This is a great sign

I Am Worthy sign with ERA YES sticker

My “I Am Worthy” sign from the Women’s March on Washington

When I got home from the Women’s March on Washington, I hung this sign over my bed as a reminder that the moment I’ve been waiting for since my 20’s has arrived: The Women’s Movement has finally been reawakened.

You know that saying, “What goes around comes around?” The ERA sticker was gifted to me by a stranger in front of our nation’s Capitol. It is the exact same design as the 40-year-old button I inherited from my mother, who raised me to believe in equal rights.

But it’s not the sticker or the phrase, “I Am Worthy” that made me hang it up. There is something even more special, and it’s for you as well as me.

The bus ride from Washington D.C. back to Melbourne, Florida took about 17 hours, and we were all completely exhausted. A few hours before we reached home, I stood up and called for my fellow passengers’ attention. I held up the sign, to which I’d tied a pen, and asked everyone to sign it with a message of hope for the days ahead.

It took a couple of hours for the sign to come back to me. When it did, I was blown away by the sentiment, a wide range of powerful, inspiring messages. This is the real reason the sign hangs over my bed.

These messages are not just for me, they are for all who believe in equality and are willing to stand up for what is right. I’ve done my best to transcribe them below, in hopes that these powerful words, written on a cardboard sign, will travel far and wide to bring hope and encouragement to all.


Sign with dozens of handwritten messages.

The messages of hope on my Women’s March sign.

“Remember the story of the snowflake; no two are alike, they are all beautiful, and while one by itself doesn’t seem like much, together, they are a force of nature. Surround yourself with snowflakes.” Debra

“When you feel discouraged, remember your aches and sore muscles from today. Remember the march you did with us. Remember you are a part of HISTORY now! We forge a path for our young women. THIS IS YOUR LEGACY.” Roseanne

“We were heard across the world, and we will continue to be heard, using our kind, loving, yet strong voices.” MB&Zzzz

“You were on the right side of history on this day! And you are not alone. We stand with you.” Jill

“At the core of you is all peace & freedom, ready and eager to be unleashed upon the world. Reach deep, see it in your sisters, give your gift. TY!” Elizabeth

“Don’t ever forget, we are all with you in solidarity. We will stand together, One Love.” Anne

“We are strong together. Girl power!” Isabelle

“Remember on your journey, whatever it may be, my hope for you is that you laugh until it hurts, love like there’s no tomorrow, live every day like there’s a million tomorrows, dance until you can’t…”

“Never forget what a group of women can do when we unite our voices!” Koreena

“Always remember why we march – for those who cannot! Stay strong, stay proud!” Tina

“Our children & grandchildren need us to fight.”

“Stay strong. As women united we stand.” Betty

“Be true to yourself.” Lauren

“We’ve just experienced a phenomenal reawakening of the power of women. You’re part of a sisterhood, and we can change the wrongs as a group together – and we are – you are NOT ALONE!” Cynthia

“May all your aspirations be blessed and fulfilled to benefit all beings and our planet.” Janice

“Hope will always keep you going.”

“There are a lot of us! Hang in there.”

“We are stronger together and I’ll keep in touch with you!” Christine

“Stronger together.” Cheri

“Hillary said, ‘Please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.’ We just marched with thousands who agree –remember that!” S

“We were glad to be part of this history-making day, Women’s March 2017. We can happily say that HOPE is still alive. Seeing young families with their children, seeing the elderly in their wheelchairs, kept this hope alive.” Leigh

“Stay strong. Stay fierce! Fight the good fight! We are all in this together.” Elizabeth

“Stay strong and march on!” Carol

“Nasty women never stop fighting.”

“Keep the strength alive. #Women’s March.” Alicia

“Never let anyone try to convince you that you are not powerful.” Karen

“The world heard us yesterday! XO’s!” Susan

“Girl power! Stay in the fight! T

“I “We have seen an awakening, and we will be there to support each other. God bless.” Jenny

“Just never give up.” Gabe

“The future belongs to the young. They know it, and they will never let this happen to them again.” Frank

“You have a voice. Let it speak always.” Trish

“Remember the community of women (and men) that have come together this special weekend. We are not alone, we just have to find each other. ” Barbara

“When you feel frustrated with how people are treated badly, remember the March and the hope and empowerment you experienced with the awesome ladies from Brevard.” L

“I have your back. Remember this weekend and the memories will get you through. We stand together forever, Women of Brevard!”

“Persistence – with a strong voice – can accomplish anything and everything. Love & light.” Kristie

“We have been and will continue to be a positive change in history! That gives us all the hope in the world.” Lindsay

“You are not alone! Stronger Together! We can make a difference – and we are!” Crystal

“Remember to always follow your heart…do what you know is right, even if it is hard.” Pamela

“Women who stand together can create miracles.” Robin

“Stronger together forever!” Mary

The children’s march

Marching on the Mall

I lived in Seattle in 1999, when activists and protesters turned the meeting of the World Trade Organization into “the Battle in Seattle.” I’d seen firsthand the broken windows and burnt-out bus shelters. I lay in bed listening to concussion grenades going off a short distance from my home. Estimates say that about 40,000 protesters were responsible for that chaos.

In the days before the Women’s March on Washington, I wondered if I was going into a situation like the Battle in Seattle. Even though the organizers were telling us to keep it positive, emails were circulating that warned us how to deal with things like being arrested or pepper-sprayed. While I traveled on a overnight bus to the capitol, the media reported that several hundred protesters at the inauguration were arrested for vandalism, setting fires, and damaging vehicles.

When we arrived at first daylight, we found no evidence of that violent anger. Our group was bubbly and excited, pressing our noses to the bus windows as we passed the Pentagon and the Lincoln Monument and crossed the Potomac River. Once we left the bus and joined the throngs, there were pink hats, clever and creative signs, and a hugely diverse group of people.

Everywhere, I saw strangers being kind to each other.

Some offered me free stickers and signs. In the potty lines, people shared their tissues and hand sanitizer. A woman on the street handed me a bottle of water, right when I needed it the most — I had gotten a headache from dehydration. I passed out Happy Spots and York Peppermint Patties.

Free Hugs

Free Hugs

There were over a half million people at the Women’s March on Washington, including thousands of children. They rode on their parents’ shoulders, carried their own signs, and even led chants with megaphones to amplify their high-pitched voices.

I overhead one father tell his son that on this day, he was allowed to say any bad word he wanted, as long as it was about the president. The little boy whispered something in his father’s ear, and the man’s eyebrows shot up. Then he nodded, and said “Yes, you can even say that.”

There was not a single arrest at the Women’s March, even though there were three times as many people there as at the inauguration. What a wonderful example we have set for our children and young people, showing them that peaceful resistance is possible.

 

This is what democracy looks like

U.S. Constitution: Amendment I

"Now you have touched the WOMEN! You have struck a ROCK! You have dislodged a boulder! You will be CRUSHED!"

“Now you have touched the WOMEN! You have struck a ROCK! You have dislodged a boulder! You will be CRUSHED!”

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

This past Saturday, there was a peaceable assembly in Washington D.C. Over a half million people took to the streets with signs, hats, and chants to speak our minds. This is our right under the First Amendment.

The mood was positive and every single person I met was kind. In addition to sharing a common dismay at the current regime, we share a belief in each other. We share a belief that we are all worthy, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual preference, and ability.

This is what democracy looks like.

Why I still march

This is a reprint of an article published on Martin Luther King Day 2015. One year later, it is still timely and worthy of sharing.
===
In July 1963, there were riots in Savannah, Georgia. A large headline in the Savannah Morning News read, “Rioting Negroes Stone Cars, Set Fires, Smash Windows.” Several stories were run under the headline about property damage during night marches that turned violent.

I wasn’t born yet, but I know that those front-page stories caused problems for my father, the executive editor of the newspaper. Decades later, he told me his publisher had called him on the carpet over it, saying, “Dammit, Schulte, why did you have to put that on the front page?”

Dad was defensive. “There were five thousand people marching in Savannah last night, and you don’t want me to publish the story? This is big news!”

The publisher continued fussing about the articles. “Next time, bury that in the back of the paper.”

The Civil Rights Act was passed a year later, and one would think that would solve the problems. But people are still marching, and the reason is still buried in the back of the paper. Why is that?

Broken window

A common sight in some parts of historic Brunswick

Where I’m living, in Brunswick, Georgia, the median income for a family is $28,564, and 25% of families are below the poverty line. The city’s racial makeup is 60% African-American and 36% white.

Contrast that with neighboring St. Simons island, where the racial makeup is 94% white. There, the median income for a family is $73,580. Only 2% of the families are below the poverty line.

When I first arrived in Brunswick, on my sailboat, Flutterby, the folks at the marina gave us a map of the town. They told us to walk a circuitous route from the marina to the Winn-Dixie grocery store, 2 miles away. “Why’s that?” I asked. “Oh, you know…MLK Boulevard runs through that section,” was the reply. It broke my heart to hear her tell cruising sailors, most of them white, not to even go into the black neighborhood.

Adams Market sign

The Latino grocery store nearest to the Brunswick Marina

I disregarded her advice, discovering charming houses and intriguing Hispanic grocery stores in that neighborhood. I also discovered a lot of abandoned shacks and lots full of weeds. I had some uncomfortable encounters. This was definitely a neighborhood whose residents struggled to survive.

I returned to the neighborhood this past Monday, on Martin Luther King Day. For the first time, I was marching in the MLK parade with a group of folks from the Unitarian church. The day was beautiful and the mood was buoyant.

At the staging area, I photographed the folks who were in the parade. But as we began marching down Gloucester Street and then turning onto MLK Boulevard, it was the people watching the parade who drew me. I began handing out Happy Spot cards, getting hugs and handshakes, and taking photos of the parade-goers.

Why do I march? I have mixed reasons. I love to celebrate the successes of the African-American community, a group of people whose rich ancestry predates my own on this continent. But I also march as a protest. The law may say otherwise, but inequality persists.

Parade-goers

Family watching the MLK-day parade in Brunswick, Georgia

The photos I took that day (see below) are full of happy people, but they bring tears of sadness to my eyes. Many of the houses behind the parade-goers are unpainted and unkempt, with bare dirt yards. These are people who live below the poverty line, because they don’t have the wealth of opportunities that I do. The economic figures and demographics are painfully clear. Being black and living in poverty often go hand-in-hand.

During the rest of the year, you won’t see any other parades going down these streets. Until they do, and until we have real equality, I’ll keep marching.

Love Wins

Love Wins.A while back, a dear friend of mine in Vero Beach gave me a ride in her new car. Right over the glove compartment, in front of the passenger seat, was a boldface black-and-white bumper sticker that said “Love Wins.” “What’s that?” I asked.

She told me about a church, about a mile south of my Dad’s house, that welcomed absolutely everybody, no matter what their ethnicity, sexual orientation, or beliefs. On their website, I read:

“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds. We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a tune in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up, or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than Mother Theresa, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there, too. If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church. We welcome those who are inked, pierced, or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid, or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts… and you!”

The Love Wins Church

The Love Wins Church

I asked my friend to take me, but I was shocked when she pulled into the parking lot. It was a nondescript blue church with a sign that said “Pioneer Baptist Church.” Although I am comfortable sailing acoss oceans and riding with gun-toting South Dakota strangers, I nearly chickened out at the door. I have only been inside a Baptist church once, and that was to cadge a free Thanksgiving dinner.

That week, when I heard the message of pastor Todd Holden, I was amazed. This Baptist preacher’s message was simple: If we set aside our own judgement and love each other, we are doing it right.

I went to the church three times in March, listening intently when Todd spoke. I left Florida just after Easter with a lot to think about. When I came back in November, I went to his church three more times.

On my sixth visit to church, before the service, Todd announced that he was stepping down as pastor. It wasn’t a surprise; attendance was dwindling. That morning, he told us that he would give only two more sermons. The first would repeat the very first sermon he gave at Pioneer Baptist in 2002, introducing his theology. The second, his final sermon, would sum up his entire theology for the congregation.

In that first sermon, he talked about seeking God and finding him where we least expect him. It was a great message to give when he and his congregation embarked on their 13-year journey together. Since it was Advent, it also aligned with the story of the three wise men. At the end, he reminded us that the following week, he would give a sermon that would sum up his entire theology. He emphasized that several times.

Last Sunday, on the day of Todd’s last sermon, I sat alone in the middle of the front row. I placed my phone on the seat next to me.

Heather, his wife, led several Christmas hymns on her guitar, interspersed with three Bible readings. All were very clear, powerful messages from Jesus about loving each other.

Then Todd got up to speak. I quietly turned on my phone’s voice recorder, thinking I might like to listen to his words in the future, perhaps on one of my long drives across the country. Heather had also set up a camera on a tripod.

He stood there and simply looked at us, the ragtag remnants of a much larger congregation. He didn’t speak immediately, and I thought it was because he was too emotional.

Then he took a deep breath, and he said, “Love one another.”

Todd sat down.

Those three words were his last sermon, the one that would sum up his entire theology.

I sat in disbelief, and finally, I reached over and turned off my voice recorder. I don’t know if I’ll ever go to church again. I don’t think I need to. I have already memorized the most powerful, inspiring sermon ever given in a Baptist church.

Tony and Meps

My friend Tony and I had never felt as welcome as we did at this little blue church. We took this photo on our last visit.

The 32-inch dilemma

“Because it is Monday, you see,
We are giving away this TV,”
When the game reached its half,
We could not help but laugh,
When the waitperson brought it to me.

For I’ve not owned a set til this day,
And the prize brings me dread and dismay,
Though the gesture was nice,
It’s an evil device,
Do I keep it, or give it away?

TV box with grumpycat

Meps’ reaction to winning a TV

On a Monday evening, I met my sister, Julie, at Highlands pub in Eugene, Oregon for a drink and some conversation. As we sat down in the booth, she noticed that there was a TV over her head. “Do you want to switch places?” she asked, knowing that I can’t stand television. “No, it’s high enough that it won’t interfere,” I answered.

Our waiter was a friendly fellow, and at one point, he brought us a couple of cards and pencils. “What’s this?” we asked. “We’re giving away a TV at halftime,” he said. Until then, we hadn’t even noticed that the rest of the patrons were watching Monday Night Football.

I thought it was safe to put my name in the drawing, because I never win anything. Until this time: At halftime, they announced that Meps Schulte was the winner, and the waiter carried a brand-new 32-inch television to our table. Julie and I were practically on the floor, laughing at the irony. I am 100% certain that I was the only person in the place who did not already own a TV.

Sadly, my perfect record of never owning a TV set is now broken. Should I give it away? To do so would increase TV-watching in the world. Or should I keep it to watch Burning Man documentaries, classic movies, and silly cat videos?

What a dilemma! I welcome your suggestions in the comments.

KCBS and Talking to Strangers

Friday, July 31 is “National Talk in an Elevator Day.” For Margaret Meps Schulte, that means “San Francisco Talk on the Radio Day!”

Tune into KCBS (740 AM/106.9 FM) at 9:30 AM PST to hear Meps’ interview with morning anchors Stan Bunger and Susan Leigh Taylor about the benefits of talking to strangers. If you’re not in the Bay Area, no problem — it’s just as easy to listen on the internet.

Meps has even penned a limerick in honor of the occasion:

When you get on the dull workday lift,
Where you always give strangers short shrift,
Just this once, say hello,
And then see how things go,
It’s the day to give strangers that gift.

elevator3up-d90-1085

Meps on KCBS for National Talk in an Elevator Day

When you get on the dull workday lift,
Where you always give strangers short shrift,
Just this once, say hello,
And then see how things go,
It’s the day to give strangers that gift.

Friday, July 31 is National Talk in an Elevator Day. For Meps, that means San Francisco Talk on the Radio Day, as she’ll be interviewed by KCBS morning anchors Stan Bunger and Susan Leigh Taylor about talking to strangers.

The brief interview is scheduled for 9:30 am PST. You can listen on the internet using the KCBS Live Audio Stream (http://cbssf.com/listen). If you are in the Bay Area, tune into KCBS at 740 AM or 106.9 FM.
elevator3up-d90-1085