Saturday, December 15, 2012

My Take on Gun Control, Sort Of

Wise words came to me yesterday in the form of a very gentle verbal slap in the face. Sometimes we see the flaws in the life of another easier than we see those in our own. Flaws? Me? I am so busy preaching gratitude for what is, compassion for self, and tolerance for positions other than one’s own and, yet, I was not turning that mirror toward myself. I was living for something that was not, shitting on my own head, and refusing to acknowledge any perspective other than my own.

Is it so much different when we profess concern for another in the name of God, and yet talk about how wrong that person is in thought, action, or deed just because he or she does not believe or does not believe as we do? I love you, but only if you are like me. I am a Christian, after all, and the right kind of Christian at that. But it’s okay. I’ll pray for you.

Is it so much different when we proclaim love of our country, concern for our brothers and sisters in citizenship and yet spew vile words in the name of compassion? I have never been so afraid for the future of my family and those I love. This man does not belong in office. Those who voted for him will regret their decision. The country is coming to ruin. What will become of family values, the sacrament of love and marriage, the word of the Lord? This man is evil and has done nothing for the good of our country. No? And what have YOU done? Personally. Sent nasty emails to every liberal on your friends list telling them what a wretched excuse of a voter they are? Posted racist, dehumanizing cartoons about this man and his family? Very productive. Way to be a contributor to a better world for you and for those you love. Way to put yourself out there and support the cause you so vehemently profess to believe.

Is it so much different when we express anger and shock at the news of mass shootings in our own neighborhood, and yet condone it when it is for “the greater good?” Death is okay when it is on other soil, when it fixes a wrong, when it supports our cause. We play games of distraction, making the issue not about slaughter or about cause, but about guns, weapons, and the right to carry such. One side shouts at the other. I am right. You are wrong. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Protect our children. Arm the teachers. Oh, come on, when was the last time you heard of a mass stabbing? Aren’t we missing the point? Do we even know what the point is?

You don’t teach love by flinging hate. You don’t fix death by killing life.

What are we doing to each other? What are we doing to ourselves? It is exactly this behavior that we are throwing out to others that creates the behavior we claim to so violently detest. We are angry at those not like us sometimes to the point of hatred. Our children see this. They learn from us that it is acceptable to believe themselves superior, that some of us are right and some of us are really, really wrong. It is not about religion or race or family values or guns. It is not about which side wins. When we attack each other as we do, we all lose. Game over.

No. It is not about religion or race or family values or guns. It is about love. It is about owning up to our own behavior, seeing our own faults as clearly as we see those of others. We cannot expect more love, more compassion, a kinder, safer world if that is not what we are giving. We cannot expect a warm and nurturing environment if we are spitting in the face of those we profess to embrace.

When I sat with my friend over coffee, I did not care to admit to having flaws. I did not want to acknowledge my faults or shortcomings. I did not want to own up to the fact that I was not living the very words I preach, that perhaps I was, and this pains me to no end to even consider, but that perhaps I was wrong. I did not, in fact, admit to anything until I had gotten home and thought about her words, run them through my head a bit. I am asking, now, the same from you. I am asking that you own up to your own behavior. That you focus for a second not on the actions of others, but that you focus on those of yourself. Take that mirror. Take that mirror and shine it back on you. Now. How do you like that? How do you like that picture?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Go in Love and Peace

Some people go to church to see what they can get from it, what message they can take. I go to church knowing what I will get, knowing the message I will take. I go to church knowing that I will be filled with thoughts of kindness and love and compassion and goodwill. Church, for me, is the source of my light. I am not dismissing the ugly. I am not dismissing tragedy or loss. I am promoting compassion and love. I am promoting a focus on what is good and what is right. Tragedy will happen. So will loss. It is important to address, to acknowledge. But in that same day, in that same space, peace and kindness and love will also happen. And these are no less important. “Go in love and peace to love and serve the Lord.”

I saw today a woman and her children collecting hats and gloves and blankets and scarves for those who have none. Not only did she go through her own closets, but she posted flyers to encourage others to do the same. She sat up barrels for the collecting and carted overfilled boxes of other people’s winter wear to the nearby mission. Her children accompanied her, helped her, and brainstormed ideas to make the next project even bigger. They all will be dishing out pie and salad and mashed potatoes at the same mission very soon. This was not the mother’s idea. This was the idea of her child. This woman was modeling for her children empathy and love and compassion, teaching a concern for others less fortunate than self.

I saw two students offer up much needed end of term praise to a very tired and very stressed instructor. Without going into detail, just know that words like “amazing,” “passionate,” and “exceptional” were thrown like flowers at my feet. I do not have a tip jar on my podium. Kind words are not a requirement toward grade. These came freely from the sincerity of their hearts. I question, at times, whether I am the person for this job. I question whether I am serving or merely getting in the way. I receive my share of punitive words, my fair share of jabs. But words like these, words that feed my energy, words that feed my teacher soul, I clip and cut and post where I can see when I want nothing more than to curl up in a corner and quit.

I saw a very good friend drop everything in her day to answer to the needs of a confused heart over a cup of coffee and some heavy chat. I am not very good at listening. I have my opinion, and I am almost always certain it is right. You may give me yours, I will allow you to do that, to share, because I know that it makes you feel better, but you will not sway me. As such, I can be a bit high maintenance as a friend in need of counseling. To complicate the matter, I tend to surround myself in a shield of strength and light and positive vibes. I am a mover, a motivator. I uplift, encourage, inspire. One cannot do that if one is needy. I remember my first stint as a volunteer leader and counselor. My first thought was what about me? What do I do now? Who counsels the leader? A good friend who doesn’t buy your crap, that’s who. A good friend who knows you enough to know that while others may believe you have the world by the balls, you really are nothing more than that holiday fruit cocktail filled lime Jell-O on your insides, made with too much water and not given enough time to set.

Let me ask, what did YOU see today? What kindness crossed YOUR path? What love did YOU throw out to the world? Did you not? Well. Go now in love and peace. Tell someone what he or she means to you. Give to one less fortunate. Listen to a friend. Thank a mentor, teacher, or one who has made a difference in your life. Show gratitude, compassion, and love. Ease another’s burdens. Fill another’s heart. Be the light. Spread the love.