Work in Progress
Among other things, I have been working on my first book of verse, working title "Verse for the Curious: 50 years of bits & pieces of writing exercises" by Marilyn Catherine McDonald, MA. I am sending the manuscript to a few trusted readers to give it a pass through and a review of their thoughts. Hope to have it ready for Amazon Create/Space and Kindle by the end of the summer. (I don't believe I specified any particular summer. Still in progress.)
The following is an excerpt from "Mother of Eight Survives Population Explosion: Just Between Us Column Selections"
Jeff was black and I was prejudiced
Too often the only time a person’s name appears
in the newspaper it’s in the obituary column. There’s more to life than that.
Jeff was a black student in our predominantly
white suburban parochial school skirting the largest black housing project in Detroit.
We were in our senior year (1951). Jeff was in another
homeroom but we shared a class in Bible History. He sat in the desk at my
right, halfway back in the third row from the windows.
He was a good student, a valuable asset on the
school basketball team, well received by his fellow students and responsive to
their friendship. Jeff was a tall, quiet boy with inner beauty that expressed
itself in his warmth of character.
Yet, there was a barrier between Jeff and me.
Barriers made me uncomfortable—especially when I had a strong hunch that I was
the one responsible. People talked about prejudice, but I couldn’t identify
with the kind of racial hatred I grew up with in the Detroit area. I didn’t
feel any hatred for blacks, but definitely uneasy and fearful.
Prejudice can be little things. Like a black
boy tugging at my pigtails from the desk behind when the first grade teacher is
opening up a whole world of knowledge for me. It’s running home from school
because a black boy flashed a knife and started chasing. Teasing? I was too
young to decide. It’s seeing a little white girl cry and throw an ice cream cone
away after a teasing little black girl took a lick and “made it dirty.” It’s
hearing your mother quietly tell your brother to please not bring that little
black boy home after school again—while the boy sits on the curb in front of
the house waiting to play. It’s being knocked down on the ice pond in the
vacant lot by a black girl twice my age and size. It’s living through the 1943
“race riots” where 23 blacks are killed and the city goes berserk with
confusion, fear and hatred. It’s gradually building up protective barriers
because a few bad impressions by some representatives of a particular race
refuse to vacate the memory.
I could detail even more real or imagined harm
done to me by whites, but when you’re building a prejudice your mind doesn’t
calculate that way. With the whites who harmed me it was a matter of the person
and not the race—and I can remember what that individual did.
I never felt right or good about the prejudices
compounding in me. They were subtle and I hid them well—from everyone but
myself. I knew I couldn’t live my whole lifetime being afraid of blacks, it
hurt me too much. They really weren’t aware of it.
If I could ever learn to know a black as a
fellow human being it would have to be Jeff who would help me. I was still more
of an observer than a participant in trying to overcome my particular fear and
prejudice. Jeff, if he ever knew of my struggle never revealed it, but helped
me by his quiet, warm person to learn to erase color of skin from the picture.
“Could I please borrow a piece a paper?” He
asked across the aisle one day before a test began.
“Sure,” I handed it across without hesitation.
And on another day I might ask him if he had
the answer to one of the homework questions, and we would share our conclusions
before class started. When you’re a normal, healthy and active teenager in the
senior year of school the prejudice problem doesn’t occupy much of the waking
or sleeping time. It was quickly relegated to the subconscious and left to
resolve itself naturally in its own good time.
Over a period of time I could comfortably talk
to Jeff about school activities and homework. Some of my friends double dated
with Jeff and his girlfriend from his housing project. She went to a public
school in Detroit. Some of my friends backslapped, joked and were loose and
relaxed with Jeff. I still felt some barriers.
Suddenly, Jeff was stricken with leukemia. One
day he was absent from the desk next to me in Bible History. We were counting
the weeks until graduation, but Jeff never returned to that desk—or to any
other desk. He was hospitalized for a series of tests.
One Sunday afternoon five of my close
girlfriends got together with “nothing to do,” and one proposed we take a bus
trip to the hospital to visit Jeff. First we called to be sure we could visit.
The hospital was strange territory for our little group, but we found our way
to Jeff’s room with help from a nurse who seemed pleased that we had come to
The reports that came to us at school over the
next several weeks and days made it look rather doubtful that Jeff would be attending
graduation. We all put our spiritual force of prayer behind his wish to
graduate with his class. We didn’t know he would be there until we started
walking up the church center aisle for the pomp and circumstance of graduation
proceedings. There were two capped and gowned figures sitting in the front row
to the right. One was a childhood sweetheart of mine. He’d been recovering from
a serious illness and making a gallant comeback. We’d been praying for him as
well as Jeff. The other boy is another story, and I’m here to talk about the
black boy sitting next to him, Jeff.
I didn’t look around to see if there were dry
eyes that night, but I know much attention was focused on the two boys who came
out of their sick beds to graduate.
With red, imitation leather-bound diplomas in
hands, and tassels turned to signify our advance, we marched out into the world
and searched for our friends in the meeting rooms and parking lots.
It was a warm, early summer night. A group of
graduates stood by the parking lot fence congratulating a smiling Jeff with
gentle pats on the back and handshakes. As I approached the small group I
observed that the girls ran up to the male classmates and planted graduation kisses
on lips and cheeks. Jeff stood there, smiling his broad grin of white teeth
against his black skin.
I walked directly to Jeff, held out my right
hand for a congratulation handshake and leaned forward on my tiptoes and
planted a kiss firmly on his right cheek.
“I’m so happy you’re here, Jeff,” I swallowed
the hard lumps forming in my throat. “Thank you for coming.” I couldn’t tell if
he blushed or beamed with pride. When he returned congratulations and said,
“Thank you,” so much human acceptance and Christian love was exchanged. I felt
that somehow he knew what I had felt but never expressed.
Too often we regret those left-undone acts of
love. As I look back I’m grateful I was able to cross the barrier I’d built.
Able to show another person I cared. Grateful that person was so approachable.
Sixty-nine graduates went their separate ways.
A very few weeks later a phone call informed me that Jeff died.
A small group of my close friends again boarded
a bus to go and see Jeff. The funeral was at the Chapel of Our Lady of Victory,
in a black neighborhood in Detroit.
The wood floor of the chapel creaked as we
walked in, and my knees cracked, as they always did, when I genuflected at the
pew. Black faces turned and viewed us. I thought for a moment we were out of
place—but sorrow and mourning have colorless faces, and death is nondiscriminatory.
The prayers of blacks and whites went up in
unison, remembering a human being who left his impression on our lives.
Excerpt from Mother of Eight Survives Population Explosion: Just Between Us" Column Selections by Marilyn Catherine McDonald
pages 196-199, 2003
NEW BOOK RELEASE
Read.Reflect.Respond.Rest. 366 Daily Reflections on
Random Selections from Scripture
Marilyn Catherine McDonald, MA, firstname.lastname@example.org ISBN:
9781500886400 Available: www.amazon.com, www.createspace.com,
do we pray? Why do we meditate?
Answers to vague, soul searching questions such as
these come from experience – doing the exercises and getting results. Mostly,
we don’t know what we are looking for in the exercises. When we work out on the
treadmill at the gym we have a goal in mind – to lose weight, gain physical
strength and stamina. Prayer and meditation are both spiritual exercises. Our
spirit is somewhere at our center – a place of comfort, rest and peace. And, it
is easy to get there. We are looking for the divine presence within our core
being – that “Kingdom of God” within us that Jesus promised.
On January 1, 2011, I began my journey to the center
of my being by randomly selecting passages from old or new testaments. Taking a
few minutes to reflect on the passage and read footnotes as needed. Then I
wrote one page of commentary in my spiral notebook. Nearly four years later – a
book of “366 Daily Reflections on Random Selections from Scripture” is
available to readers. The important lessons in the book are overshadowed by the
process of just doing the exercises of reading, reflecting, responding, and
resting in the comfort of discovering a connection with something greater than
ourselves, within ourselves.
“This book is a true delight filled
with Holy Scripture, wonderful insights, perspective and gentle humor. Knowing
Marilyn and sharing her love, gratitude, wisdom, hope and grace has been very
special. Now, by putting it in writing, Marilyn is passing this quiet joy and
peace to the rest of the world. Thank you for writing this book. I feel
privileged to call you friend.” – Doris E. Gauthier, CSD, Spiritual
“From early childhood, we have
heard the phrase, Stop and smell the roses. Yet, in our often too-busy
lives, there is hardly a moment to smell the roses, reflect on our lives or even
take a deep breath.
“Now, however, comes this book from
author Marilyn Catherine McDonald that makes taking an ever so brief reflective
interlude each day not only easy, but uplifting, well beyond the momentary
investment in time it takes to spend with her book!
“Whether you are a frequent or
infrequent reader of the bible, you will appreciate the 366 expertly chosen
quotes from scripture that can, each day, literally reorient your approach to
life. For example, the selection for January 5 is: Every day is miserable for the depressed, but a lighthearted man has a
continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15) Marilyn sheds additional light on this
quote from scripture by reminding us, ‘A smile uses fewer face muscles and is
uplifting for the face as well as our hearts, and the hearts of others.’
“The combination of the quotes from
scripture and Marilyn’s true-to-life, wise commentary, can, in just moments,
give one enough pause to actually improve one’s day…and one’s life…by simply
changing the way we look at life’s challenges. – Jan S. Smith, Ph.D., Co-Owner and Managing Director of Bestlight
With hundreds of published
articles, stories, corporate promotional pieces to her credit since 1967,
Marilyn Catherine McDonald, at 81, is self-publishing her fifth print-on-demand
book/and eBook. She earned a BS from
Portland State University and an MA in Communications from the University of Portland.
Marilyn and her retired U.S. Air force husband Harry Taylor enjoy life in
Other books by Marilyn
available at Amazon.com
Alert the Media: How the American
Indian Movement used the Mass Media, 2010; ISBN 978-1450534277.
Little Girl Lost: A True Story of Tragic Death,
Resources & Bibliography, 2003; ISBN 1-4010-8340-4.
Mother of Eight
Survives Population Explosion: “Just Between Us” Column Selections, 2004,
Snowbirds Unlimited: Tales from the
Restless Traveler, 2010, ISBN
An Unforgettably Marvelous Chicken Named
Oscar, 2012, (Children’s story, EBook