much more joy filled lives.

A couple of weeks ago the skies darkened to a leaden gray as we finished our dinner outside on our patio. Within minutes the wind was gusting at fifty miles per hour. Our phones warned us to find shelter because tornadoes had been spotted in the area. Rain came crashing down on our roof. We were lucky. The storm blew over almost as quickly as it had come, but not far down the road it was a different story. Most of the community was left without power. Eighteen wheeler trucks had been blown on their sides. Trees were down and shingles from roofs littered the ground. The people were left with great damage and a terrible mess that needed cleaning up. They had been blasted by one of those waves of horrible luck that none of us ever want to face. By morning they were calmly doing what we all have to do in such circumstances, assessing the damage and planning the repairs. In other words, they bravely carried on.

It is in our natures to take on the blows of the outrageous fortunes that knock us off of our bearings. Somehow we find the courage to get back up and do our best to take charge again and again. We find silver linings even in the middle of storms. Whether it be losing possessions or people that we love, we bear our sorrows and eventually find our way back to seeing the best in our lives.

I have often thought about the tragic souls who were sent to the Nazi concentration camps. I can think of no more hellish situation than the one that they endured. They witnessed horrors that nobody should ever see. Many of them managed to stay alive and be freed only to find that their entire families had been murdered. It seems impossible that any of those people might have been able to go on to lead happy and productive lives, and yet most of them did. They managed to find a slice of normalcy and perhaps to celebrate the rising of the sun each morning in a way that none of us might ever understand. When all but your own beating heart has been stripped from you, maybe you develop a defiant courage and a realization of what is most important. Freedom becomes a treasure and you squeeze everything you can out of it.

At the beach there are also moments of low tide when the ocean is almost placid. It’s not nearly as much fun as when the waves are roaring, but there is a remedy for the lack of action. That is when you must make your own waves by kicking and stirring up the water with your hands. It takes a great deal of effort and energy to make things happen, but it can be done. So too are there moments when we somehow know that it is up to us to speak out in the name of all that is right and just. We can’t simply sit on the sidelines waiting.

My generation had a reputation for being trouble makers. We prefer to think that we were more like change makers. We spoke out against long accepted policies that had become the status quo. We had grown up in the shadow of segregation even while our minds told us that it was wrong. We watched our peers being sent to a questionable war and we began to ask why. We made waves and changes slowly began to take place.

We are in a new era with new problems. The wave makers are still at work and that is not a bad thing. It is from those willing to kick up a froth that we often realize the reforms that we must all make, and history is replete with individuals who were willing to take action. Galileo certainly whipped up a frenzy. Harriet Tubman risked her own safety and freedom. Today various people and groups also ask us to consider new ideas and ways of living. We don’t have to agree with them, but we should respect their courage in speaking out, for ours is a nation founded on the idea of providing everyone with the freedom to voice their concerns. It’s important that we protect that right with all of our might.

I’ve gotten myself into a bit of trouble now and again by standing up for my fellow workers or particular students. Some of my superiors have not appreciated my boldness, but others have seen my willingness to make waves as a sign of leadership. They understood that my goal was not to defy them, but to introduce them to slightly different points of view that needed to be heard. I did not always get their approval but I  usually won their respect.

The whistleblowers and protesters, editorialists and reformers are important to our progress as a nation. Any organization that does not have those who are willing to push back when things don’t seem quite right is doomed to failure. We need to hear all of the opposing philosophies. The day that we all walk in tandem and total agreement is the day that our way of life is on the verge of collapse. It’s up to each of us to know when it’s time to speak out and when we must kick as hard as we can to make waves.

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