Archive for February, 2016

Redefining the Knights and Princess’ of Our Youth

As children, most young boys are fascinated by the knight in shining armor who faces a fate worse than death in the attempt to rescue the princess. It’s a dream of dragons and castles, magic and myth.  Some may call it childish, but deep down in our hearts, we all yearn for a princess to rescue, dragons to slay, and a life of adventure. We are all yearning for a quest.

My Patron Saint, the individual that I hope my life reflects, is Saint George, the Red Cross Knight.  According to legend, this wandering warrior comes across a land plagued by a dragon with flaming breath, razor sharp claws and a spiked tail.  Each year a maiden must be sacrificed to it, chosen at random.  This time, it is the princess that has been chosen as it’s next victim.  For three days, he battles this beast, his sword wounding but never killing.  Each night he falls exhausted to the ground, but rises each day to continue the fight.  On the third day, his sword finds true and strikes the killing blow.

He wins the girl, and they live happily ever after.  Or so we want to believe.

Society has given us a picture perfect example of what we should expect in our princesses.  Beautiful. Helpless. Waiting to be rescued.

It’s hard to find a princess like that. Now days, our princesses are no longer helpless. They wield bows and arrows, stand on the front line of battle, and are willing to risk everything in a fight. Our princesses are more like Joan of Arc, decked out for war.

To many times we still try to force one another into these molds. The guy rescuing the girl, slaying the dragon in the process. As much as I love this story, it needs to be thrown out the window. Why can’t the girl fight on her own? Or stand side by side with the guy? Or better yet, why can’t the girl rescue the guy?

We have Anna and Elsa. And Merida. We can even go back to Mulan. And now, Star Wars has brought us Rey. We are changing what it means to be a princess. And acknowledging how much that is changing the role of the knight in shining armor.

You see, I know many strong, powerful women. I watched them wield chainsaws for the past two years, swing sledge hammers, and stand before the flames of wildfires and prescribed burns with no fear. I work alongside them, as they are willing to stand for those who need them the most.

UPDATE: As a good friend of mine shared with me, these are not the only types of strong women. It should be noted that the warrior princesses of this world come in many forms, from the ladies that I have worked beside in the world of conservation, to women like my sister who raise children and run the home. They are police officers, firefighters, nurses, students, mothers and daughters. They are the warriors who are brave enough to stand up for themselves and for others they may or may not know. They are lovers and wanderers. Their armor is their strength, their pasts that they have escaped, and these princesses don’t always wear make up. They are the girl behind the coffee counter working their way through school and fighting for independence. They are the single lady with a child in tow working long hours because she has the strength to leave an abusive relationship. They are the women who gather together to strengthen one another, to reach out to others who need support. They are the widow who continues on after their knight has fallen in battle.

Strong women can change the world, just as much as a knight in shining armor. They can work in union. They are equals in the field of battle, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, as individuals. But like all teams, they complement one another.

This is the story that we need to be writing. A knight and a princess standing shoulder to shoulder, facing dangers together as friends and companions.  As equals.

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Team Lady

I have this shirt that I wear quite often that causes people to do a double take. If you were to only read the front (as many people do), it could read as questionable. It is a shirt that I am proud to wear, but at the same time, it’s terrifying to wear it because I never know how people will react.

I’ve been cursed out because of this shirt. I’ve been yelled at. Given dirty looks. Avoided. But I’ve also had some amazing conversations because of it. It has made people smile. Opened doors.

This shirt is part of a legacy. This shirt has a deeper story that I am proud to display and share.

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Above you can see Team Lady. I was adopted onto this team, so I cannot claim to be an original member. Anyways, there I am. With the shirt.

On the front, the shirt reads: “Women are good for three things.” Then the back has the following list:

1 Tree Felling
2 Fireline
3 EVERYTHING ELSE

This shirt was designed by several of the ladies I served with in the AmeriCorps St Louis Emergency Response Team, who affectionately called it the Lady Shirt. I’m pretty sure that I was the only guy who bought one of these shirts.

I can’t speak for the amazing women who created these shirts or choose to wear them. I can only speak for myself and why I choose to wear it.

I wear this shirt because it is a statement against sexism. Too many times I have seen men turn down the help of a skilled woman because the simple fact that she was born a female. I know some amazing women who can fell trees like bosses, swing polaskis and pick-axes like nobodies business, and pick up logs and throw them over their shoulders better than most people out in the field. And yet, these are the same ladies who are being told that their assistance is not needed because they are delicate. Or fragile. Or inferior.

I wear this shirt to support my team. As an honorary member of Team Lady, I support them and their decision because they are stronger than they appear to be. I support them because I know that in many ways, they are stronger and better than me. I support them because so many times they have supported me.

It might raise a few eyebrows, but it grabs attention and is the catalyst for conversations. And that is why I wear it.

This shirt is a statement. This shirt is a spark for something bigger. Something deeper.

Two Thoughts of the Day

Two things happened today. Two things that are separate in every way possible, but are connected in how we choose to react to them. Both evoke emotion. Both have caused people to react. And both made me think.

When I got out of bed this morning and opened up my phone to log onto the ole Facebook, something caught my eye. This weird little video caught my eye. This crazy little slideshow that revealed images of my family and friends. Of my travels around the world. Of AmeriCorps. Of Montana. The Beach. Of all the joys in the world that I treasure and cherish.

You see, this was a much needed burst of joy. The past two days, I have felt like death. Okay, not quite that bad, but I didn’t feel like doing anything. I called in sick. Spent four and a half hours at urgent care.

And yet, a simple video (a slideshow actually) was all it took to make me smile. It made a bunch of people smile. It is a celebration of friendship.

I also saw a post from a friend about how some dude was a despicable human being. I scrolled past it, sensing that it was just a normal social media bashing because someone made a dumb comment to the world. And then I packed my lunch and went to work.

Soon after arriving in the dispatch center, the conversation spiraled into some dude named Daryrush and the group Return of Kings, a male supremacist group who coined the term “legal rape.”

Fist off, realize that I spend 8 hours in a room of 20ish people. And I am one of two males on that shift (add in the random firefighters, police officers, and supervisors and we don’t seem that outnumbered).

I work with some really powerful women. Some really strong ladies. Feminists? Of course. But they are also mothers and wives and sisters and fighters.

The conversation suddenly roared like a wildfire, seeming to burn out of control. And when they get fired up about something (I’ve seen it happen on something as simple as a car chase) it is a beautiful sight. And it is kinda scary at the same time. Kinda like lighting a backfire in front of the head of a wildfire.

The fact that there was supposed to be one of these clandestine meetings of members of the Return of Kings at one of the local parks here in the SC upstate gave them more fuel for the fire. There was a rage (controlled, but it was still there) that revealed the warriors that I work with.

You see, somehow this ugly and vulgar message of hatred revealed something beautiful. It revealed a side to the ladies that I have the privilege of working beside. It was a pleasant surprise. And it made me smile because I got to know them a little more.

Yes, I was angered about what we were reading on the internet about this group. It sickened me. But like everything in a dispatch center, there was always something else that caught our attention. Like the ringing phones. Or the officers on the other end of the radio. And soon the conversation drifted behind us as we rode the wave of craziness that is our every moment and day.

Both of these moments today made me smile. Both of these moments gave me some degree of joy. One came out of a beautiful moment, the other came out of hatred.

The lesson to be learned: every moment, no matter how good or bad it may be, has the opportunity to reveal something beautiful. And before I go off on a longer rant, I’m gonna stop here for the night!