For a couple of years I have eaten every meal at home. Lots of people have done the same, staying safe from exposure to our very own world-wide pandemic. So when I was invited a couple of months ago to attend a potluck supper, I said, "sure." But truly not believing that type of gathering would ever really happen again, perhaps not in my lifetime.
As the weeks have passed, the vale has been lifting and the day arrived and I marched right in, as if nothing could have been more common than to go see what the folks who attended might have thought to bring to add to the long table for us all to share for dinner.
The invitation came formally to not only attend but also be the guest speaker. With it coming from both Sharon and Judge Douthitt, I knew agreeing to come would have been understood on both our parts. Since who could have turned them down?
Having not had a speaking engagement in so long, I simply picked up some of this and some of that from the LEAD Agency office and slipped it all into a bag, while also remembering to bring our membership application forms.
Along with the invitation was a slick brochure about the P.O.T.L.U.C.K. Society which meets monthly in Claremore. Think about the name which stands for: People Out to Learn Using Care and Kindness. Their mission statement: Bringing people together in heart and mind to love and support those in need, to educate all ages in both Native and American history, and to value one another's existence as sacred.
The challenge is there. Regular people put their heads together and created their own nonprofit 501c 3 charitable organization and have found ways to keep learning while also being kind.
Lots of time when talking about what LEAD Agency does and hopes to achieve for Tar Creek and our damaged environment, it is easy to be cynical, and critical about the slow nature of the cleanup, to express anger and doubt about the governmental agencies direction and question the speed of the work they are doing.
The challenge was to attempt to keep on message but to do that while using care and kindness. It got easier with the kind introduction Judge Douthitt gave me, easier again when looking over to see my long time friend, Sharon Douthitt, who had been teaching all those years ago with me at Will Rogers Junior High School. Jon had grown up in Cardin and had started school at the elementary school, Mineral Heights. His stories of his youth were filled with classic Picher-isms, saying that describing his hometown to his college classmates was often hard to do. How swimming in sinkholes and sliding down chat piles were common to him while always wondering how he made it when so many others did not.
What I was able to do, again as kindly as possible, was to explain how the difficulty teaching in our schools around here can be, how challenging to teachers, especially those new to the profession. When Sharon started teaching English to 7th graders, some were, probably at that time, perhaps 1/3 of her class might have been suffering from lead poisoning. Many exhibited learning disabilities, or acted out, found sitting still in their chairs even difficult, and staying focused all hour almost impossible. As I described the symptoms of lead poisoning, I was describing Sharon's English class. Generations of children have been lead poisoned in Ottawa County and that is exactly why EPA is spending millions of dollars every year to remove the source material so less of it will be able to poison any more children.
The POTLUCK Society was an inspiration and a challenge. LEAD Agency has taken on heralding our issues and will continue to do this. Actually we will be conducting surveys soon of the neighborhoods who have been flooded in the past. There are many, too many. But surely enough that they may, by connecting even find a need to form a wing to LEAD Agency or organize an entity to give voice to their great needs.
But think of how many others could band together and begin organizing societies to be together, thinking, learning, exploring the questions they have about life and how on earth we treat each other and the earth we all depend upon, walk upon, and the water that provides life to us all.
Man seeketh in society comfort, use, and protection. FRANCIS BACON