What Matters: The Day Is

The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.

James Baldwin

The day is Friday, 26 June 2015.

My daughter, Jessica, sits in our brown recliner, holding an ice pack on her broken nose with her right hand and cradling her one-year-old daughter, Skylar, in her left arm.

I stand leaning over at the waist in the middle of the living room. Two trickles of bloods run down my left shin from my knee cap. My ring finger and thumb on my right hand are throbbing, jammed, and my left hip is tightening, bruised I am sure. I breathe heavily and am covered in sweat, Jessica asking if I am all right.

No more than ten minutes earlier, Jessica pulls into our driveway with Skylar and her white box-head lab, Sasha. I hurry outside to help her and notice, finally, she has Sasha in a collar and on a leash.

As Jessica leads Sasha to our fenced-in backyard to play with our yellow lab (Sasha’s half-sister), Zoe, I walk around the car to unbuckle Skylar from her car seat.

Just as I have the car seat straps undone and my hands under Skylar’s arms, I look up and notice Jessica is bent over with her face in her hands. Jessica is screaming.

The dogs are both out of the fence, I also notice, before I realize what Jessica is shouting: “I think Zoe broke my nose.”

In the next impossibly long second, I recognize I have three obligations — my granddaughter, my frantic daughter, and two dogs now running away.

These are decisions that are not decisions, moments when the universe demands that we notice what matters.

I carefully lift Skylar out of her car seat and hold her tight in my right arm. I try to call for Zoe and Sasha as I hurry toward Jessica, still leaning over with her face in her hands and screaming.

I put my left arm around Jessica and tell her we are going inside, everything will be fine.

When she looks up at me and moves her hands, there is no blood, and although I can tell something has hit her nose, the injury seems not as bad as I feared.

In our house, I tell Jessica to sit in the recliner, and I grab an ice pack wrapping it in a paper towel for her to hold on her nose. Only a few seconds pass before Jessica tells me she can hold Skylar, to go look for the dogs.

The day is scorching, another during a long June week of 100-degree heat index days. No dogs are in sight.

I call for Zoe and Sasha, whistle, and clap my hands, but our entire neighborhood seems completely deserted.

Sasha, I learn later, has run away just the day before at our house; she is a runner like our family chocolate lab Hershey, who we had to put down along with our black lab within a month of each other in the summer of 2014.

I trot into the road in front of our house, still calling, clapping, and whistling. Then I catch sight of the dogs down through the cul-de-sac, chasing each other behind a neighbor’s house.

I call for Zoe and run.

Zoe turns and sprints toward me, but Sasha remains at the edge of the woods between the neighbor’s house and a larger road outside the neighborhood.

I hurry but avoid running toward Sasha who pauses until I am close, and then she darts away again.

At 54, without thinking, I do something I have only seen on TV, movies, and cartoons; I sprint two or three steps and dive, reaching for the leash dragging behind Sasha.

Scrambling back to my feet, my right shoe twisted and only half way on, I somehow have the leash in my right hand, and immediately begin jogging back to our house with Sasha and coaxing Zoe trailing along. But about halfway there, Sasha twists and pulls out of the collar.

I continue to run and call after them both, noticing a car coming down the road.

The momentum works. Sasha, Zoe, and I run back to our house, and then the dogs tumble through the fence gate as if everything is perfectly fine.


The day is Friday, 26 June 2015.

From the White House, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, addresses the nation about the Supreme Court ruling against states’ banning same-sex marriage:

Progress on this journey often comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, compelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.

This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so, they have reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law; that all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.

That night, the White House is illuminated with rainbow colors.

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In between during mid-afternoon, President Obama speaks in Charleston, South Carolina — at the Emanuel AME Church where only days before nine black people where massacred in a racist act of terrorism. Here, he is behind a pulpit, eulogizing South Carolina state Senator Clementa Pinckney.

“The Bible calls us to hope,” Obama begins, “to persevere and have faith in things not seen.”

About Pinckney, Obama stresses: “No wonder one of his Senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as ‘the most gentle of the 46 of us, the best of the 46 of us.’”

Praising Pinckney builds to Obama’s larger message: “This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace.”

Behind Obama, congregation leaders in purple robes lend an impromptu chorus punctuated by the organist off camera. “Amazing Grace” and “purple mountains majesty” rise beyond the tragedy of the moment and spread across the nation like a rainbow.


The day is today.

Today is.

That is not a question before you.

The question before you is always “What matters?” and then “What will I do?”

Originally published at radicalscholarship.wordpress.com on June 28, 2015.

Written by

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

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