An Instrument Of Peace

I keep a copy of my grandmother’s funeral card in my journal, which I forgot about until I opened it to write my thoughts on the horrific Orlando nightclub shooting. It’s a laminated copy, making it seem as new as the day in 1997 that she was laid to rest. The back is an angelic depiction of Christ with his arms wide, head delicately tilted, and eyes to Heaven- a real “bring it in, homie” kind of feel. The photo my family chose of her is her nursing photo; young, hopeful, she was born to help people. Most importantly, though, is that below that is her favorite prayer, the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi; “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

The card epitomizes everything she stood for; she was the embodiment of love, something I see in my mother as well. Hugs that enveloped you, that I have woken up from dreams of her still feeling, as though she were really there with her arms around me, that made me feel whole. “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all,” she would say. And though I can’t with good conscience consider myself Catholic anymore (don’t tell my grandfather that, though!), I still say that prayer to myself on a fairly regular basis, simply for its universality and ego-checking ability.

And now more than ever I needed to find it. My grandmother- no doubt- is weeping in Heaven for the souls of everyone affected by the indescribable tragedy of the Orlando shooting. She- no doubt- aches for the lives lost.

But I know she would never react with anger- only love. We MUST love. We must. We must, every day of our brief existence on this planet, insignificant in the grand scheme of things, teach and practice only love. I cannot speak as an expert on gun laws, only how humans treat other humans. What are we leaving for the next generation, the youngest members of our current society, to learn about humanity, when all they see is hatred, violence, petty bickering, and insults?

But what do I say, that we haven’t heard a thousand times this last decade as violence and hatred escalates exponentially? A society and a culture do not change overnight, I can tell you that, but in the long term, the single most effective thing we can do is teach our children NOW that they must always curb their anger and never give in to fear and hatred. We must teach them to love. They must love. Our greatest weapon in the face of fear and hatred is patience and acceptance and love, even in the smallest of ways and in our daily lives and actions and behavior.

We do not do that by pointing fingers, laying blame, name calling, and electing a president that thrives off of the belittling of others. We do not do that by blaming an entire religion for the fault of one group, one person’s hatred that has seeped into others.

War is often inevitable. War is often a response to a direct threat. War is often a country’s best defense- but hatred CANNOT be. We must love our neighbors. We must respect our neighbors and their opinions. Like I said, I’m not an expert on gun laws, but I have fired one, learned basic gun safety, and I know many people who are gun owners- respectable, disciplined, intelligent people who understand that there is a problem with this country, people who, in an event such as a mass shooting I WOULD feel safer being near. However, that does not describe ALL gun owners. In the same way that we cannot put everyone of the same religion in the same category, we cannot put all gun owners in the same category, whether good or bad.

I have seen the posts from many good friends of mine saying that our problem is not with guns, but with a Godless society. Is it not a society that used God as their “guide” during the Crusades? Is ISIS not using God as their reasoning? There are millions of truly GOOD God-fearing people out there in all religions, and millions of bad people using God as their excuse as well; just the same there are millions of wonderful, caring, and loving people who don’t believe in a certain religion, or any at all. I cannot believe that our problem is a Godless society. If anything it’s a goodless society.

We need level-headed, intelligent, patient discussion, and intensive scientific study of the issues in this country, and not this childish he-said-she-said avoidance of any real acknowledgement that perhaps this is BOTH a gun control issue AND a cultural issue; a problem with self-righteousness.

I feel deep in my gut that my grandmother wants me to pray and to love. I was always taught that love is a verb; to love is not to feel love, but to practice actions of love. It is not to be held on to, but is something to share. Love is selfless. Love is strong. Love takes time to cultivate.

I laid in bed with my grandmother’s card in hand, reciting her favorite prayer again and again, softly weeping and trying to make sense of what’s going on in this world. I can’t make sense of hatred. I- we- will always need love, God, whatever you refer to Him as (sometimes I call it “the Universe”) and as a 25-year-old young woman with a lot more life to live, I will need it more and more every day if this is the path our country must continue on. But I won’t give up.

As we move forward in what seems like bleakest of times, I am begging you to not give up on others, on God, on love. I am begging you to live with an open mind and an even more open heart. Alone, you cannot change the world with love, but together, perhaps we can. And I don’t mean only when tragedy strikes, but every day, with every stranger, with every friend, loved one, those who have hurt you, those who have stood by you, acquaintance, every social interaction you experience. Love is a powerful action, and the more you live it, the more it will catch on. Live for others, love others.

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“You Will Not Have My Hatred”

Two posts in one day?! Madness!

But seriously, I had to share this:

The husband of one of the victims of the attacks in Paris sent a message to those terrorists that murdered his wife that I find incredibly moving, that gives me hope in humanity, and that echoes what I’ve been trying to say:

You asked for it, you wanted it, but responding to hatred with anger would mean falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost. Better luck next time.

That is from the middle of the message, and below is the link to the article in which I first heard about it.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/11/his-message-to-the-terrorists-who-murdered-his-wife-floored-me/

This man lost the love of his life, the mother of his child, only 17 months old, and yet he refuses to hate the men who took her from him and he vows to raise his child freely and lovingly so that his young boy will not hate them either. I do believe that there is nothing more I can say that he did not ever so perfectly articulate other than: I truly believe that if we all can adopt this point of view, we all can triumph over hatred. Please pass the love on.

So now that I’ve posted a gazillion times about why we should love and not hate, I feel it necessary to question myself on how the heck I am supposed to proceed in changing the world in the wake of these events; I don’t have an answer right now. I suppose keeping these posts going, in the hopes that many will read them and in turn take home the message to treat everyone they encounter, and I mean EVERYONE, with equal love and respect so that the world may learn tolerance and acceptance to prevent attacks such as these…. I suppose that’s all I can do for now…

…key words being FOR NOW…

Fight hatred. Choose love.

I’m Just Gonna Leave This Here

I’m tellin’ ya, man, these signs from the universe just keep on comin’ (If you read my post from yesterday you’ll get the full explanation). This came from my daily zen calendar.

The moment we succumb to pain and hatred is the moment we lose the battle against evil.

I’ll just leave this here and let it speak for itself.

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I’m Fighting Radio Silence

Up until last week I know I kinda went radio silent for a little while. I think I was struggling to find any words or thoughts, because I was struggling with myself. I was beginning to lose sight of what I was here for, alive for. But I believe in signs from the universe. Some people believe in God, achieving Enlightenment, Allah, The Great Spirit- all valid beliefs- and though I don’t always know what I believe in, I believe in SOMETHING. I believe there is some higher power, some energy or spirit, in the universe guiding us and giving us something to believe and a better way to live; it gives us hints, nudges, bright neon signs, drops us a note here and there that we too often ignore.

I started noticing them again last week, which led to my “Solution” post. I couldn’t tell you exactly what they were, but they were there, calling me back to this blog, albeit not a widely read one, to persevere.

This is what I’m here for:

To give hope. Encourage faith. To remind people that we are one human race made to feel, love, think, experience life in a way that no other creature on this earth can boast of.

And then Paris happened. Part of me believes that these signs were nudging me into starting to write again because the universe knew what was happening and knew that people needed to start spreading love and encouragement, and knew that I needed to feel like my voice, no matter how small, was important and needed to get out there- the reason I started this blog. So I will keep it up. I will keep going. I won’t give up and I won’t stop using my voice to remind people to love and to hope and to have faith, even when we look at the rest of the human race and feel disgusted with all the evil in the world and how selfish we feel people can be sometimes. I will persevere and persist and bug the crap out of people until I feel I’ve gotten through to them… which will be hard.

I’ve continued to receive signs- yes, I consider fortune cookies to be signs *sometimes*- and I’ve kept my ears and eyes open to them. I’m a highly sensitive person and I find myself extremely and deeply affected by the events and experiences of these last few days. I’m encouraged, and I encourage you, to never give up and spread the love.

And as I near the end here I’m finding myself asking “Why the hell are you even writing this? Why do your readers need to see this?” Honestly? I don’t know. Maybe you don’t. Maybe I’m writing this because I need to be reminded of it. Either way, I feel it important to share and important for people to at least know that hey…. I’m comin’ for ya. I’m comin’ to spread the love, man, so BE PREPARED (throwing in some Boy Scouts Motto there).

I won’t be radio silent anymore.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
-Aesop

My signs:

http://www.upworthy.com/this-94-year-olds-last-bucket-list-item-was-5-seconds-on-tv-to-say-3-words?g=2&c=tpstream

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I Have Hope for the World

I heard of the terror attacks on Paris around 9 o’clock on Friday night while driving home from work. I am a professional with the Boy Scouts of America and was just on my way home from a Cub Scout pack meeting. It was a wonderful program: a story teller to entertain the scouts, speaking about veterans and giving back to the community, parents discussing how to become more involved in their children’s lives, and most of all the boys were SO excited to be there. All around I left that meeting with a sense of hope; I felt hopeful that if they stuck with it these young boys would grow up to change the world.That’s why I enjoy my job. I enjoy knowing that I have a positive effect on the lives of the American youth.

Then my roommate told me what happened and my heart was instantly crushed, broken, and torn. I cried for the innocent souls passed on too soon. I even cried for the souls of those who inflicted that pain; what happened to them, how were they so easily influenced and led to believe that this senseless violence was the answer to what is wrong with this world?

As the next 24 hours unfolded and the death toll rose, I was disappointed to see so many people on social media start to criticize their fellow citizens for giving so much attention to Paris, but not Beirut, Baghdad, Mexico, and Japan. How were we to know when this information was not so prevalent? I think what makes our immediate response to the attacks in Paris so much stronger is that it feels as though Western culture has been exposed as much more vulnerable than we felt we were; we were blindsided just like we were on 9/11 and the marathon bombings in Boston (hitting particularly too close to home for me). It hits home for us and that scares us. Our confidence is shaken. I can honestly say that had I known about the other tragedies in the world, my heart would have hurt just as equally as it does for Paris; now that I am aware of those tragedies it does. I weep for them all. I weep for every human being affected by any tragedy. I just wish that instead of criticizing one another we would band together in solidarity and love and peace and open our hearts to everyone in this world. We CANNOT respond to hate with more hate. We CANNOT attack each other, for we are stronger together. The moment we do, we lose. I choose to always love. So, my heart may be crushed, but my soul and my hope is not.

Below is what I wrote on Facebook, after much time and thought, as my response to these events. I hope it reflects what I’ve written here today and I hope it influences others to feel for the whole world equally, without criticism. It’s a prayer, poem, reflection, whatever you choose to call it, for all humanity:

I pray for Paris. I pray for the world.
I pray for every soul affected in any way by tragic acts of violence both near and far, known and unknown.

I pray that love prevails and that we may overcome hatred and fear.
I pray that we do not project our fears onto others.
I pray that we do not lose sight of how valuable a positive, loving, and caring attitude and outlook is.

I believe that change is coming and begins with us, here and now, though we may not make an immediate change. Let us look at Paris, knowing that many areas of the world have been affected ten fold by the same sort of violence, and say to ourselves “I will not stand for hatred anymore.” There is no overnight fix and there will always be some form of evil in this world, but change takes time and we CAN do it if we persist. Now is not the time to sit, steeping in anger and hatred, but to act on love and kindness, with everyone we meet.

I pray for Paris and I pray that it opens our eyes to the value of love.

And so I hope you feel the same. I hope you will stand together with me, in love and solidarity, and find a way to spread love to the world, near and far.

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Me Manifesto

Do you guys remember that episode of Boy Meets World where they flash forward to their imaginary college reunion? The show in general was the most hilarious, most awesome show of my childhood. I watch reruns just for the laughs. So much laughs. But this particular episode had this flash forward because in the current year, they were all fighting (over petty things, of course), so the flash forward follows:

Everyone is so unhappy, but Eric walks in, a hermit who married a moose and calls himself Plays With, last name Squirrels. Everyone thinks he’s the most ridiculous, yet he’s the happiest, because this gigantic book he’s holding is what he calls his “Manifesto” (Personally my favorite part is just the way he says it- in a half whisper “me manifestoooo” haha). But anyway… in it is the Secret to Life. Jack takes the book from him and it’s entirely empty- thousands of large pages and they’re all empty, except the first one, which contains only one phrase; it is by far the most powerful piece of advice that I have ever heard.

Lose One Friend

I will never forget the lessons I learned from it, and again… the laughs. Sure, some of it was fairly unrealistic (meeting your soul mate in 6th grade and getting engaged at High School Graduation??), but it actually contained the most valuable experiences and I think I’m a better person because of that show. Family, Friends, Love. What else in life is more important? To Eric, nothing was.

Lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself.

-Eric Matthews, Boy Meets World