My week was extraordinarily busy with getting in touch with new people, keeping in touch with old friends and acquaintances, and trying to keep my head on straight amidst the overwhelming bombardment of “social networking” going on in my computer. I had to take a break today, walk away and get some fresh air, and headed to the Briar Patch Co-Op in Grass Valley to take advantage of their hot bar and grab the dogs some more dogfood.
I had been thinking about talking to someone at Briar Patch about their bulletin board, and taking out an ad in the monthly newsletter that they send out to all member/owners. So I decided today was the day to do just that. The man that I spoke with was the same man that my husband and I had met on our first visit to the co-op, when we became owner/members, but I don’t think that he remembered me. I didn’t necessarily expect him to.
He gave me some information on advertising, and then asked what my business was. So I told him. And of course, as has been my pattern for the last two months, there was some connection there. He, too, was a freelance author, and had self-published his own book. Intrigued, I popped back into “networking” mode, so incredibly grateful that this time I could do it in a face-to-face encounter with another like-minded person. While I’ve been working to get to know more people in Grass Valley and become a part of the community, I’m always looking for more. And it turned out that this man and I had far more in common than I ever imagined possible.
His name is Bill Drake, and his book Almost Hereditary: A White Southerner’s Journey out of Racism was something that I had not expected to see. He showed it to me briefly (the book is also available at Briar Patch), and we exchanged website information, spoke a little bit about self-publishing, and he said that he would email me a small information packet that he’d put together about self-publishing a book. He was so engaging and exciting about talking about these things with me; I may have spent more time than I should have speaking with him, seeing as another woman waited behind me in line.
When I got home, I looked up his website HealRacism.com, which was dedicated both to his published book, his own experiences, and the work Bill is now doing in the Northern California community as a result. He is a founder of an organization here, Creating Communities Beyond Bias (CCBB), whose goal is to bring awareness and tools for overcoming bias in everyday life to high school and college classes in the community. They’ve gotten a lot of wonderful, positive feedback and gratitude, and Bill has also written a number of newspaper articles about overcoming bias, most recently on the recent tragic events in Charleston, SC this past June.
I couldn’t help myself. I was so impressed and touched by the things he was doing, by his book (his grandparents were slave owners in the South, and he grew up with much the same viewpoint before finding a way to move past racism in his life), and by his willingness to extend advice and knowledge to me. I wrote him an email telling him all of this, because I just couldn’t help myself. And then I received multiple emails from him in reply (they’re still coming)…
I had shared with him how much I appreciated what he was doing, and my own experience with racism and bias after having lived in the South for three years, and marrying into a very traditionally Southern family. Before moving to South Carolina, I was not aware that these sentiments still existed in the world as they actually do. I thought it was just an unspoken fear or discomfort that people still harbored, but it didn’t take me long after calling the state my home that I realized I had been wrong. Not that I need to be another person to add to the conversation surrounding the shootings in Charleston and the national recognition and discourse that followed, but I’m very glad that the rest of the country is finally starting to be exposed to the things that happen every day in some areas of our nation, and that are very, very real. As someone born and raised in Colorado, those realities of bias and discrimination were really just facts in my head that I never got to see with my own eyes, and feel with my own heart. For people not in the South, the issue seems to be more or less swept under the rug, because of the fact that it does not seem real. I don’t think that’s possible any more, and I’m really grateful for that. It’s a silver lining, and it brings a lot of hope into the discussion for the chance to really change ourselves as individuals, and as a country.
All that being said, Bill’s reply to me was stuffed full of even more opportunities for involvement in the things I love, right here in my community. He commented on my website, asked if I was “still interested in Buddhism”, and it turns out that he’s also a founder of Sierra Friends of Tibet, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about Tibet, the domination of its culture, government, and people by the Chinese government, and the assistance needed in preserving the beautiful things they have to offer. This is something that, in my own time, I’ve spent looking into, and a cause that I’ve come to very strongly support. For more information, click here for the Sierra Friends of Tibet website and information.
Bill also shared with me information about Sierra Writers, a group of writers in the Northern California area who meet every other week to read aloud and critique one another’s writing. Again, another wonderful find, because leaving my Charleston Writing Group when we moved here was one of the things I knew I was going to miss the most. And now, just like that, I have an opportunity to join another.
Bill’s openness and generosity really hit me hard, especially after he acknowledged the experiences that he and I (and my husband) share, and then invited my husband and I to come meet him for a copy of his book and a chance to have more time to talk and get to know one another. I couldn’t be more grateful to him, a complete stranger and yet someone who I feel I can connect to very easily.
The point is that that’s just how it works. Everybody, no matter their background, age, race, or experiences, has something to offer to each person they meet in their life. We just have to be open to the idea of being open, and then everything falls into place and just keeps getting better.