By Doug Helman, Kendal at Granville Executive Director —
I was deeply moved by a poem that was shared at our Rotary meeting on August 21. The poem was actually read as an Invocation before the start of our meeting, and I must admit, it was a very powerful way to commence our meeting. The poem was read by a retired social studies teacher and recent widow of a retired Army Colonel and decorated World War II veteran. The poem itself, entitled “Hymn,” was written by Sherman Alexie, a Native American poet who wrote this a few days following the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia. The excerpt read at our meeting is offered below.
It’s too easy to keep a domestic score.
This world demands more love than that. More.
So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet
For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?
Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?
Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?
My friends, I’m not quite sure what I should do.
I’m as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.
But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist
To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.
I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.
I will sing honor songs for the unfamiliar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.
I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.
I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.
And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.
I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.
We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.
We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.
©2017, Sherman Alexie
For me, Alexie’s words serve as a reminder that the value of diversity and inclusion is not owned by a specific political party, religion, university or place of business. Every person has to take responsibility in welcoming all people, regardless of one’s outward appearance, personal beliefs, or national origin; this ownership rests with us, it rests with humanity.
Alexie’s words also reminded me of how grateful I am to work at Kendal. As noted in Kendal’s Values and Practices, Kendal strives to create and support an environment that is welcoming to all cultures, backgrounds and differences—an environment that promotes mutual respect, acceptance, cooperation, and teamwork. Diversity and inclusion is not just a Kendal value or buzz phrase written about in a nicely bound booklet. Diversity and inclusion is undeniably a Kendal practice. I see it routinely in the welcoming environment created by our residents and employees, in their ongoing volunteer work in the greater Licking County community, and in the great work of our Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Thanks to their ownership, diversity and inclusion is indeed a value that has been placed into practice.