Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why is this OK?

I've been stewing about this for a while and with all the buzz today about someone else who said something politically incorrect and the uproar it has brought, I decided I had to take time to write about an incident that has me, well, pretty much outraged.
 
Last week, in the same day, I got two emails inviting or reminding me about two upcoming events. The first was from my cousin, who also reminded us that we were having an ornament exchange.
 
The second came with the reminder that we are having a Chinese gift exchange. Huh?
 
I wrote back and asked, why was it called that? I am pretty sure everyone in the group knows my daughters are Chinese, but even if they don't, when did we become so desensitized to being discriminatory to some groups and so hypersensitive to others?
 
Recently I heard an older woman tell about inviting someone who is Asian to an event and they brought her a present. But as she pointed out, this is typical, that most Asian people bring you a gift, rather than take one from you, which is the point of the above mentioned gift exchange.
 
I did a little research to see if I could find why it was called a Chinese gift exchange and came across an article written by an ex-pat living in China. She attended a Christmas party, in China, and part of the entertainment was a "Chinese" gift exchange. The Chinese people were horrified that someone would take their present and it did not matter whether it was a joke gift or something they truly loved; they just did not find the concept funny.  
 
I thought maybe I was just hypersensitive, but I asked a co-worker what she thought. She had never heard that expression and thought I meant we were exchanging gifts from China, which sounds like a good idea to me.
 
When I got a second reminder for the party with the Chinese gift exchange, I opened it hoping that they would have taken the hint and chosen a different name for the gift exchange, although gift exchange seems to be pretty clear without adding a label to it. I was shocked to see it was still there, with no hint that there was anything wrong with it.
 
Maybe I am hypersensitive on this topic, but I cannot imagine this group thinking it would be appropriate to label it with a different race's name. I remember being confronted in the 80's when I described someone and named their race in my description. I was asked why that was important to the conversation. I stumbled and stuttered and tried to explain, but of course, the race of the person had nothing to do with who they were or the conversation. The same goes for any type of label, which was reinforced while completing my Masters in Rehab Counseling. When you are working with someone with a disability, you look to the person first, not the disability.
 
So why, in our era of enlightenment, is a title like "Chinese" gift exchange still accepted?

 
It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

Friday, December 6, 2013

LIke a good neighbor, Van is there!

When you live in a city the size of Dallas, it is great to live in a neighborhood like Oak Cliff, where the emphasis is on neighbor. We have great neighbors, but one did the "above and beyond" the call of duty for us today.

Several years ago I joined a community garden group and at the first meeting I met Van. At the time, he was actively working on his dream of an Oak Cliff Earth Day. When we finally turned the first shovel of dirt on our garden, Van was there, pitching in, even though he did not have a plot there. He worked tirelessly in helping us accomplish our goal.

The next time I came across Van, he was recruiting people to help plant trees to beautify a median on a major thoroughfare in our neighborhood. He worked to get the trees donated and enough volunteers to plant trees through a significant portion of the street.

When Facebook started, he began a group called Oak Cliff Gardeners, where you can find all sorts of great information and resources from a like minded group. When I went to see his "garden" I realized what an expert he is on the topic. He does not have a yard, he has a garden, a front garden and a back garden, with a pond, and incredible attention to detail.

Last night Dallas was hit with frozen rain, sleet, and ice. He posted a picture of his cleared driveway and sidewalk and offered to do others for $20. I commented that I would gladly pay for him to clear my parents' drive, as I am sure Dad will try to get out sometime today. Dad doesn't like to stay indoors for any length of time.

Within a  short time, I heard the unmistakable sound of someone clearing a sidewalk with a snow shovel. Sure enough, it was Van. He worked until he had every tiny bit of ice cleared from their sidewalks and driveway. He sent me in for my camera for a picture of Annabel who had been clearing our walk. When I came out, he was gone, before I could even thank him, much less provide something warm to drink and any type of payment.

So hear is it, "Thank you, Van, for all you do!"