Meditation 6: The Things We’ve Handed Down

I’m exhausted and wondering how the hell bloggers do it. We’ve had such a long day here in Los Angeles. An orientation session where we got to know fellow participants on this Spring Break Service Trip; then a long drive out to California Lutheran University where we packed hundreds of meals for the young people we’ll be serving later this week at Safe Place for Youth (Cal Lutheran has become a hotbed of Humanism ever since MA native Evan Clark came out here, founded a Secular Student Alliance Chapter, got himself elected student govt. president of the whole school, and upon graduation inspired the very talented Rebecca Cardone, an SSA member, to also get elected student body president.); then dinner with some local Humanists who have years of experience in the entertainment and philanthropic communities in LA. They fed us delicious food and generously tutored us on the LA “scene” for some time. Tomorrow, we begin working with the LGBT homeless and in-crisis youth themselves, and I think we’re all nervously very eager to dive in.

After dinner tonight we watched a beautiful video about some of the best philanthropic work being done on behalf of needy children here in Los Angeles– really touching stories of people working very hard to make sure at-risk youth are given the health and educational opportunities they need to grow up healthy, or that if they do get into trouble, they have the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, rather than just getting thrown away into jail or a brutal system. The theme song in the background of the video is today’s Meditation: “The Things We’ve Handed Down”, a song by Marc Cohn. It’s essentially a parenting song, and even has the hint of a bit of Woo in the first verse. But it also tells the story of why we do community service work, particularly with youth. We don’t know who these kids will go on to be. We have no idea what our impact on them will be. But we have so much hope for them. And we know we ourselves are made better, more whole, by the heartbreakingly humble attempt to offer them a little care, a little help, a little love.

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The Things We’ve Handed Down (Marc Cohn)

Don’t know much about you
Don’t know who you are
We’ve been doing fine without you
But, we could only go so far
Don’t know why you chose us
Were you watching from above
Is there someone there that knows us
Said we’d give you all our love

Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I’ve heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we’ve handed down

I wonder who you’ll look like
Will your hair fall down and curl
Will you be a mama’s boy
Or daddy’s little girl
Will you be a sad reminder
Of what’s been lost along the way
Maybe you can help me find her
In the things you do and say

And these things that we have given you
They are not so easily found
But you can thank us later
For the things we’ve handed down

You may not always be so grateful
For the way that you were made
Some feature of your father’s
That you’d gladly sell or trade
And one day you may look at us
And say that you were cursed
But over time that line has been
Extremely well rehearsed
By our fathers, and their fathers
In some old and distant town
From places no one here remembers
Come the things we’ve handed down