Shades of  Green


The Greening has arrived! Last month I suggested that we look for the green to erupt.

I must be honest and share that “my tree” took its time getting its green on. Almost like a two-year-old or a teen: I’ll do it when I am ready, quit hovering.

So, the green has spung and there is, amidst the chill that still lingers, a tad of hope. Hope despite the fact that yet another COVID variant is creeping out of its cave and beginning to wreak havoc. 

Two other shades of Green spoke to me this month: the green of envy, revenge, and vengeance, and the greed of greenbacks (aka money).

Recently I read two different novels that dealt with the greed of money bumping up against the the green of envy, revenge, and vengeance.

The setting of the first book, The Widows, by Jess Montgomery, is the Ohio Appalachian coal mines during the 1920s. The labor situation was atrocious. Not only did the workers earn extraordinarily little pay, but they were paid in script. And your only option for purchasing food, or any other necessities was going to the General Store owned by the Mine Company. So, you worked for a pittance and your only option was to use the script. So essentially you were giving your money back to the Mine owners. In addition to that egregious scheme, the only health benefit for the miner and family was a Company Doctor, most often portrayed as one who had little commitment to the health and well being of the miner and his family. Add to that, in many mines children as young as 12 or 13 were working in the mines! Schools were often shut down.

Conditions became so deplorable that activists began to urge miners to join a Union. Of course, the activists took great risks and were often beaten or in some instances killed.

A catch 22: if the miners risked joining a Union, they were subject to being fired. Where do you go with a wife and family and no money? They only had script. If the miners did not risk joining the Union, there was no future. This scenario played out throughout the Appalachian mines.

In this particular novel, a husband and a brother have been killed in a mine explosion due to lack of safety protocols. A 12-year-old has been put in the mine because he can reach small crevices. The relatives of the families rise up and seek revenge. Understandably, I would say. Yet another leader stands up and says: 

“If we really want to help these people here, to have some hope, to have another choice, we can take vengeance. But vengeance doesn’t bring the dead to life. What if instead we let vengeance go? Choose saving our people, our families. . .  what will help the living.” 
(The Widows, by Jess Montgomery, p. 290-91)

I thought that took courage. To take the high road, to choose life when what we really want is to kill, to seek revenge, to continue the spiral of death.

This is a novel, but pretty true to life in the mines in the ’20s. Unions were eventually formed; compromises were made. Safety improved. Script eliminated. Still, all is not well. The risk of “black lung” persists to this day. There are still explosions. However, a reminder to all of us that revenge and vengeance is not the answer. Although at the time it feels like it is.

In the second novel, Birds of a Feather, situated in England, the temptation to seek revenge erupts after it is discovered that a woman who lost her son and husband in WWI has cleverly gone around killing women who had been part of the WWI “white feather” movement. The “white feather” movement was women who saw a young man of military age out and about, would hand him a white feather indicating that this man was a shirker and should be in Flanders fighting. The women who passed out the “white feathers” had no idea why the particular man was not in the military. Some men had valid reasons. In the novel, when the discovery is made of who the murderer is, again there is a rush to seek revenge.

The author has the main character, Maisie Dobbs say:

Resentment must give way to possibility

Anger to acceptance

Grief to compassion

Disdain to respect

(Birds of a Feather, by Jacqueline Winspear, p. 294)

I close with a quote from Benny (aka St. Benedict) who reminds his brothers (and all of us), 

“nourish kindness, to starve anger and resentment” (rule 4).

There is a cauldron of anger and resentment bubbling over here in our beloved USA.                         Let’s starve it with kindness, patience, and compassion.     

Bridget

3 thoughts on “Shades of  Green”

  1. With what we see day in and day out of gun violence and war and words of violence from politicians, your words invite me to turn my anger into positive acts. Thanks Bridget. I needed this today.

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  2. Michelle, Good to hear from you. i need it as much as anyone. In your many ears at St. Martha you certainly let anger move to acceptance; grief to compassion and disdain to respect. Hope all is well. Bridget

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