Blog Your Blessings: The White Dude

This week Veteran's Day was the subject of my literacy lessons at school. I taught the general history of the holiday as well as the specific history of my Uncle Laurence, who was a submariner who died in combat off the Northern coast of Japan in 1944. Literacy as reading and writing gave way to literacy as knowing where you are. I hope my students read me well.

Uncle Laurence's story has always defined patriotism for me. A young man who saw his country attacked by the Japanese, he did the only thing he felt he could: he showed up for service even though he didn't have too because he was still too young.He did his best, he served well, and he died just before his last patrol would have ended and he would have come home to live out his life.

He was a kid who wanted to do what he could to stop a growing problem because he was afraid the threat would imperil his family. He did his best in good faith. He wasn't waiting for the perfect world would show up and be worthy of him. He was a humble, honest kid, and he acted in good faith.

When I say the Pledge of Allegience at school every day, it is out of deep respect for all the people I know who show up and do their best first for their families and then their friends and then the larger, larger, larger world. I don't live in a perfect world. I don't live in a perfect country. I live in a wonderful, lovely place where I start each day with a promise to do my best to make things a little better.

Literacy went out the window this week in favor of "the white dude"--the label one of my non-white students attached to Uncle Laurence when he sauntered into the classroom and saw the copy of the picture I had brought in. "Who's the white dude?" the boy asked. (Such bigotry is standard fare at work.)

The white dude. My uncle. A young man who died to protect the safety of his family--including me all these years later--so we could live well and perhaps even be kind. Looking at those kids looking at the photo of the white man, I told them he did it for them, too. Somehow.

(PS I recommend a few minutes with Garrison Keillor, who addresses this theme in his wonderful way here.)

Blog Your Blessings


  1. I guess this is something the "white dudes" have brought upon themselves, by attempting to colonize the world. This started even before America was part of the Western world, in fact America is a result of it.

    At some point it is important to keep a sharp eye on the thin line between patriotism an colonialism. I am saying this as a citizen of a country that has blood on its hands and not proud of that.

    The most selfless acts committed from the instinct to protect are eclipsed by the most horrid crimes committed by the wish to conquer. Tragedy of human nature.

  2. I am a great believer in teaching children to read, write and spell then they can make up there own mind on things. When you say 'literacy went out the window this week' it make me feel depressed.

  3. A heartfelt post. I don't think we should ever view patriotism as a standard love of country, but, as you say, family, friends, etc, who are best served by your country.

  4. I love this sentiment: "...start each day with a promise to do my best to make things a little better."

    What an optomistic thought. What a completely achievable idea. None of us can save the world all by ourselves, but when many of us contribute, each in our own small way, it can have a profound impact.

    Your uncle was a wise man, knowing this at such a young age.

  5. Anonymous2:11 PM

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    MuchaCostaRica Round-Up

  6. We all live in the relative peace and security that our homes afford us because of someone's sacrifice. Make that many sacrifices, made by a long list of known, and unknown, heros.

    Wayne and I woke early this morning, we dressed warmly and went outside to walk around the Hollow, listen to the creeks running on both sides of the house...enjoy the panoramic views from the upper pasture, and brush the lingering leaves as they softly settled on our shoulders.
    As we walked, we talked about the dreams that our ancestors left unrealized as they sacrificed so that we could gain the education that made it possible for us to purchase our land. We took a moment to appreciate the young couple who moved here 25 years ago and used an outhouse and outside shower until they could save enough to plumb their small home. We spoke in whispering voices about the young soldiers who had served in a dozen wars so that this land could be individually owned, so that we would have the right to own this property.

    A story like your uncle's makes me sad...and the sadness stays with me a while. I think of his mother opening the door and finding a uniformed officer looming before her not wanting to deliver the message he had brought. I feel her knees as they weaken and betray her. I find it hard to swallow as a lump forms in my throat and I thank God that my son's are safe in their homes this afternoon.

    We owe so much to your uncle and to the countless others like him who left willingly, fought bravely, and died with their lives left unlived so that I could play with my puppy on the ice frosted lawns this morning. Their entire families made sacrifices. The mom's, dads, adoring younger siblings, the girls they left behind, the best friends, teachers, and favorite cousins who's tears fell and hearts ached are all owed our respect and gratitude. There were many mother's who sat on beds where they tucked their sons in at night, their hands clutching at the pillow, and breathing deeply in the hope some trace of his smell remained. Little brothers threw footballs to the empty space in the yard where their brothers, their heros, used to stand. There were fathers who washed cars that their sons worked so hard for, were so proud of, and they felt the lead in their souls as the knowledge settled that they would never again laugh easily with their boys. These were all sacrifices made for you, for me, for every student who walks in your door. It is indeed a tragedy that they don't grasp what gifts they are free to open because of so many who lived, and died, before them.

    Perhaps you will be the one who will help one or two to understand, to accept, and to appreciate what has been done for them. A lofty goal... but one worthy of the sacrifices made by so many others. A teacher is one of God's greatest miracle workers... and greatest miracles.

  7. I said that "literacy went out the window" as I tried to make a human connection with my students. The heart of the matter is always literacy, which I think depends on finding relevance in the very moment. I think the best way to teach literacy is to make a convincing argument that the world will be in then hands of my students some day. I want them to think, and to think hard about the nature of the world they live in.

    I am no proponent of colonialism. But I am not a colonizer and I am not a bigot. If we want a new world and we want change, we need to get over the pettiness of labels that include ones like "the white dude" that limit us and the potential for change that we represent. I am trying to open up new ways of thinking about the nature of relationships, not to limit the discourse to my liking. Until these kids have something to hold onto, they are trapped in a very small world.

  8. That's a beautiful heartfelt post Sandy. It's important to always remember those who fought and lost their lives to give us all the freedom we have now. We just celebrated Aristice Day last Wednesday here in England and had 2 minutes silence to remember those who lost their lives in the wars.

  9. Yet another lesson in humility Sandy. And my personal need to withdraw from allegiances to flags or countries does not mean that I don't appreciate the sacrifice that has been made in the name of freedom or the service and duty these people have given.

    Because I do respect and appreciate very much.
    Thanks for this.

  10. I am so thankful to people like your uncle. :) My great-uncle died long before I was born, protecting our country.

  11. Hi Sandy, Thank you for your sweet comment.
    It is nice to remember ones relatives. I look sometimes at my long dead ancestors and friends I have known or not; it always makes me sad that life is so short and there are so many I haven't even known. Uncles have died in wars, never returned home.

  12. you are doing a good job with your students, i can feel your love for them and their potential. wanting to open their view of the world. keep up the good work.

  13. Well, even tho I agree with you that "the white dude" is not a necessary label in the speech of some . . . "THANK YOU, white dude, for your sacrifice so I could grow up in a country that's still free." AND, thank you, Sandy for taking the time from your regular lessons to use that teachable moment.

  14. I'll resist re-enforcing the bigotry... and simply say thank you to your Uncle Laurence!

  15. Anonymous9:31 AM

    I hope that one day we will all live in a world where there are no labels.

  16. Sandy, thank you for your post and for your comment! Thank you to all who have gone before and laid it on the line so the rest of us can enjoy the life we live! To the families of the ones who gave their all so we can live our good life, I am sorry for your loss! For those who have been lost, please know that there are some of us who will never forget and keep your memory alive, and thank you for your sacrifice!

  17. Anonymous6:53 PM

    What a beautiful was to make sure that the sacrifices made by those gone before are never forgotten.

  18. I’m so glad you’re teaching kids. I hope there are many more like you out there sharing their family stories the way you share yours! Your students are fortunate indeed. What a powerful lesson!
    Hugs and blessings,

  19. Oh, God, I am in tears again. The sacrifices made by the young are a blessing to all of us. I hate war. We send the best and brightest off to die for the god of oil.

  20. Anonymous8:20 AM

    I'm just thankful for all the dudes and dudetts that have served and do serve!! Neat post.


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