The Great Divide

A grainy photo of a child,

a beloved grandmother.

Survivor of the Holocaust.

Deceased.  God spared her

from witnessing the hatred

that has gripped the nation–

the country that she had

called home for so many

years.

 

It was the same kind of hate

which had invaded, occupied

her country and imprisoned

her and over 400,000 Jews

in the Warsaw Ghetto.  Taken

from their homes, they were

forced to live in an area cut

off from the world, topped

with barbed wire.  It was soon

decimated by outbreaks of

infectious diseases, mass hunger

and regular executions.

 

Then in the summer of 1942,

she and her family were among

the 254,000 residents of the Ghetto

who were sent to the Treblinka

Extermination Camp.

 

Tears spilled down her cheeks

as she remembered the horrors

her grandmother described to

her when she was in the camp.

She and her father were together.

Men were told to go to the right

and the women to the left.  She

never saw her parents or little

brother again.  They were

taken straight to the gas chamber.

 

Today, the same hate that had

driven Hitler and those who

shared his ideology has reared

its ugly head and was revealed

to the entire world in the VICE

video of the rally in Charlottes-

ville, Virginia.  The sight of

the burning torches and the

“Jews will not replace us”

and “Blood and soil” chants

filled her with disgust. And

the president’s failure to

lead was dangerous and

may lead to disastrous

consequences of the United

States and the world at large.

 

It was her hope and prayer

that the people of America

would do something about the

great racial divide before things

escalate even further.

 

woman with grandmother

Sources:  Wikipedia;  CNN

The Photo Shoot

She had photographed many men but this one took the cake.  This was her first trip to Scotland for a photo shoot for the fashion magazine she worked for.  She had never seen a man in a kilt before but this guy looked incredible in the traditional garb.  He wore it extremely well.  And those smoldering eyes and rugged looks didn’t hurt.

She willed herself to remain professional and just do the job at hand.  However, she couldn’t help wishing that she could exchange places with the glamorous woman standing beside him.  Perhaps, she could ask the woman to take a photo of her with him after the shoot and…

Don’t be silly, she chided herself.  You are here to do a job.  Just do it.  

She continued clicking away and was relieved when it was over.  She was packing up her gear when he joined her.  She tried not to give away the fact that she was as nervous as a schoolgirl with a crush and smiled sedately.

“Callum,” he said with that Scottish lilt that was as disarming as his smile.

She held out her hand.  “Holly.”  He clasped it in firm but warm handshake.  She felt a bolt of electricity course through her body.  Their eyes met and held for what seemed like eternity.  He was holding her hand a lot longer than was necessary, not that she minded, of course, but she could feel her face grow hot.  He seemed to realize it too and released her hand, almost apologetically.

“Is this your first time in Edinburgh?” he asked, after clearing his throat.

“It’s my first time in Scotland.”

“How long are you here for?”

“I’m here for another two weeks.  I’m here for the International Fashion Festival and after that I’m off to Glasgow to check out the boutiques.  Then it’s back to London.”

“If you’re not busy tomorrow, I’d like to take you out for lunch and then on a tour around the city.”

She couldn’t believe it.  He wanted to take her out to lunch and show her around Edinburgh.  “I’d like that,” she said.  “I’ll get a chance to try your national dish.”

He laughed.   “I’ll take you to best place where they serve Haggis,” he promised.

“It’s a deal.”  Not only was he handsome but he was really friendly and easygoing.  She felt very relaxed with him and was looking forward to seeing him the next day.  She wrote down the name of the hotel where she was staying and handed it to him.  “Bye.”

“See you tomorrow, Holly.”  Oh, how good her name sounded in the Scottish accent, she thought as she walked away.  She made a mental note to thank Margo for assigning her to the photo shoot here in Scotland instead to the one in Paris.

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Sources:  Culture Trip; Edinburgh International Fashion Festival

The First Lunch Date

The moment he walked into the shop, she knew it was him.  She had caught a whiff of his cologne which mingled with the fragrance of the flowers.  She remembered the fragrance well and how it lingered long after he left the shop.  And here he was again, making her intensely aware of him.  She pretended to be busy, making notes of the pad.  He had been coming to her shop for a little over a year now.  He worked not far from there.  Sometimes, at lunch time, she passed Royal Courts of Justice, her eyes searching the grey, Victorian Gothic façade of the building, wondering behind which of the windows was his office.   As she walked by the front, she hoped to catch a glimpse of him coming out.

He greeted her and she responded, still not looking up.  She expected him to walk to the back of the shop to look at the flowers as he usually did.  This time, he paused at the counter where she was and she had to look up.  She found herself staring into those incredible grey eyes and her heart seemed to stop.  He was easily one of the most attractive men she had ever seen.  The grey suit he wore accentuated his eyes and his thick black hair was slightly tousled from the gentle summer breeze.

It was lunch time.  A bit early for him to be coming by.  He usually came in the afternoon.

“Are you busy?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “Not at the moment.”

“I was wondering if you would have lunch with me.”

She stared at him.  “Lunch with you?” she repeated, just to make sure she heard correctly.

He nodded.  “Yes.”  His expression told her that he was very serious.  “I wanted to ask you for a long time but just never got around to it until now.”

“Excuse me, I will go and speak to Amanda.”  Amanda was her assistant.  She went to the office where Amanda was going through receipts.  “Amanda, you’re not going to believe this.”

Amanda looked up, curious.  “What?”

“Logan Newman asked me to have lunch with him.”

Amanda laughed.  “He finally got around to it.  Good for him.”

She stared at her assistant.  “What do you mean?”

“Come on, Jada.  You must have seen the way he looks at you every time he’s in the shop.”

“I didn’t think he would notice me.”

“Why not?  And don’t give me that foolishness about your skin color or that you wear glasses.”

Jada removed her apron and went to the washroom to freshen up.  “How do I look?” she asked.

“You look great.  Now go and enjoy your first lunch date with grey eyes.  Take your time.  I can handle things here.”

Jada smiled.  “Thanks, Amanda.”

“I want details when you come back,” Amanda said before returning to the receipts.

Jada went to the front the shop where Logan was with his back towards her as he looked out at the street.  He turned when he heard her coming and smiled.  “Thanks for agreeing to have lunch with me at such short notice.”

“Thank you for asking me.”

“What do you feel in the mood for?”

“Thai.”

“Thai it is.”  He held the door open for her and she stepped out into the sunshine.  Hopefully, Amanda was right and this was the first of many lunch dates.

black woman in flower shop.jpg

Source:  Wikipedia

The Ball

A picture of total calm, she sat there,

watching the people enter the ballroom.

She had the advantage of facing the

entrance.  Demure in her new white

dress, her black hair swept back from

with several curls framing her face,

she received admiring glances from

the gentlemen but she was oblivious.

Her eyes intermittingly taking pause

to regard the beautiful dresses, would turn

irresistibly toward the entrance, looking for

the appearance of a particular gentleman.

 

Philip Moore was one of the most eligible

bachelors in London.  She and he first met

at a dinner party.  He sat beside her which

made her very nervous.  He did most of the

talking because she was so shy and in-

accustomed to socializing with such an

arresting gentleman.

 

After the dinner the men remained in the dining-

room where they were served coffee while the

ladies went to the drawing-room.   She saw him

when he came to bid the ladies goodnight.

His eyes seem to linger on her face as he bowed

“Good night, Miss Parker.”

 

“Good night, Mr. Moore.”

 

That night she lay awake for a long while, thinking

about him.  They saw each other at several other

functions and he would speak to her, getting her

to open up, overcome her shyness.

 

Tonight she was going to see him.  She appeared

composed on the outside but there were butterflies in

her stomach.  Her heart lurched when he suddenly materialized.

Eagerly, she sat forward in her seat, watching as he exchanged

civilities with the host and hostess.  But, then the smile on her face

faded when she saw that he was not alone.

 

Her gaze shifted to the young lady standing beside him.  She was

tall and slender.  Her auburn hair was pulled in a bow and cascaded

in curls at her nape.

 

Amy watched her, wondering who she was when

she saw she look in her direction.  With a start,

she realized that they were heading her way.  Heart

thudding, nerves rattled, she didn’t know what to

do.  She wanted to get up and run out of there but

her legs seemed to freeze up on her.

 

“Miss Parker,” Philip greeted her, his eyes riveted on

her face.  “As soon as I saw you, I had to bring Georgiana

over to meet you.”

 

Georgiana smiled at her.  “Hello Miss Parker,” She said,

extending a gloved hand to Amy.  “It’s nice to meet you.

My brother has told me so much about you.”

 

Amy looked at her.  “Your brother?”

 

“Yes, Philip is my older and dear brother.”

 

Feeling tremendously relieved, Amy stood up and

took the extended hand.  “It’s a pleasure to meet

you, Miss Moore.”

 

“You must come and have tea with me one

afternoon,” Georgiana said.  “Philip, I will leave

you with Miss Parker while I go and say hello

to a dear friend.  Excuse me.”

 

Once they were alone, Philip turned to Amy.

“You look very beautiful tonight, Miss Parker,” he

said, his gaze steady and holding hers, making her

blush.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Shall I have the pleasure of dancing with you this evening?”

 

“Yes.”  If I had my way, I would reserve every dance for you.

 

“Come, let us join the festivities.”  He held out his arm and

smiling happily, she took it and allowed him to escort her

to the ballroom.

 

young Victorian woman in whitejpg

Sources:  Angelpig; Geri Walton; British Baby Names; Victoriana Magazine

Compassion

Shortly after Jesus told the Pharisees that God desired mercy not sacrifice, He went into the synagogue.  There was a man with a withered hand.  Instead of being stirred with pity for him, the religious leaders asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” so that they could accuse Him.  Whenever they engaged in dialogue with Him, it was never to learn from His teachings.  It was always to challenge Him and find reasons to accuse Him of being a Sinner.

It must have grieved Jesus to see the lack of compassion among men who considered themselves to be holy and righteous and children of God.  When He looked at them, He saw hypocrites.  And He addressed it.  “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Then how much better is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

He told the man to stretch out his hand and He restored it whole like the other.   The Pharisees were angry and they left, plotting how they would kill Him.  They failed to see that the Sabbath was not just a day of rest but it was an opportunity for helping people.  They had turned God’s holy day into a day of dos and don’ts.  Jesus showed them that there was a different type of work to be done on the Sabbath.  It was community work–reaching out to the needy and the sick.  He showed them that if it was lawful for one of them to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath, then it should be lawful for a man to be healed.  A human was of greater value in the eyes of God than an animal.

This man was in the synagogue and he had a need.  Jesus saw it and addressed it.  Are there people in our church like this man who has an obvious need but like the Pharisees we see it but will do nothing about it?  Do we resent those who reach out in love and compassion to this person in need?  Do we grumble and complain?  Would God be happy to accept our worship or our offerings when we are not generous toward that person in our midst?  Jesus brought joy to the man.  He brought healing and wholeness and showed him that the God he worshipped cared about him.

Just as Jesus valued this man, we should value those around us.  Sabbath-keeping does not mean that we should ignore the needs of those around us.  The Sabbath is for doing what is good and showing the love of God for His creation.  When we do what is lawful on the Sabbath, we are honoring God.

Mental Health Crisis in India

More than 50 million people in India suffer from a mental illness.  In 2011, India recorded the highest rate of major depression in the world at 36 per cent.  According to doctors, roughly 10 per cent of India’s population suffers from depression – MGMH

 

Women with mental illness are treated as less than human.  They are dumped, abandoned and abused.  If there are any signs of mental illness, a woman is put in a mental hospital with no chance of getting out.  Men can go back home while women are there for life.  In the following video, we meet a woman whose husband had her institutionalized although she had no history of mental illness.  Here’s a story of a mentally ill woman whose husband built a case against her so that he could get custody of their children after divorcing her.

It is not surprising that women suffer from depression at higher rates than men.  They have to deal with gender inequality, violence, lack of paid employment, lack of education, excessive spousal alcohol use and poverty.  Mothers are blamed for the birth of a female child and many face pressure to have male children.  Women are diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life, oftentimes, following the birth of their children.  The children are often removed from the ill mother’s care and this results in further distress for her. Indian women have higher rates of suicide than women in most developed countries and a higher rate of suicide compared to men in India.  Depression is one of the most common reasons for suicide among Indian women.

Mental health in India carries with it a stigma, especially if the person suffering from mental illness is a woman.  According to MGMH (Movement for Global Mental Health), in rural India, it is common to see people taking their children to temples and faith-healers instead of hospitals and doctors, especially in cases of mental health.  Mental health was something that was talked about in hushed tones.  Thankfully, it is no longer being swept under the rug.  People are coming forward.  Deepika Padukone stunned her fans last year when she admitted that she suffered from anxiety and depression.

At the time the news broke, she was one of the most sought after actresses in Bollywood. It took tremendous courage for her to disclose her illness, especially since people diagnosed with mental illness face discrimination.  Deepika has since launched the Live Love Laugh Foundation to raise awareness about mental health issues and as a result many celebrities were inspired to come out in the open and address the need to talk about mental health.  Varun Dhawan admitted that he was depressed during the making of Badlapur and Honey Singh revealed that he has been undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder.

Sadly, those living with mental illness are victims of a cruel fate.  They are often locked away and stripped of their basic human rights in state-run institutions that are under-staffed. In an article, titled Mentally Ill Suffer a Horrible Fate in India posted on the site for Deutsche Welle (DW), most state run mental hospitals are in deplorable conditions. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that out of the 43 government mental hospitals in India, less than half a dozen are in a “livable” condition”.

There are doctors in charge of these hospitals who have no business being there.  “These doctors don’t understand the intricacies of a psychiatric illnesses and the comprehensive care the patients require,” said a psychiatrist working in a state-run mental hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

And in the midst of the crisis of hospitals not providing the conditions and care the patients need, are quack healers who are profiting from this.  According to a study by Dr. Shiv Gautam, former superintendent of Jaipur Mental Hospital, 68 per cent of the mentally ill are taken to faith healers before a psychiatrist.  “The reason, besides superstition, is that most general medicine doctors fail to diagnose psychiatric illness,” Gautam said. “A mentally ill patient displays symptoms which superstitious people believe are paranormal,” he added. “Such patients are tortured, chained and used for extracting money from their families.”  Hema, who was suffering from Schizophrenia was believed to have an evil spirit.  Her family took her to Datar Sharif Dargah where she spent a year locked up.  It wasn’t until her condition deteriorated that she was brought to Dr. Gautam.  In 15 days, she began to improve and a month later she was normal.

In other cases, the mentally ill are subjected to one of these horrific ordeals:  whipping, caning, inhaling burnt chili smoke, having their eyes smeared with chili paste or having their eyes branded with red, hot coins.  There are laws banning this practice, however, many dargahs and temples keep the patients chained.  Some of them spend the rest of their lives like this.  In 2001, 26 patients perished in a fire at a dargah in a coastal village because they couldn’t escape the blaze since they were chained.  What a horrific and senseless tragedy.

Families of mentally ill people opt for dumping them.  This means that they are dumped into an asylum where the conditions are not fit for a human.  When an illegal asylum was raided, they found thirty-five men and six boys living in inhuman conditions.  The stench from their unwashed bodies and the excrement drove neighbors to alert the health department.  Naked and chained inmates were discovered, dumped there by their families after they paid the asylum owner.  Some of these poor souls were found crawling in their excrement, some even consuming it.  On their bodies were marks of torture.  Some had surgical scars on their backs, leading to allegations that the asylum had links to kidney theft.  78 patients had entered the asylum but only 41 were found during the raid.

Other patients are dumped in jungles or forests ranges.  Their families pay lorry drivers to drop them.  Women and children are among these victims and in some cases, the females are raped by the drivers before being dumped.  Social activist Murugan S. who has rescued countless mentally ill people from the streets, cautions us not to judge the families by calling them cruel.  Instead we are to examine what forced them to take such extreme measures.  He believes that system needs to change.

Part of the solution is raising awareness.  The suffering of the mentally ill has been brought to our attention. It is out in the open.  The next thing that needs to be done is to show the superstitious and fearful society that mental illness is nothing to run away from or to be ashamed of.  The person suffering from mental illness needs love, support and most importantly, proper care so that he or she can live a normal life.

The government needs to put something place to ensure that patients are placed in reputable, sanitary facilities that will provide the care that they need and to ban the operation of illegal asylums and the practice of dumping.  Quack healers should be banned from profiting from other people’s suffering.  Husbands should not be allowed to institutionalize their wives if there is no record that they have mental illness.

No one wants to be mentally ill but it is a reality for many people and what they need is to know that they have a platform where they can talk about what is happening with them. Here in Canada, we have Bell Let’s Talk, a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across the country. It has done so much to fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage people to get involved in educating themselves and others.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that something will be put in place in India so that attitudes toward mental illness would change and those suffering from it will have a platform where they would not be judged, dumped, abandoned or discriminated but supported and be treated with dignity and open minds.  In the meantime, let’s keep talking and raising awareness.

Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness – Bell, Let’s Talk

 

Sources:  Vice News; Movement of Global Mental Health; Wikipedia; Deutsche Welle

Sojourner Truth

Empowered by her religious faith, the former slave worked tirelessly for many years to transform national attitudes and institutions. According to Nell Painter, Princeton professor and Truth biographer, “No other woman who had gone through the ordeal of slavery managed to survive with sufficient strength, poise and self-confidence to become a public presence over the long term.”
(Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, page 4)

In celebration of Black History Month, Notes to Women salutes Sojourner Truth, a devout Christian, abolitionist and Women’s Rights activist.  She was reputed to be the most famous African American woman in America in the 19th century.

For over forty years she traveled around the country, passionately and forcefully speaking for the abolition of slavery, women’s rights and suffrage, the rights of freedmen, temperance, prison reform and the termination of capital punishment.  She changed her name from Isabella to Sojourner Truth, a seeker after truth, becoming a traveling itinerant preacher so that she could tell the truth and crusade against injustice.  She was not intimidated by convention or authority.  She was known for her sense of humour which she used to squash self-righteousness.  She once derided some of the women social activists who wore frivolous clothing, saying to them, “What kind of reformers be you, with goose-wings on your heads, as if you were going to fly, and dressed in such ridiculous fashion, talking about reform and women’s rights?” (Narrative, Book of Life, p.243).

She made her most famous address, Ain’t I a Woman at a Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio where she asserted that women deserved equal rights with men because they were as equally as capable as men.  She testified, “I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and moved, and can any man do more than that?”  She concluded her speech saying, “And how came Jesus into the world?  Through God who created Him and the woman who bore Him.  Man, where was your part?” (Anti-Slavery Bugle, June, 1851).

Watch this video of this remarkable woman.

We celebrate the “world’s oldest lecturer” who, as a woman of faith could not keep silent when those created in God’s image were denied their human rights and equality.  Her memory lives on in the many local memorials and tributes established in her honor in Battle Creek.  In 1997, a year long celebration marked the 200th anniversary of Sojourner’s birth.  One day was not enough to celebrate this special lady.  She has left behind a legacy survival, strength, courage and the passion to transform attitudes and and institutions.  She inspires us to speak out against injustice, inequality and oppression and to stand up for truth and to act instead of talk.

If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.

Truth is powerful and it prevails.

Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff.

“Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other?” (Sabbath School Convention, Battle Creek, June 1863)

Sources: YouTube;  Sojourner Truth; Brainy Quotes