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Pat with daughter Bethany and granddaughter Sarah


Dear travelers with me,

some months ago I wrote this letter to a friend, and today she sent it back to me, thanking me for it. Day before yesterday was the Women’s March  – so now I tinker with my letter, update it, and offer it to you.  My own tradition is Christian – those of you who have read my books know my struggle with my tradition – here that struggle with its problems and its strengths are clearly visible:

A lot of years ago, as my daughter, Laurel, who is a theologian and author of some amazing books of theology, (Beyond Monotheism; Awake to the Moment) was washing dishes and I was drying, she said, “Oh, Mom, by the way — some young feminists are saying the gospel of John may have been written by a woman.”

I laid down the towel and without a word went into the front room, closed the door, sat down on the couch and sobbed those deep, racking sobs that come up very seldom and usually from a place within us of which we are not fully aware.  It would take too many paragraphs to adequately tell what the gospel of John meant to me.  Let it suffice to say that almost, if not all, of the tender stories of Jesus and women are in it, and I spent two years once teaching from it, one verse at a time, researching what history I could related to that verse in preparation for the next Sunday morning class.

Nothing like those moments with Laurel has happened since.

Until the night recently when our friend, Emily Savin sat between Peter and me on the couch in the living room and played from YouTube for us the twenty-third Psalm by Bobby McFerrin.  To hear this gentle, sweet coming to the words “mother and daughter” simply broke open some place in myself I didn’t even know existed.  Again, I was reduced to sobs.  Only later, only in the days and the events that have wracked our nation and our world, have I come to understand the feelings that those two events brought to my awareness.

This morning I read in the New York Times a careful and caring response to the Women’s March on Washington last Saturday – but I do not agree with it. It said, in essence, that marching makes us feel good but doesn’t change  a thing.

Wrong.  It does change something.

I am full of hope, my sisters and brothers.  I believe that Donald Trump has ripped open and made visible, as no one before him has, the ugly truth about the forever place women have lived in — less than, second to, touched where we don’t want to be touched, told as I was told in graduate school that I could not get the degree I wanted “because unfortunately you are a woman” and I didn’t even feel any anger —just soggy disappointment because that was the way the world was.

“Mother” and “daughter,” Bobby McFerrin sings. And I remember Jesus kneeling beside the woman about to be stoned, writing in the sand with his finger.

Let us write, my sisters.  Let us speak and write and sing the truth of our lives, and let us have hope because so many good men marched with their women, so many good men are seeing for the first time, understanding for the first time, how it might feel as it felt when I was twelve years old, riding by myself on a Greyhound bus on an inside seat, when all at once a finger began moving up and down my leg.   It was 1946.  I never until now told anyone about that moment.  Why should I?  That’s just the way the world was for women. But it doesn’t have to be that way forever.

The Women’s March does change something.  It has changed something in this one old woman’s heart and mind.  I will write.  I will write to my senators and representatives as I never have before. And I will continue to write the truth of my own life.  Poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”

Here is Bobby McFerrin, singing a deep truth of our lives:

13 Responses to Response to the Women’s March, January 2017

  • Barbara-Helen Hill says:

    Thank you for sharing this Pat. I was told about 1995/6 that standing on protest lines and marching doesn’t do much but writing will do enormous things. I will continue to write my story – including the neglect and abandonment of my mother and the alcohol that infested our home, making it possible for sexual abuse to creep in by our father’s best friend.

  • Thanks so much for this Pat. Thanks for the encouragement to keep writing our stories. Im an Australian remote area nurse and have been writing a memoir of my time in Indigenous communities. I met my husband during the course of my work and of course our deepening relationship goes into my story. But thats where I keep getting hung up because those years were painful to me as my relationship still is in many ways. I am curious he is not. We’re both Christians but from different denominations and miles apart in curiosity and openess and fundamentalist and adhering to tradition. My husband is also a Samoan and I’m a white Australian. Curiosity versus tradition. Of course in all this process I’m always the one who is wrong (with just about everything). So I’m trying to find a way to write my story honestly without being destructive.

    • Pat Schneider says:

      GOOD FOR YOU, BARBARA! TELLING OUR STORIES ENABLES OTHER WOMEN TO TELL THEIRS. IT FEELS LIKE THE MARCHES AROUND THE WORLD BY WOMEN LAST SATURDAY REALLY DID CRACK OPEN THE WORLD!

      • Pat Schneider says:

        SHARON, I’M SUCH A NEANDERTHAL AT THIS, I PUT MY RESPONSE TO BARBARA ON YOUR LETTER. SORRY! I DO KNOW THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN FUNDAMENTALISM AND WHAT I EXPERIENCE AS FREEDOM FROM DOGMA WITHOUT LOSING MY PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP TO GOD. MY BOOK, “HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN” IS ABOUT THAT STRUGGLE, AND AVOUT WRITING. I’D LIKE YOU TO READ IT — IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY IT, LET ME KNOW. I’LL SEND IT AS A GIFT. MY EMAIL IS BELOW — USE IT — I SELDOM GET ONTO MY WEBSITE AND FREQUENTLY MESS IT UP WHEN I TRY TO COMMUNICATE HERE

  • P.S. isnt it amazing how changing a pronoun can make so much difference! this is a wonderful version of the 23 rd psalm.

  • Helen Sears says:

    Your poetic, healing response was more needed than than can be expressed. Thank you so much. As a minister’s daughter, I’m on my knees with gratitude. Besides giving hope and strength, this changes everything!

  • Pat Schneider says:

    Thank you, Helen. Your affirmation means a lot to me.

  • Oh Pat – and still, over and over again, you give us courage to live into these days – into every day. One friend suggested we gather poems written after the election and publish them. I would want some pieces of prose too – and this letter and your other words pointing us toward the “small thing, the tender things, the quiet things, meaning and patience and hope.” Which doesn’t preclude letter writing! Colette Volkema DeNooyer

  • Joni says:

    Dear Pat, I can’t tell you how much I needed to read your words now. I agree, that in part we owe a debt of gratitude to Trump, for exposing our shadow self, the ugly, horrible parts. The Women’s March began some of our healing, in a loving and peaceful way that is so inherent in women. Time’s are changin’ and we women, along with our awake and loving men really did crack the world open! This is how we begin to write HERstory!

  • Deborah Cox says:

    Thank you, Mrs. Scheider, I have been in a writing group that meats in the town below mine since January. But sometime it get canseled or I can’t get there because I can’t dive and no one can bring me. I want to start a writing group in the homeless shelter because Original Voices is so inspiering. Please pray for us here in Maine and tell us when you will be speaking in our area. Yours always, Brigid ( Deborah ) Cox

  • Helen Sears says:

    Your intentions couldn’t be more honorable or giving. If only I were in Maine instead of California!
    Pat, if there are ways of remotely supporting this brave lady with training and writing feedback, and if I can be of any help, please let me know. I’d be more than happy to volunteer in any way I can.
    Thanks.

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Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) is the organization that is carrying on the work Pat established and carried on for more than 30 years. To discover how you can write with an AWA Method Group, or become trained as an AWA facilitator, please click this link.