Sunday, April 19, 2015

It's the right thing

As the bumper sticker says: "I wasn't born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could." The end of World War II trapped my parents in upstate New York where my dad, a chaplain's assistant, moved the paperwork to separate other veterans from the armed service. While both my brothers enjoy native son status, I'm a Yankee interloper, but it isn't my fault--my mother, who couldn't wait in Texas any longer and joined my dad outside Rome, New York, gave birth to me in a military hospital on base. Shortly thereafter, we were Texas bound, and I've never called anywhere else home.

I'm thinking about the historical context of my birth because the 84th regular session of the Texas Legislature is thinking about repealing the Texas D.R.E.A.M. Act, a law that permits children whose parents brought them into Texas illegally--mostly Mexican children, but not all--and who graduate from a Texas high school and desire to become US citizens may attend Texas public colleges and universities for in-state tuition. It's a fair law, in my opinion, for grown children who grew up in Texas and plan to live, work, and raise families here--unless they are forced out.

It seems to me the Legislature is being short-sighted in wanting to repeal the law.

My generation is nearing retirement at record rates. Every single day 10,000 additional citizens turn 65 and will continue to do so for the next 6,935 days (19 years)! None of them are having babies. But they are coming to Texas for the warm climate, affordable housing, and low taxes.  It makes good sense to educate the young adults who are here, giving them the workforce skills and encouragement to build a better Texas. Otherwise, I fear we will lack the labor force to meet the needs of an aging population.

We could argue that this is in the best interest and welfare of "undocumented residents," or interlopers, if you will. But let's be pragmatic: the real deal-sealer is that it is in our self-interest to educate the younger generation within our state lines.

And, for the record, let's be clear: they're not getting  free college education--they're just getting a price break.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Legend of the Bluebonnets

Blankets of bluebonnets threaded with colorful Indian paintbrushes, winecups, and lemonmint are popping in the wind today. God and the Texas Department of Transportation have covered the roadsides, especially from Washington-on-the-Brazos to Chappell Hill. As always, I am reminded of the legend of the bluebonnet.

When I was five, a babysitter told me the tale of the drought on the High Plains and how a young Comanche girl's sacrifice brought the bluebonnet to Texas. Do you know the story? Actually, like most legends, there are many versions around. This is the one I was told:

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in the High Plains of Texas, Comanche lived and hunted buffalo. But one summer, the buffalo did not come because there had been no rain to water the wild grasses. In fact, it had not rained for many moons, and the people in the village were worried. And very thirsty.

The shaman told the people that they needed to make sacrifices to the Great Spirit so he would bring the rain. A big bonfire was made in the center of the village and the tribe, one by one, offered up possessions--buffalo blankets, silver jewelry, clay pottery, flint spears and arrows.

But still the rain did not come.

The shaman told the people that their sacrifice had to be great, that they had to sacrifice what they prized the most to the Great Spirit. The people went back into their tepees and slowly began to uncover their greatest treasures to bring to the fire.

Still, the rain did not come.

In the village was a small girl. She was an orphan who had only one tiny possession of her own. It was a doll made from an old corn cob wrapped in a dusty rag with a single bluejay feather hanging from its head. It was nothing really, especially when compared to the wealth the other tribe members were bringing to the fire. But it was all she had left from when her parents were alive, and even though she  loved the doll more than anything, she decided to offer it as a sacrifice for her people.

She walked to the edge of the bonfire and with tears in her eyes, she threw her doll into the flames. Immediately the bright flames consumed the doll, turning it to ash. The sacrifice was complete.

And then thunder clapped and the sky opened and rain began to fall. The wind blew the doll's ashes through the gentle rain and spread them over the land. 

The voice of the Great Spirit spoke over the wind and thunder and rain to say: "This child gave me her most precious possession, and I will never forget her sacrifice." Flowers began to spring up where the ashes had fallen. They were wildflowers topped with the same blue as the feather on the girl's doll. We call them bluebonnets.

Today educators say this is a story that teaches children about selfless acts, about giving up something important for family, about letting go of material things, about surrender. As a five-year-old, I got none of those lessons from the story.

Here is what I got from the story: God loves little girls so much--maybe even best. That was a very important message for a little girl like me who felt invisible between two boisterous brothers. Every spring God covers the meadows and hills with beautiful bluebonnets to tickle my nose and remind me of His special love.