Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Things to Love About Las Vegas #5...Vegas as a Melting Pot

For over twenty years at least once a year I have flown back to my hometown in Indiana for a visit, to enjoy the trees and rain and all the things I miss, living here in the desert. And after my son came along, it really bothered me that he would miss all the things I loved about growing up there.

But I discovered when he got a bit older, my priorities changed. I'll never forget one time upon my return to Vegas, when I realized I had a completely different feeling...I was actually glad to be back here, for the first time. And the reason was because of the people.

Don't get me wrong...I love the people back home. They are friendly and helpful and have the sense of community and family that I will always miss and cherish.

But "back there," there are no African Americans, no Muslims, no colors of any kind except maybe a few Hispanics and Asians.

I remember looking out the window of my plane on that fateful return to Vegas, out over the city where I have met people from all corners of the world, where my neighbors are all colors full of other thoughts and beliefs, and I felt truly thankful. Thankful that my son will get to know other cultures within our own community. Other countries will feel closer. Other cultures will be friends. Other people won't be other...they'll just be people.

Things to love about Las Vegas #5...Vegas is a Melting Pot

To confirm my new feelings about Vegas, after the election I found myself telling people for the first time ever that I was glad to live in Nevada. Glad to live in a Blue State. I felt actual relief. No, Las Vegas isn't perfect, but it is beginning to finally feel like "home." And that is a big sentence for this Midwesterner-at-heart to write.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

How to Feel Better

Waiting for the show to begin, while 1200 students from around the city take their seats.

It has been a rough week for many people. The very morning after the election, I witnessed racist bullying in my son's school. Still in shock from the previous evening, I was deeply troubled to see that the election had so quickly shown evidence of empowering and validating the behavior of bullies.

I walked back to my car from dropping off my son at school that day, and with every step I tried to figure out how to move on. How to get past the feeling of despair that I had. How to teach my son about other cultures, other people, and the world, when every day at school he will witness people displaying exactly the opposite of what should be.

Another day passed with me still trying to wrap my head around it all.

Then, Thursday morning I volunteered for my workplace's student matinee of A Choreographer's Showcase. As the Academy Coordinator for Nevada Ballet Theatre, I often am involved in performances.

This production was the annual collaboration between the dancers of Nevada Ballet Theatre and the performers of Cirque du Soleil. Dancers from both companies choreograph and perform individual pieces for the show, and they can range in styles from contemporary, hip-hop, ballet, and more.

This morning performance was a special showing for students as part of our Department of Education and Outreach. Kids from all over Las Vegas are bused in and get to watch the show. After helping seat the 1200 kids, I sat back to watch the show.

And after two days of stress, anxiety, worry, and raw emotion, suddenly there in front of me was the answer. The Arts.

How to feel better? Immerse yourself in art. It opens your mind. The dancers in front of me joined together to put their movements to music...all different races and cultures together for the purpose of Art.

I realized I was feeling a bit better, but what about the rest of the country that was feeling afraid and hopeless? What about our children, who need to be taught? How do we teach kids whose parents' minds are closed? How do we break the cycle of passing on hate to future generations?

And before me, once again, was the bigger answer. Education.

On stage, the next number began, and an African-American man walked on stage holding a foreign-to-me instrument. He strummed it a bit and then gestured for the kids to clap a specific rhythm. They did so, and then he began to sing. To this audience of children, his singing was foreign and strange. But when he gestured for them to sing back to him, they did so. I sat listening to this group of children of all races, backgrounds, and cultures sing with this man, and realized that this is how we will do it. We can open their minds. Open their hearts. Expand their worlds, through the Arts.

How to feel better:

1. Realize that we cannot change the opinions of all people, but we CAN educate children...our future.
2. To reach these children, we must support organizations that open children's minds to cultures other than their own.
3. Support the non-profit arts organizations in your city. They have programs in the schools that can reach all kids.
4. Support children's book authors. Donate books to schools. Volunteer at schools. Find small ways to expose all children to new ideas and experiences.

There are more ways to do this, but for me, thinking about these small steps help me go forward. Thinking about changing policies or fighting in a bigger way is too overwhelming for me right now.

So for me, right now, the answer is The Arts, and Education.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Big Time Baseball Story

Jay and me

When I was a kid, I loved playing with my older cousin Jay. By "playing," I mean I would follow him around and bug him until he finally gave in and grudgingly played with me. I was younger, and a girl, so I know I wasn't exactly cool enough to qualify most of the time.

But one summer when we visited his house, Jay let me play baseball one afternoon with him and his friends. I couldn't believe it...there was hardly any begging or pleading from me. But there I was, in the outfield, actually playing baseball with them. I stood proudly in the tall, weedy, un-mowed, remote part of the yard, far away from the guys, without a ball glove because I didn't know how to use one anyway.

Eventually, someone hit the ball and it flew way high, coming right for me. This was my chance! It came nearer and nearer, practically in slow motion as my moment of glory approached. And I caught it!

I held it up triumphantly, ready to hear all the praises and cheers from Jay and his friends.

Instead, they yelled at me, because of course I messed up because I didn't throw the ball for a second out.


I thought of that day as I watched the World Series last night. I know a bit more about baseball now than I did that day long ago in the weeds. And I even own a ball glove. When I tried to explain to my son last night why I was jumping up and down in front of the TV, I realized it's time to teach him about baseball. And maybe we need to pay Jay a visit.