Walk a mile in my shoes
Raise your hand if you ever took an alternative English course in high school. In 1974, I took creative writing with Ms. Russell, who looked a lot like Joni Mitchell, the singer/songwriter. The course was called “Gone with the Wind” and the syllabus promised an easy A if you could muse about music.
The goal of the course was to read the book or do a craft from the time period, and discuss some lyrics to a couple of songs and create our own songs or odes. I modelled my song after a Pink Floyd number that featured wild moaning at the end, but came up short with truly bad lyrics (Luckily, I didn’t have to perform it) and the last-minute rag doll I made secured a decent grade.
The song we dissected was “Southern Man” by Neil Young, which is a powerful lament about slavery and injustice. I see now how this process encouraged us to recognize injustice, explore and expand our understanding, and maybe start thinking about other people’s plights.
Much like biblical psalms, gospel readings, prayer meetings and teachings, this process opened our minds and hearts and stirred us to discussion about our place and value amongst each other.
Most of us do rely on music and lyrics as a form of relaxation, positive motivational energy or even quiet spirituality. When my grandkids sleep over, we set the Alexa to “bedtime music” and we drift off to piano pieces, slow love songs — songs from Disney movies and an occasional Bob Dylan or hummable Chick’s arrangement.
Words mean something and a good songwriter conveys that thing that both stirs inside of us and stays with us for life. Over the weekend, I was sitting in a Zoom meeting and an old Joe South lyric came right into my head from “Walk a mile in my shoes.”
His songs had been covered by several long-gone artists including Johnny Cash, John Denver, and Glenn Campbell. The lyrics “Before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes” are simple requests to empathize with one another, no matter our background.
Joe South also wrote another sweet song called “Don’t it Make You Wanna Go Home Now” about making it back home to where you feel safe and loved. His “all God’s children get weary when they roam” evokes a longing to just be safe in your community again.
Joe South was born on Feb. 28, the last day of this short month designated for Black history. I can think of nothing better … than to recognize the beautiful songs of brotherhood and community and history that tie us all together.
Maybe we can expand our knowledge base of our true history and our connections and need for unity with a simple creative writing exercise to dissect our favorite musical arrangement, Bible verse, Joe South or Marvin Gaye song.
The gift of lyric is a powerful inspiration for us. Discovering meaning gives us a gentle push towards a sense of common community where we all walk each other home safely, no matter how far or which shoes we wear.
Rural vs. urban NM
As the 2021 legislative session begins so does the divide; Republicans vs. Democrats, rural New Mexico vs. urban New Mexico. Our legislators seem to have lost touch with our rural communities.
Recent voting maps indicate New Mexico rural communities are out of favor with the state capitol and lawmakers. In the 2018 election, between Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties, Gov. Lujan Grisham received 202,172 of her 398,368 votes, winning only 13 counties in New Mexico.
This comes as no surprise to the rural residents of New Mexico. Our needs rarely match those of our urban neighbors.
Rural New Mexicans are taking a back seat to urban politics and ideals. This added strain and hardship to rural communities still holds a firm grasp on our way of life as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. The need for transparency and listening has never been more critical in the capital.
Many bills being introduced this legislative session will face a limited amount of harsh public criticism due to technical difficulties, time constraints, short-term notice, short sessions, COVID-19 cases and numerous unseen obstacles shielded from the public.
Does rural New Mexico carry the same issues and standings that our urban neighbors do, or are our populations so low that our voices are not heard, or count, in the capital? Do the committees who first hear these bills listen to the voices of the citizens these bills affect?
It is quite troubling to witness so many businesses shutting their doors and local families forced to move away.