The Wisdom of Ordinary People and Places

Carol A. Hand

I’ve seen so little of the world and I doubt that will ever change
Still, I’m grateful for the winding paths that kept me free
From the prison of privilege that often surrounded me.

I’m grateful to elders who, in their final years
Taught me many things, most importantly to be kind
I’m grateful to those who spent much of their lives
Locked away in brutal institutions who taught me
The importance of soft hands, laughter, and joy

To those in barrios and ghettoes, the feared parts of the city
Who shared laughter and adventures, who learned to do math and read
Despite my inept tutoring and my mono-lingual deficits
Your humor, kindness, and incredible resilience inspired me

To those who welcomed me into your homes in hollers
After long knee-deep hikes through mud – blue grass music playing
Filling drafty dirt-floor cabins into the wee hours of the morn,
Sharing much of the little you owned with strangers who came to your door
For those on the Menominee rez who taught me to play pool
And wondered why I was so different from the privileged women from my school

I’m grateful to so many people I’ve met – from Spooner and Chatek
From Philadelphia and Oakland, from LCO and DC
Who sacrificed much to improve the world

Thank you for welcoming me into your lives
All of you touched my heart deeply, I wanted to stay
But my path was still calling me onward to learn to all I could

I sincerely hope your lives were blessed – mine was blessed by knowing you
The lessons you taught me are my most memorable treasures
You opened my eyes to beauty everywhere and touched my heart deeply
You inspired me to learn to live simply, to be grateful, and to share


Image: We Are One Community

A Little Background:

Spooner and Chatek are among the small rural towns in northern Wisconsin that initiated innovative health education projects. Philadelphia and Oakland initiated innovative community-directed projects to address disproportionally high infant mortality rates among Black and Latino residents. LCO, the Lac Court Oreille Ojibwe reservation in Wisconsin, has initiated many innovative projects, including a crucial restorative justice project. And of course, DC continues to be a center for innovation although it’s not often federally initiated.


17 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Ordinary People and Places

    1. I appreciate your important comments, Rosaliene. I agree that we all do need to reach across differences, both real and socially-constructed, to “work together for a better life.” Even that might not be enough to change our communities, but we just might succeed. We’ll never know if we don’t try. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful and lovely comments, D. Your words remind me of a passage about “giving” in The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran.

      “See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life – while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.”


  1. Great post, Carol. I’m sure your presence in the worlds of those around you has been a blessing as well. I know it is on this blog. I’ve not seen a whole lot of the world either, and yet I have met some amazing people in my life. Actually I was born into a family of amazing people. They didn’t did have much money nor were they well-known, but oh my what character and spunk and integrity they possessed. They are the shoulders on which I stand and I try always to make them proud. It’s not the size of our sphere that counts, Carol, but the impact we have within that sphere that matters.
    As teachers, you and I have both reached beyond our spheres in ways and places we’ll never know as well. Love and hugs, N 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments, Natalie. I think my presence has been seen in very different ways by those around me. As an advocate who spoke truth to power, not everyone was pleased to see me walk into a room 🙂

      I love your stories about your family – I have no doubts that you have made them very proud.

      It is true that teachers may never know whether they had a positive influence on students’ lives. Our work was merely to do our best. Hugs and love to you ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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