birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

There Were Life and Death Rules

I've always been a rule girl, woman, wife. I like them. I like knowing how things are supposed to go. You say please and thank you. Those are the rules of good etiquette. You drive on your side of the double line. You don't yell "Fire!" in a crowed room. You treat others as you'd like to be treated. Civility.

It annoys me when other people don't know "The Rules." Where is your home training? Or, maybe you didn't have any. Why is it so difficult to hold a door open for a senior citizen (I'm there now) or a pregnant woman? Rules give people the appearance at least of being kind. Kindness is a virtue. These are the rules that make life run smoothly every day in the twenty-first century. You can make it from sun-up to sun down relatively harm-free.

Today I am in a Days Inn in Wetumpka, Alabama with my daughter. We're on a mother-daughter trip to travel the Civil Rights Trail. We started in Birmingham. We attended a service at the 16th Street Baptist Church where four young girls were killed by a bomb blast in 1963. I sat there thinking that their parents were sitting in church just as I was and all of a sudden a bomb went off and changed their lives forever. The men who did it had no rules.

We went to the park close to where dogs attacked men, women, and children and who were blasted with water from fire hoses. Those men had no rules, no heart, no soul.

Yesterday we went to the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum and the Legacy Memorial in Montgomery. It stands on a site where slaves were held before auction. Every man, woman, and child in the United States should go through both. Men, woman, and children were lynched for things as mundane as knocking on a white woman's door, asking to be paid for work completed, not moving far enough away as white people passed by. Those were the rules of the day. To break them meant death. Terror lynchings went on for decades and as late as the twentieth century. My heart is still heavy from yesterday.

Break rules? Yes, you can. And people have for good and for evil. Always consider the cost. Which side of the rule are you on?

Some Rules Are So Broken They Mend While Others Appear Stuck

Solidaridad Sandranista O'Brindle