As we celebrate Black History month, we’re marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was enacted in 1863. As I read and hear accounts of the African-American experience, I am struck by the depth of suffering, especially as Frederick Douglass expressed it:
“I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the circle; so that I neither saw nor heard as those without might see and hear.”
The underlying appreciation of the loss of love, of family, of beauty in their lives would later be expressed by new generations that seek to find wholeness despite the wounds of the past.
Langston Hughes, in his poetry, sees the beauty of people: “The night is beautiful; so the faces of my people … beautiful also are the souls of my people,” answering the quest that lies within each of us,
the quest for beauty
Is there a message in this for all of us? We can all be slaves in one manner or another; externally or internally inflicted upon ourselves, yet this doesn’t have to inhibit our appreciation for the gifts that await us in life, be they in art, music, friendship or a community where there is authentic mutual concern.
This month we remember Len Szczesniak, whose daily choice to love others will continue to profoundly inspire everyone, be they old or young, of any race, religion or gender.
“For the past 35 years, while my life ebbed and flowed, Lenny was a rock that I could count on in the midst of storms,” wrote a close friend. “He was someone who always took an interest in everyone, listening 100% to whatever you wanted to say to him,” wrote another. “As a young person, I was always impressed by that – an example for all of us.”