What Growing Up on a Farm Taught Me About Humility

By Sarah Smarsh – the author of “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.

New York Times – December 21, 2022

Cold days are better for killing animals. Warmer months demand time in the wheat fields. Plus, heat and sun quickly turn meat rancid.

On my family’s farm in rural Kansas, we did our butchering in the fall and winter, when the work drew no flies.

On gray afternoons, I would get home from school — after an hourlong bus ride on muddy roads — to see a large, pink carcass hanging near the cinder block farmhouse where I lived with my grandparents.

Continue reading What Growing Up on a Farm Taught Me About Humility

What do we do?

White people are told to make sure BIPOC voices are dominant in conversations and work to dismantle white supremacy culture.

I get that.

I also hear the voice of Reesma Menakem, the author of My Grandmother’s Hands. Here are a few remarks from him while being interviewed along with Robin DiAngelo, by Krista Tippets on a podcast titled Toward a Framework for Repair, aired July 9, 2020.

…when white folks and allies say that they’re allies, and what can we do, and you think you’re being helpful; or what should I do now?, and you think you’re being helpful, there is such a brutality to your words that, many times, I can’t fool with white folks. I can’t be around you. I need you to leave me alone. I need you to not ask me what my opinion is of a Black man getting murdered with no regard.

…and they’re going to have to start really beginning to figure out how they build culture around abolishing white supremacy.

Anything other than that, for me, really is — and you’ve heard me say this before — really is performance art. It is not real. If you’re not going to be with other white bodies for three to 10 years, grinding on specifically about race and specifically about the things that show up when white bodies get together to build culture, then I can’t fool with you.

The idea that people can come up to me and ask me, what should I do?, when we have Google, is just crazy on its face.

white folks have got to do this work themselves,

NOTE: this is a powerful interview and it is worthwhile hearing these words in Reesma Menakem’s own voice. You can listen to the full interview here: On Being Podcast; July 9, 2020.

Are we ready to build the Beloved Community?

The Unitarian Universalist congregation that I joined recently voted to accept the UU Eighth Principle …

I thought I should try to understand what the Beloved Community might look like. Here is one description extracted from a blog titled “Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism. Carl Gregg wrote…..

“In progressive religious circles, you will often hear calls to “build the Beloved Community,” but I’m not sure we always appreciate the full historic resonance of that phrase. The term “Beloved Community” was coined by the early twentieth-century American philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916). But most of us learned it not from Royce but from The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who often spoke of the “Beloved Community” as his ultimate goal.”

As an early example, after the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in speaking about the larger movement toward which they were building, Dr. King said:

Continue reading Are we ready to build the Beloved Community?

Gleanings from “Widening the Circle”

The following is personal exploration into the first few chapters of the text, Widening the Circle of Concern: Report of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change – June 2020.

This text is available free as a pdf. The following notes represent my own gleanings of statements that seemed important to me. Direct quotes from the text are indicated with quote markings. Other statements are adapted or paraphrased to make sense out of context.

NOTE to the UUSA Board of Trustees…. I wonder if it might be useful to share these quotes in the weekly UUSA Newsletter, as proposed at the most recent Board meeting?

Gleanings from the Preface

“Addressing the perennial problem of race in Unitarian Universalism is not broadly seen as a theological mandate.”

We need new definitions of multicultural competency for religious leaders (including lay leadership).

“Too few white people are engaged in intentional anti-oppression work.”

We need to articulate what a liberation theology could look like for UU’s.

Continue reading Gleanings from “Widening the Circle”

Was it cultural appropriation?

Boston Globe Front Page Story: November 21, 2021

She submitted a print featuring Indigenous ‘ghosts.’ He called it ‘genocide art.’ She claimed it was a white person acknowledging the pain caused by colonialism. Who is right?

Doris Madsen held her artwork “400 Years Later, no. 4” in Northampton. Artist and poet Jason Montgomery objected to the inclusion of Madsen's work in a popular juried show at the local library.
Doris Madsen held her artwork “400 Years Later, no. 4” in Northampton. Artist and poet Jason Montgomery objected to the inclusion of Madsen’s work in a popular juried show at the local library.ERIN CLARK/GLOBE STAFF

NORTHAMPTON — When members of this city’s arts council logged into a meeting in late September, few could have imagined a retired librarian’s artwork was about to torpedo their upcoming biennial, a popular juried show at the local library.

But then artist Jason Montgomery joined the meeting to voice his concerns about the upcoming exhibition, which was to showcase work by scores of artists from the four counties of Western Massachusetts. Montgomery, who is of Chicano and Indigenous descent, said he was particularly concerned about a print by Doris Madsen, whose work “400 Years Later, no. 4” portrays the Mayflower as it floats through a fog of spectral figures she’d previously described as Indigenous “ghosts.”

Continue reading Was it cultural appropriation?

Why do we continue to honor Jeffrey Amherst?

Who exactly was Jeffery Amherst? (Joshua Reynolds)

Lord Jeffrey Amherst might be considered the 18th century poster child for white supremacy culture, yet he is still honored today….

Adapted from Jordan Gill · CBC News · Posted: Apr 29, 2017

As an initiative to change the name of Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst National Historic Site on Prince Edwards Island in Canada. is being debated, a researcher weighs in on the history of Jeffery Amherst.

Mi’kmaq elders and the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edwards Island, Canada, have raised questions about the honouring of Amherst, by naming sites after him — arguing he was not only an enemy of Indigenous people, but worse.

To say Amherst was a decorated military man would be an understatement. He was a Field Marshal in the British Army. He served during the Seven Years’ War in New France or modern day Nova Scotia. He also held the offices of Governor of Quebec as well as Crown Governor of Virginia and was named a Lord.

But scholars have long debated Amherst’s actions during his service, including allegations he advocated the use of biological warfare, through smallpox blankets, to kill Indigenous peoples.

See an example of a scholarly document here.

Continue reading Why do we continue to honor Jeffrey Amherst?

Our Sharing garden

There is a garden where you are welcome to come and sit, walk, meditate, pick blueberries when they are ready, cut flowers in season, and bring your kids to see the chickens…..

The entrance to the garden is through a gate between 132 and 158 Rolling Ridge Rd., right next to the walking path between Harlow and Rolling Ridge. This almost one acre garden produced vegetables, chickens and turkeys for my family for many years. Now that I am living alone, I would like to share the garden with neighbors.

Anytime the gate is open, you are welcome to come in and explore.

This garden is currently under development as I have done very little there for the past few years. I asked an ecological landscape designer to give me some advice and they produced a map as a guide to development, which will likely take several years.

I am not following the design exactly, but this gives you an idea of what it might be like someday.

This project is related to a study I did on our neighborhood last winter that may be seen here: https://changingthestory.net/2020/11/22/our-backyard/

If you would like to be on an email list to receive notice when something is ready to pick, please send me a note at jgerber@umass.edu.

Welcome to the sharing garden……

remembering phyl – One year later

THANKS to everyone who joined us on June 13, 2021  to remember and celebrate Phyl’s life, around the date of her Yahrzeit (the anniversary of her passing) at Look Park in Northampton, MA.

Here’s a video from the event.


If you are in Amherst, you are also invited to visit the gravesite on your own at any time. The grave is at the Wildwood Cemetery at 70 Strong St. in Amherst, MA. It is the only rose/pink granite stone at the far, north end of the cemetery. Here is a map….

Wildwood Cemetery, Amherst MA

And for those of you who live nearby…. the deck is open! You are invited to stop by to visit me…. and talk about Phyl, your pain and sadness, your happy memories, your love for her. And I’ll tell you about our grandkids! Be sure and text or call to make sure I’m home (413-687-7798)

Join me on the deck to remember Phyl…. please stop by!

Finally, you are also invited to help us with our final fundraiser for the Massachusetts Chapter of the ALS Association in memory of Phyl. The money that we raise will go towards a mission that Phyl cared about deeply – a world without ALS.  If you can, please donate!

Our last ALS Fundraiser in Phyl’s name

By the way, the ALS Association told us that Phyl-in-Tropics (which was the number one fundraising team in Massachusetts in 2019) has raised over $60,000 to support research and care services for ALS over the past few years. Phyl would be very proud of this work.

For the full story of Phyl’s illness, go to: https://changingthestory.net/2020/07/19/our-journey-with-als/

Her smile…..

Professionalism: 11 Important Workplace Qualities

The following article is taken from a web page called “FairyGodBoss”, a resource for women in the workplace offering advice on how to be successful. It offers interesting advice and tips on professional behavior, regardless of gender identity. Original Post


Professionalism is pivotal to career success, a recent study on Career Readiness conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found, with 97.5% of employers who responded calling it absolutely essential or essential. The workplace has certainly changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean professionalism is any less important.

What is career professionalism? 

Being professional might mean a variety of things, from how you dress at work to how you perform. Mastering professionalism at work is vital for success and happiness on the job. Contrary to what some believe, true professionalism in the workplace is not restricted to any industry. Whether you’re a waitress working a part-time job or a lawyer making six-figures, you need to practice professional behavior and be hard working. There are certain standards of professional conduct, and not meeting them could make or break your future at a company.

Continue reading Professionalism: 11 Important Workplace Qualities

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