Small Great Things

Recently, I received a text message from an estranged family member that rocked me to my core.  Who it was from and what it said isn’t important, what is important is that the reason that it rocked me to my core was because the words had such blatant racism and hate that it made me physically sick to my stomach. Then, a less than a week later someone I follow on Instagram posted a racial photo, the caption was laughing emojis.  I thought about it for a few minutes while I was internally raging and then decided to post a comment that read “what about this is funny”?  The reply was bogus and I called her out on it saying that the post was rude and racist.  It was removed shortly thereafter and I no longer follow this account.

If you’re a reader of this blog you know that I live in Key West, FL; one of the most diverse and accepting communities in the United States and racism and hatred is not tolerated here.  They say when you move to South Florida your blood thins and you can no longer tolerate the frozen temperatures of the north (and by that I mean anything under 70 degrees!).  For me, my blood isn’t the only thing that has thinned, my patience for ignorance has thinned as well.  After I received that message I called my best friend in tears and shock.  How could someone who I am related to think this way and further more what gave them the right to insert their hatred into my day?  After a pep talk she told me about a book she read over the summer by Jodi Picoult called Small Great Things and suggested I read it because it gave some interesting perspective into the world of privilege and racism.  I downloaded it to my kindle and couldn’t put it down.

jodi picoult

The Washington Post pretty much sums up my thoughts on the book:

SMALL GREAT THINGS is the most important novel Jodi Picoult has ever written. Frank, uncomfortably introspective and right on the day’s headlines, it will challenge her readers…The difficult self-awareness is what sustains this book…forcing engaged readers to meditate on their own beliefs and actions along with these characters….It’s also exciting to have a high-profile writer like Picoult take an earnest risk to expand our cultural conversation about race and prejudice.

Anytime I read a book highlighting ensues; normally it’s for my own perusal but I feel compelled to share them with my readers because each highlight really made me stop and think.

My highlights:

I am, indeed, the sum of all the experiences and relationships throughout my life.  I can trace every belief, behavior, thought and characteristic I possess back to something or someone in my past.  But I’m not defined by those things, I’m defined by the impact I have on the lives of other people.

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outrages as those who are – Benjamin Franklin

…really to make her see with her own eyes how love has nothing to do with what you’re looking at, and everything to do with who’s looking.

I understand the need people have to put a certain face on for the rest of the world.

Corinne is one of those people for whom life is just the space between crises.

Anger, it turns out, is a renewable source of fuel.

I spent a year being dulled at all my bright edges, which devastated Mama.

I sat with my hands in my lap, because I knew that sometimes when people spoke it wasn’t because they had something important to say.  It was because they had a powerful need for someone to listen.

And yet, in spite of the fact that he’s grown up with every privilege possible, nothing is ever quite good enough.

If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

…the first freedom you lose in prison is privacy, the second is dignity.

It is amazing how you can look in a mirror your whole life and think you are seeing yourself clearly.  And then one day, you peel off a filmy gray layer of hypocrisy, and you realize you’ve never truly seen yourself at all.

What if the reason I have been so quick to dismiss the racial elements of Ruth’s case is not because our legal system can’t bear that load, but because I was born into a family where black jokes were as much of a holiday tradition as my grandmother’s bone china and sausage stuffing?

That was the start.  It was so much easier to hate them, than to hate myself.

How many exceptions do there have to be before you start to realize that maybe the truths you’ve been told aren’t actually true?

Freedom is the fragile neck of a daffodil, after the longest of winters.  It’s the sound of your voice, without anyone drowning you out.  It’s having the grace to say yes and more important the right to say no.  At the heart of freedom, hope beats: a pulse of possibility.

People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. -Nelson Mandela

…there is nothing more selfish than trying to change someone’s mind because they don’t think like you.  Just because something is different does not mean it should not be respected.

I am an avid reader and this book is the best I’ve read this year.  It challenged me in so many ways and really made me take a harder look at the reality of the world we live in.  While I know that I myself cannot end the hatred and racism that is experienced daily what I can do is work to eradicate it from my own world in small great ways.  As my guru Gabby Bernstein says, “peace begins with me”.  I’d encourage anyone and everyone to pick up this book and put it on your reading list and if you see something say something.  Choose to be kind.   Choose love.  No excuses.

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