SixDegrees.org – a Blog Promise

Here’s my pledge, with the web as my witness: everytime I post about Six Links of Separation, I’m going to go to SixDegrees.org and donate to a charity.

The website makes it extremely easy to donate. Here’s what I did:

1. I clicked “Donate”

2. I entered “writing” as a keyword (optional)

3. And I had 7 pages of charitable organizations to choose from!

I picked Afghan Women’s Writing Project, Inc. because I’d read about this organization and I’d been meaning to donate.  Now, I have a karma buzz.

4. You can donate using a credit card or PayPal or these things called Good Cards.

Please consider stopping by SixDegrees.org and donating to the charity of your choice. You will enjoy the karma that follows!

Secret Worlds Part 4: Six Links of Separation

Like the film Six Degrees of Separation and the parlour game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, sometimes even writing a blog can be a journey that comes full circle:

1. Starting with my own blog, I wanted a quote from an author about writing about characters.

2. My search led me to Goodreads, where I found a lot of good quotes, including this one that I didn’t use: “By the end, you should be inside your character, actually operating from within somebody else, and knowing him pretty well, as that person knows himself or herself. You’re sort of a predator, an invader of people.”
William Trevor

3. The quote I did use, from John Rogers, led me to his website and blog. Since I’m a fan of TNT’s show Leverage (Mr. Rogers is a writer and exec producer for the show), I read his blog, “Leverage #509 “The Rundown Job” post-game“,  in which he writes about a scene inspired by his friend who’d recently died, which was moving and not at all maudlin.

4. Reading his recommended list of blogs, I checked out Jon Swift’s blog. The last post here was from March 19, 2009, but it had a link I could not ignore, so I followed it…

5. To Chuck Butcher’s blog, and his post about his son, Nicholas Andrew Butcher’s, suicide. Already moved by John Rogers’ blog, Chuck’s honest, tragic account brought me to tears.

6. I noticed Chuck’s “About Me” sidebar, in which he wrote: “If you think you’ve figured a niche for me, you’ve no clue.” At first, this struck me as ironic because, for the past 3 blogs, I’ve been writing about figuring people out, striving for understanding, walking in each other’s shoes, etc. And here Chuck is telling me I’ll never succeed. But then I realized that wasn’t his message – like most of us, he doesn’t want to be labeled, pigeon-holed, or limited – which is a lovely and fitting post-script to this Secret World series. Strive for understanding of your fellow human beings but, please, no niche-ing.

6.5 Bonus Discovery: Kevin Bacon took the silly parlour game with his name on it and created something worthwhile – a charitable initiative: SixDegrees.org – check it out!

Secret Worlds Part 2: One Reason to Worship Dickens

Books don’t make me cry the way sad movies and humane society commercials can, but the well-written word has impressive staying power, forming snapshots in my brain that I will never be able to forget, for better or for worse.

There’s a suicide, for example, in Martin Amis’s novel Night Train, that will never get out of my head, no matter how much I yell at it to leave. Same thing with one of the holocaust stories in Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.

But here’s one of the beautiful ones: a passage from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities that is so evocative and profound, it can stay in my head for as long as it wants. It’s what inspired my last post, and my next one (stay tuned).

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city at night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!”

city at night

“Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this….My friend is dead, my neighbor is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life’s end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?”

(Image from PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay)

My Sister’s Secret World

On Friday, I rediscovered a secret world.

The world of the disabled.

I used to visit this world as a child. I am not disabled but my older sister, Lynley, was. With her as my guide, growing up by her side, we traveled back and forth between the abled and disabled worlds together, and I learned the differences, not only between the two places, but between Lynley and I.

In my world, when I walked through a mall, other people’s interest in me ranged from polite smiles, to casual glances, to disinterest.

In my sister’s world, the mall was not a place to walk and shop, it was a circus and she was the freak show. In the spotlight as soon as she stepped inside, she was subject to every single person’s stare. Men, women, children – they all stared. They stared long and hard. Far longer than they should. They followed us with their eyes, weighed us down with their scrutiny, and turned us into glass, transparent and ready to break.

Everywhere we went, I saw two worlds: hers and mine. Naturally, I thought everyone could see it – the dichotomy, the different experiences, the difficulties of the disenfranchised.

But not everyone has access to these secret worlds. Even I was only a visitor.

When Lynley died, she took that world with her. Like the lost city of Atlantis, it sank down into my past and I let it lie under the deep sea of my grief.

Now, many, many years later, I’ve written a book, Grace and the Guardian, with a disabled protagonist. It’s not a book about a disabled person, it’s a story whose heroine just happens to be disabled. I make the distinction because that’s how I always saw my sister – as a person, first; her disability always came second. I could never understand why others couldn’t see her that way, too.

But Grace and the Guardian is also about secret worlds – the world of the abled and disabled, the living and the dead, the evil and the good – and what happens when these volatile worlds combine.

On Friday, I sat in Starbucks and no one stared at me. I never thought I’d forget what it was like to walk with a disabled person – not even in her shoes, just walking beside her – but I did forget. It’s one thing to think about and even sympathize about. It’s an entirely different thing to experience.

I wrote about Lynley’s world to try and introduce others to it, and perhaps to remind myself of it,  but mostly I wrote about it because I miss my sister’s world, and I miss Lynley most of all.

Don’t Ever Let Them Take Your Heart

The FBI, in coordination with almost 300 local and state agencies, rescued 100+ children over the past 3 days thanks to Operation Cross Country, a nationwide initiative to help victims of human trafficking and underage prostitution.

One of the rescued women, Alexandria, talks about her experience and what she’s learned about survival and empowerment:

Operation Cross Country is a part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, a joint program by the FBI, the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Since 2003, the Innocence Lost National Initiative has netted the rescue of more than 2,700 children. See Huff Post for more info.