What can you do?

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

Once the marches are over – the real work begins. Volunteer. Serve. Help. Find something you feel is important that is threatened and work for it. It is time to stop expecting the government (or anyone else) to help. It is our time to act with love, with unity, and with focus on making our neighborhoods, our country, and our world a safe, loving and healthy place for everyone. This happens only with love – not with protesting the bad but by working for the good. It is not a time of numbness or fear, but of building, and rebuilding.

Jesus says to love our enemies. Love. Not protest.

Marching in protest doesn’t build. It says what you are against, but not what you are for. If all you do is focus on the negative, then that is the only thing you are giving your energy to. Life is too short to be angry all the time. Do something positive.

Teach a child from another country how to read and write in English. Learn Arabic or Spanish so that you can welcome the stranger. Donate your time to a women’s shelter.

Buy land and keep the trees on it so it is a haven for wildlife, and produces air for people to breathe.  Or donate to the Nature Conservancy to do the same thing.

Worried about the Department of Education?  Go to the library.  Read non-fiction.  Learn as much as you can.  Encourage others to do the same by teaching a class on what you learned.  Start a group (sometimes known as a salon) where you all share your knowledge.

Worried about the National Endowment for the Arts? Start your own creative co-op.  Paint.  Draw.  Have a play.  Recite poetry.  Have a concert.

You don’t need a special place for these experiences – you can rotate using member’s homes.  You don’t need a permit.

The biggest thing is to focus on what you can do.  Not on expecting anyone else to help or support, or protect.  The props are gone, or are going.  We don’t need them anymore. We can walk on our own.  We are stronger than we know.

Build bridges, not walls.  You.  Yourself.  Don’t worry about the government. You can’t control them.  Focus on yourself – what you can do.  It is time to stop being passive about your life. It is time to stop being co-dependent.

Worried about access to birth control?  Research natural rhythm methods.  Practice abstinence or non-penetrative sex until you are ready (mentally, emotionally, financially) to have a child.  Learn different ways to be intimate with your partner other than having sex.

Peace is possible

We tend to have a set of blinders on when it comes to peace. We forget that the world isn’t always at war. Let us focus on times of peace that have happened – times when long-standing disagreements have been resolved. What “could never happen” has happened before and can happen again.

I invite you to recall specific moments of peace –

The end of apartheid in South Africa.
The removal of the Berlin wall.
The peace accord in Ireland.

All of these conflicts seemed to dissolve overnight, yet they required the intense energy and attention of many people who prayed and worked for their resolution. All along it seemed hopeless – too big to fix, too large to solve.

Do you feel the energy of the change? A huge shift in energy occurred that made it possible for peace to flow.

Now take that energy and push it towards today’s issues –

Israel and Palestine.
Race relations in America.
Refugees fleeing war and poverty.

These seem bigger than us, impossible to resolve. And yet the past tells us otherwise. There is hope. Change is possible.

Keep pushing.
Keep believing.
Keep working.

Cure for violence

We’ve had too many examples of people becoming violent and randomly killing people. This isn’t something that is going to go away unless we make it go away. It is a weed that takes many years to grow. We have the ability to eradicate it in the future. Here are some of my ideas about a cure for violence. Some of this I wrote a few years ago, after a rash of these occurrences.

Just like with treating toddlers -ignore the bad behavior and reward the good. Don’t publicize the name of the criminal, the perpetrator. Lets’ not have a payoff.

Notice and acknowledge people. Everybody needs to know that they count. When you see someone who is a loner, make contact with them. Befriend them. It isn’t easy. But it is essential. It is part of this “love your neighbor” thing we are supposed to do.

Remove, discourage violence in the media. Games and movies that depict violence should not be bought. They should not be made, but we can’t control that. Take away the demand, then the supply will go away. I’m not about making laws for these things. Make it illegal and you’ve made it taboo. Make it taboo and you’ve made it desirable. Kids want what they can’t have. Rather, we need to watch what we consume.

We need to make it socially unacceptable for people to play war in their spare time. Especially kids, who don’t have the maturity to understand reality from unreality. How can you know what is real when you never see it? “Reality TV” isn’t. It is over the top, scripted, and fake, much like our celebrities. We have created a society of artifice, where we celebrate the un-real.

We need healthy outlets for emotions. We bottle them up and suppress our real emotions. Everything is supposed to be fine in our society, and this just isn’t normal. We don’t have a way to process pain. We need that. It has to get out.

I’m not advocating gun control. I’m advocating people control.

Is it that we have more violence these days, or that we are just so connected that we can’t help but see it? And why don’t we see a balance of “good” stories? Surely just as much good is happening.

Compassion for everybody

A lady came in yesterday and was really upset about a book that was late. She kept going on and on about how “He was supposed to have renewed it.” She said this about five times.

I had an idea who she was talking about.

I took care of the fine and advised her to get a receipt next time and check it. We are human. We make mistakes. But her account is her responsibility to make sure it is correct.

Because we were dealing with a book about non-violent conflict resolution, I decided to open her up. I wanted her to have some compassion. You never know what burdens someone is carrying. Remembering that helps in defusing situations. If she is interested in resolving conflicts, she needs this tool.

At least I warned her that I was about to tell her something heavy.

I told her that more than likely the person who had made the mistake was grieving for his wife, who had died three weeks prior. I gave this a breath’s worth of pause.

I then told her that he himself has since died.

I showed her the memorial sign we have for him.

She stared at it, and said that was him.

Of course he didn’t renew her item. He wasn’t there. And now he really isn’t here.

I wanted her to cut him – and everybody else – some slack. You never know what people are dealing with. You never know what burdens they are carrying. They might not even know themselves.

So many of us are old minefields.

Circle reading list

Interested in the Circle process for conflict resolution? Here’s a list of books that are helpful.

Calling the Circle: The First and Future Culture. Christine Baldwin.

The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair. Christine Baldwin & Ann Linnea.

Doing Democracy with Circles: Engaging Communities in Public Planning. Jennifer Ball, Wayne Caldwell & Kay Pranis.

The Millionth Circle: How to Change Ourselves and the World. Jean Shinoda Bolen.

Peacemaking Circles and Urban Youth: Bringing Justice Home. Carolyn Boyes-Watson.

Heart of Hope: A Guide for Using Peacemaking Circles to Develop Emotional Literacy, Promote Healing & Build Healthy Relationships. Carolyn Boyes-Watson & Kay Pranis.

Wisdom Circle: A Guide to Self-Discovery and Community Building in Small Groups. Charles Garfield, Cindy Spring & Sedonia Cahill.

The Little Book of Circle Processes. Kay Pranis.

Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community. Kay Pranis, Barry Stuart & Mark Wedge.

Circle in the Square: Building Community and Repairing Harm in School. Nancy Riestenberg.

Building a Home for the Heart: Using Metaphors in Value-Centered Circles. Patricia Thalhuber, B.V.M. & Susan Thompson

The Way of the Council. Jack Zimmerman, in collaboration with Virginia Coyle.

List gotten with permission from Tracy Roberts at http://www.TheCircleCenter.com

Do you stay or do you go?

It is easy to stay in a job, a friendship, a marriage when things are good. But it isn’t always good. What do you do then? Do you stay or do you go?

There are different ways of going other than actually leaving. You can stop participating. You can “go along to get along”.

You can write out your rebuttal and then say at the end that no reply is expected, and even if there is a reply it won’t be read.

That too is leaving, that too is running away.

But how do you stay? Staying is hard. It is being willing to listen to the other person. It is being willing to engage in dialogue.

Nobody likes a fight. Nobody likes to disagree. I’ve heard some people say that they are “conflict adverse”. Of course they are. Normal people don’t seek out arguments.

But arguments happen all the time. We see things differently. We like to be right. When someone speaks their mind and it differs from your mind, what happens then?

That is “where the rubber meets the road”. That is where things get real.

Do you stay, or do you go?

In part, it depends on your investment in the situation. Can you afford to leave? How much time and energy have you put into this relationship?

It is ok to cut out. It is ok to leave. It isn’t ok to do that all the time. If you make a habit of leaving when things get hard, when things get real, then you’re making a habit of leaving.

A life filled with leaving isn’t really a life.

Stay. Stay with it when it gets hard. Stay with it, because staying with it is all that stands between you and anonymity. Stay with it because to always leave is to disappear, to dissolve.