A big shout out to the many tribes of Wilmington that helped me celebrate the last few successful weeks of the Obama presidency. Late last week one of my Cape Fear River Rowing Club friends helped me celebrate the sunrise and dawn dolphins after a morning row. Friday I enjoyed the premier of a friend’s play at TheatreNow, and admired my son and the talented ensemble that brought “Billy and the Pope” to life. Saturday I volunteered at The Full Belly Project. Sunday I attended a gathering at Pomegranate Books, “Writer’s Resist-Through Resistance We Forge Peace.” And on Martin Luther King Day—fittingly, the last Monday of the Obama administration—I ran a few miles with my Free Movement-Black Man Running tribe.
Wilmington boasts quite a few tribes invested in making each other’s lives better in some way. Friends in the various tribes around town helped me celebrate one of President Obama’s most important legacies, the fact he started local, as a community organizer, and that we are all multi-tribal. His local organizing roots might explain why he sounds like the smart kid on the block who I sometimes played ball with—rather than the rich kid that dreams of tearing the block down, building a skyscraper and slapping his name on it.
“Focus” and “Flow,” two large marine mammals, led a pod of five dolphins past our dock during a particularly beautiful high-tide morning of the last full moon. Fellow Cape Fear River rower and educator extraordinaire Nicole Wolf explained the presence of dolphins far upriver may suggest our waters to be somewhat healthy. (The dolphins may not know, but I’m thankful community activism has prevented Titan Cement from potentially polluting the waters—so far.)
As our 26-year-old rowing club slowly develops, we hope to help keep the river healthy, offer opportunities for more Wilmingtonians to explore the sport recreationally and competitively, provide veterans rowing programs and opportunities for high-school students, and under-resourced youth to access the river and find a little flow.
At TheatreNow I celebrated a new work written by a Wilmington playwright with a few friends. “Billy and the Pope” was long—delightfully long. Enjoying the talented ensemble tackle complex human issues counterbalanced daily tweetstorms. And it provided no simple solutions.
Solutions flowed the next morning at 10th and Chestnut in the Fully Belly workshop. I slapped flat white paint on the office walls, and listened in awe as volunteers fabricated parts process and collaborated on developing solutions to problems ranging from designing culverts from repurposed plastic, to designing better cashew shellers, to preventing aflotoxin poisoning.
On MLK’s birthday Pomegranate Books hosted “Writers Resist-Through Resistance We Forge Peace”—a gathering dedicated to promoting compassion, equality, free speech, and the fundamental ideals of democracy. “Resistance!” sounds good, but without positive plans there’s a risk of being mistaken for Mitch McConnell, Nancy Reagan or just about any Republican member of Congress.
Wilmington’s Free Movement- Black Man Running group brings awareness to social injustices and helped me celebrate MLK Day. One of my running friends shared the challenges of her aunt, a water protector of the Lakota tribe at Standing Rock. As many indigenous people’s seem to grasp, and one of the poets at the Writer’s Resist workshop noted, “We need water more than water needs us.”
“Focus” and “Flow” won’t swim by our pillows. They swim outside our comfort zone of stagnant routines and real important opinions. They’re in the water, waiting to be found. There’s a lot we can do every day to find them, and in the process make things a little better for each other.
That covers the rowing, running, artistic, inventive, social activist tribes. Ah! I almost left out the healing tribe. Days before the Obama administration gracefully transferred power, we gave a retiring colleague a card and cake at a final luncheon. My physician friend already had given his great skill and ever-compassionate stance to our high acuity clinic. He also gifted us his parting words—words one of his mentors gifted him: “When in doubt, be kind.”
Can any politician from any party rob us of the choice to commit to kindness?