Robert Coles’ Admonition

The following was an item in today’s “The Writer’s Almanac.” As i was going about my morning routine thinking about friends right and left of me and our citizens today, i saw good ideas gone bad because of excess and lack of consideration of the end result. i saw bad ideas becoming the guidelines for political maneuvering. i felt hatred. i felt fear. i even felt glad because i recognized i am too old and too little known (thank god) to have an impact if i tried. And, ultimately, i felt sad. Then i read this entry and i felt akin to Coles, and wished, i’m afraid forlornly that somehow all these friends and all the haters and the fearful would adopt Coles’ recommendation in the bottom paragraph.

It’s the birthday of author and psychologist Robert Coles (books by this author), born in Boston, Massachusetts (1929). He’s the author of more than 60 books. Coles was in the South at the dawn of the civil rights movement, planning to lead a low-key life as a child psychologist. But one day, during a visit to New Orleans in 1960, he saw a white mob surrounding a six-year-old black girl named Ruby Bridges, who was kneeling in her starched white dress in the middle of it all to pray for the mob that was attacking her. Coles decided to begin what would become his work for the next few decades, an effort to understand how children and their parents come to terms with radical change. He conducted hundreds of interviews on the effects of school desegregation, and he shaped them into the first volume of Children of Crisis (1967), a series of books for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973.
 
When Coles was 66, he co-founded a new magazine about “ordinary people and their lives.” It was called DoubleTake, and it featured photography and writing in the documentary tradition. The magazine was printed on fine paper with big, beautiful photo reproductions, and it won lots of awards.
 
Robert Coles said, “We should look inward and think about the meaning of our life and its purposes, lest we do it in 20 or 30 years and it’s too late.”

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