A return to Peace

We chanted “Love, not hate, makes America great!”  marching back and forth along the sunny Texas sidewalk, carrying handmade protest signs. I was full of self-righteous piety, wearing white not only in honor of the suffragettes but also to reflect the peace and love I believed was my crown.  Then “SHE” touched me again.  Another group – the “OTHERS” — had collected near our protest zone. We’d filed for the first permit but when “THEY” heard, they immediately filed for their own permit that would put them next to us. We’d been warned not to engage but this woman kept touching me. Her fingers, I experienced as claws, on my shoulder, vying for my attention so I could hear her side.  Even louder, as to shatter her eardrums, with all the conviction I could muster, I continued to yell that love would strengthen the nation, while in my heart I wanted to turn around and deck this stranger.

                For weeks after the rally, I could not forget the hate I’d felt in my heart while I was supposedly marching for love.  I remembered how I turned to her, the stranger, and seethed through clenched teeth, “May God bless you and bring you peace.”  It was in a later guided meditation that I saw a truth…I wanted to be a “warrior for peace,” such an oxymoron.  In the dream-like vision, I saw myself instead, sitting cross-legged, peacefully meditating while chaos erupted around me on that same sidewalk.  But instead of fighting and yelling, I just “loved” and “sat.”  In the vision, the scene calmed as I calmed. I shudder even today because I know this is my truth.

                For years after that imagery, I talked about wanting to learn nonviolent action but the courses were always too expensive or too far away or “TOO” something else. I had so many excuses. Enter Covid-19 and a chance click on the Pace e Bene website  A friend and I signed up for the online Engaging Nonviolence class taught by one of the actual co-authors of the Engaging Nonviolence book, Veronica Pelicaric and one of the spiritual leaders in the field, Robert Ferrell 

            We read about the lunch counter protests in the South during the Civil Rights movement.  The protesters were trained to endure all manner of offense, from name-calling to physical assault.  And here I was ready to punch a woman for touching my shoulder. What a contrast! I read the story of David Hartsough, who when threatened with a knife held to his throat by a segregationist, courageously expressed, “You do what you feel you have to, brother, and I will try to love you anyway.”  The man with the knife was visibly shaken and just walked away.  Even typing this now, I find myself sighing and shaking my head, still amazed at the power of love


           Veronica  asked the class to reflect on the following thought: “I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.”  I sat there looking at the Zoom images on the screen of amazing individuals from all corners of the world, committed to peace, and I looked over at my dear friend, Deb, sitting beside me, and all I could see was light.  These human souls were divine!  I shared my insight and Robert responded with a quote by Thomas Merton,

“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . .  I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.” 

              No more us and them.  No more good guys and bad guys.  I hope in the future I will look at the stranger grabbing my shoulder and see the light of the Divine in her.

We are all filled with the Light of the Divine, every one of us.

3 thoughts on “A return to Peace

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