Saturday, February 04, 2017

One march, many voices

Who am I?
I am a child of the 1970s. My parents divorced when I was 7. I attended Texas public schools, where at times I relied on a reduced-cost lunch plan. Teachers and librarians were my superheroes.
We didn’t practice religion often, though there were a couple of years we spent Sundays at an Assemblies of God church.
My domains have included apartments, modest suburban homes, more than one duplex, and a trailer house in the country.
I worked two or three jobs every day I was in college, paid my own way and graduated in four years (with mediocre grades).
I was engaged once to the wrong person for me.
I’ve never used illegal drugs, though I grew up around them. I’ve never tried a cigarette or been drunk (addiction scares me).
 I accumulated entirely too many speeding tickets from age 16 to 25.
I married the right person for me at age 22. I was baptized that same year in the United Methodist Church.
My work history includes fast food, retail, a half-dozen newsrooms, a megachurch and two elementary schools. Today I have three jobs – classroom teacher, freelance writer and tutor-for-hire.
I have volunteered in schools and churches for more than two decades.
My dreamboat of a husband and I had two children together. Our son is now 15, our daughter 11. Their daddy died when they were 8 and 4, after living for a year and a half with brain cancer.
Next to my children, books and travel are my passion. I wish I had more time and money for both.
I don’t exercise enough. I worry too much. My housekeeping skills are lackluster.
I love fiercely and unapologetically, yet I’m an introvert so I fear that I often appear aloof.
I have voted in every major election and a whole bunch of little ones since I was eligible in 1990. I discuss politics in a small circle and work daily toward tolerance for all who do no harm.
And on Jan. 21, 2017, my best friend and I drove to the state capital for the Women’s March on Austin.
I was fully clothed (some outlandish reports make it sound like everyone was running around in birthday suits). I carried a mild-mannered sign (“Strong women, strong country”). I sang “This Land is Your Land” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” along with the crowd.
Never, not once, not for a single moment, did I think of shaming women who weren’t there.  And I certainly didn’t walk the crowded downtown blocks because I thought I was speaking for any particular group.
I marched because I believe in equal rights for all, because children deserve strong communities and strong public schools, because healthy families are crucial to a healthy country, because small voices are often drowned.
I marched because we live in a country that protects speech and assembly and because democracy must be practiced beyond the voting booth.
I marched because I have relied on the kindness of strangers and even the generosity of our government.
I marched because I’m devoted to Micah 6:8, an Old Testament verse: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
I’m not defined by that one march or who I did (or didn’t vote for) or any single moment over the past 44 years. I’m like every other soul, an amalgamation of millions of moments, decisions and interactions.
I continue to pray that we all look beyond the easy – and deceptive – labels, that we ask “Who are you?” with genuine curiosity. I pray that as we acknowledge our differences, we find the courage to make peace on our much greater common ground.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

(Published in today's Briefing.)

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