"We are all the same on the inside, so why judge." Avari Brown, 7th grader
How To Get Along
In order for me not to acquiesce to this kind of treatment, I feel it is a moral obligation, to speak out.
I also feel strongly that one must work to bring people together. I feel division is destructive - in relationships, for our country, and for our world. Yes, I know some of you may think that is a pipe dream. You are entitled to your belief. But I feel I should not add to the division, but rather find ways to bring about resolution. I have always been a huge advocate of conflict resolution skills and peaceful de-escalation. I believe in non-violence. I know my sphere of influence is small in relation to our country's political dilemma but feel it is important in order to feel empowered and engaged, I need to do what I can, on whatever level is available to me. I can do what I can, where I am, to the best of my ability, to live at peace.
So how does one live at peace with their neighbors and co-workers when there is such strong division and opposing views? That is the question of this time in history and we are at a pivotal point. That is kind of scary for me because I am not one who likes to draw attention to myself or to stand out in a crowd. I prefer to work in the background and to live a quiet, unassuming life. I live in a lovely, rural, conservative area in Ohio. I love my little town and love my neighbors and co-workers. It does not go without stating my area is heavy with Trump voters. I, too, used to vote Republican on the anti-abortion issue until I started to see some pretty unchristian policies and attitudes being pushed by Republican politicians. Sigh- I know.... politics and party lines are SO controversial right now! How does one live at peace, with their neighbors, but disagree and speak out on important human rights issues without invoking a deeper divide? Good question!
To back track just a step- I went thru Eastern Mennonite University S.T.A.R. program 2 or 3 years ago. I completed Level I and II. It was excellent and opened my eyes to a world of people working toward peaceful resolutions in dire circumstances. Everyone who strives for peace is a hero in my eyes. I was humbled to meet people involved in peacemaking at STAR that included organizations such as; Doctors without Borders, Mennonite Church USA, World Bank, Shelter 44, MADRE- combating violence against women, EMU's Center for Justice & Peacebuilding grads, students, and professors, Washington DC-based activists, Mediators Beyond Borders to name a few.
It was, on the surface, an intimidating group that had an awe-inspiring wealth of knowledge and experience in world events, world travel, on the job experience, advanced degrees, and social status. I was still climbing out of a hole due to a recent traumatic loss due to suicide and recovery from childhood trauma induced depression. I found my experience at STAR to be empowering and enlightening attributed to the synergy of healing and acceptance in both groups.
I have used my acquired skills in what feels like small insignificant ways, as a mental health tech and rehab aide in the years since I took these courses. It was not really what I had envisioned at the time but I don't want you to fall into the same mindset I had, thinking I could only make a difference if I were working for world-renown organizations or had advanced degrees and a fancy job title.
Please do not discount the value of one person showing kindness and empathy to another.
Every day, we have a choice as to how we interact with the people around us. We can choose to show mercy before judgment. We can choose patience before irritation. We can choose goodwill before anger. We can choose consideration before greed. We can choose goodness before animosity.
We can pause before assuming. We can challenge ourselves to learn more about other people's situations. What may seem a simple solution to us may not be so simple on the other end. 'Why don't they just learn English before they come here?' or 'I am okay with legal immigrants, as long as they are American first.' How does one put aside their language, culture and life experiences, up to that point, and be something completely different?? And how do they do that when the very reason they are not in their home country, is because of some serious event? Like lack of work, food, SAFETY?? It can be annoying and inconvenient when language is a barrier....or when cultural differences make it hard to relate.....but if it feels awkward, annoying, scary, tiresome to ME, imagine how it feels to the other person? I thankfully have not been in that position, but if I were, I would appreciate more than words could say, someone showing me patience and kindness.
I am no way saying I have this all figured out. I struggle as much as the next person but think resetting our 'default' response to people who are different, inconvenient, or annoying could go a long way toward finding common ground and a way forward thru this mess we are facing now. It is my personal belief that extending basic human rights and dignity to all people, does not take away from me. Haven't we all told our children that love MULTIPLES not divides?? We tell our first born that we will love them every bit as much as we always have when the second born arrives. Our love is not divided the more it is extended. Our love multiplies and accommodates more and more!
I can hear the responses of some of you- yes, but our resources are diminished. Our resources are divided the more we open up to others. Yes, that is true to an extent... our physical resources ARE limited but our pool of human potential is expanded. As we extend openness to others, we also open up more potential and possibilities. People have an inherent potential in them. I believe this and believe it even more so after spending time with special needs children. I have learned more, gained more, in their presence than in most other activities I have been involved in. These children, who by most standard ways of viewing, have limited potential but can teach us all so much. Humanity is not 'standard'. None of us fit in little, neat categories. Why even try? Do not be in fear of others different than you- be curious and inviting! If not physically, how about intellectually? When you can meet someone, face to face, and see beyond poverty, race, orientation, gender, nationality, you see that we are not all that different.
Language barriers and cultural differences are barriers- no doubt. But educate yourself on recognizing that and look beyond that to a mother's worried concern over her children. A man's desire to find work to feed his family. A young child's playfulness and wonder. A young person trying to find their way in adulthood. These are things we can all relate to.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
I want to close by sharing a trauma awareness resource from STAR of a peace wheel for a Stable Society.
This article may help illuminate why we are where we are. Be sure to read the 2nd paragraph, Punishment and Fear-based Leadership. It is very enlightening.
Another resource from STAR.
Take care of Yourself pdf
Thank you for reading and sharing if you feel so led. I am an artist and maybe because of that, I do not think in black and white and find beauty in diversity, color, and variety. To read what inspired this blog and this painting, read my very first blog post in 2007.
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