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A Nail and a Piece of Glass

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Last night, I was at a benefit for the Marjorie Kovler Center, which helps treat survivors of torture, and works to try to end torture.  One of the women who spoke had been a prisoner in Argentina, and survived torture there.  She was presenting a vase of flowers to an honoree, and added a nail in her gift.  She said that “a nail and a piece of glass” were the most prized possessions of women in their cells because you could use them to create art, drawing on walls, or sculpting a piece of soap, making beauty in the middle of horror to remind yourself that you were, first of all, a human being.

An acquaintance of mine recently called me a f**king do-gooder–and not in a very complimentary tone.  I’m more an observer than a doer–perhaps I could be called a f**king watch-gooder.  My week  home started with a tribute to the late Dr. George Tiller, of blessed memory: as you may recall, he was a doctor who was murdered in church on May 31 by an anti-abortion fanatic.  His widow and two of his four children came to Chicago for a very moving event in his memory.

On a happier note, I’ve spent several days this week with girls from Girls in the Game, a program which reaches out to girls 7-18 in Chicago, and gives them a safe place to play, to learn how to value themselves, their bodies, their lives.  One young tennis player told me she can’t play outside because there’s too much shooting on her street.  Another, abandoned by her mother when she was small, and making a home with relatives, spends every spare moment at Girls in the Game: it’s the place where she is welcomed, valued.  Any adults who come into the program are called “Coach,” and I do love being “Coach Sara.”  I wish I could take all these girls and wrap them in gold, protect them from the harm the world can and has done to them, keep them from ever needing a nail and a piece of glass to keep them safe.


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October 2009