Lately I've been thinking about what it means to be "fortunate." A loaded word, honestly, with "fortune" at its root, conjuring material wealth; life success based on circumstances into which we are born; paths opening up due to those who laid them with us in mind. And the contexts into which this word is dropped...like when a person is spared death or injury, they are considered "fortunate."
I want to simplify this word, and so many others in the English language. I wish all those loaded words were more truthful, straightforward. Like in Twi, one of Ghana's many languages; when you meet a person on the road, it is customary to say "E te sen?" And this means, literally, "how is your skin?" because though life is hard and by a certain age we all know it, if your skin is good, this means your body is intact and you are alive, which means you have survived. You are fortunate.
For right now, let me suggest that we are fortunate to be able to gather together. Exactly three years we were experiencing a collective trauma of grand proportions. We will never forget the first time we left our houses and saw everyone walking around in masks; streets and stores emptied; fear embedded into each of us so that we began to walk wounded and grief stricken; family members becoming ill, and some passing away in utter isolation. Learning how to fully embrace technology (eg: ZOOM) as it became our only way of connecting with family and friends.
Think about it.
On March 3rd 2023, I led 60 upper elementary students in a staged performance at the National Geographic theater in Washington DC; This Sunday March 19, I will lead a performance of drummers who have gathered in person each week for 6 weeks to prepare (All Souls Unitarian church in Washington DC, 10am); Next Sunday March 26, I will lead a drum circle at the new Hands on Drums in Takoma Park that has no mask requirements, and no maximum number of participants. Those concerned about getting COVID will wear a mask, and this will look and feel normal. Those who do not wear a mask will not be judged either. We gather assuming we have each other's best interest in mind, including one another's physical and mental health. And we are fortunate.
Many many places around the world are in the midst of war and tumult. We feel our hands are tied and in some ways it's true; activism has changed from the time my feet and beats called the streets home. We thought our many voices carried together could make a difference, because the whole world was watching.
But right now, though three years later, coming together is still new, like a fresh start. Some people still have barely left their homes for the past three years. What if coming together, as we are fortunate to be able to do now, is a great act of bravery? For some of us, including my dear friend Tom Gardner who passed away just last week, coming to drum together is the only thing that gets us out of the house and back into the arms of community.
Perhaps this is something we should all try to do, because we are fortunate to have the opportunity, to have the drums, to have the freedom to express ourselves, and to have one other. Right now.