A couple weeks ago, I experienced a series of health scares that had me spending more time than I would’ve liked at the hospital and in doctors’ offices. Not only were these experiences alone, very troubling, I for years have had a phobia of seeking medical attention. Quite frankly, I have a difficult time trusting medical professionals (for a laundry list of reasons).
Anyway, the long and short of this little anecdote is that after a bunch of neurological tests, I was simply told that they don’t know why my body has been acting the way it has and they would like to continue to monitor my brain’s behavior in the future. Basically, they told me, “Who the hell knows what’s going on in there.”
On lighter occasions, I probably would’ve agreed with them, but in this particular situation I wanted answers. I also wanted solutions. Instead, I left the hospital after an emergency MRI disheartened, annoyed, and feeling a little sorry for myself. That was until I came home and saw the news.
See, at the time, when I was stuck in that claustrophobic, little tube listening to Chopin blasting intermittently between the awful, knocking sounds of the machine (it sounds like you are in a coffin and someone is forcefully hammering each nail in), there were people dying in Paris (and yes, other parts of the world). Of course, I wasn’t aware of this in the moment, but when I got home and heard the news, I immediately felt this terrible sadness come over me and my focus shifted—it was no longer about me, my pain was redirected, not just toward the victims of these heinous acts, but for humanity as a whole, my heart was breaking.
In the past, I’ve been hesitant to jump on any propaganda regarding what is happening in the world, since just thinking about the situations of others, is enough to make my head spin. It’s overwhelming to think about all the tragedy and pain others are suffering (even in our back yards) and to feel utter hopelessness. And that by having association to the “Western World”, as a middle-class, Caucasian, I am ashamed to be grouped in as an entitled American who turns “causes” into hashtags and Facebook feeds, while sitting safely and comfortably in my home, saying how terrible it is that there are people who have it worse off than we do, and that something really needs to change.
I’ve had these questions: How do you become the change you want to see? What do you really have control over? (If personal choices, to an extent.) How can you promote peace in your community? How can you make loving your “brothers” and “sisters” from all backgrounds and walks of life, a contagious mentality? How do you foster healthy and communal relationships with your friends and family, your neighbors and acquaintances? How do you learn to trust, instead of live in fear? How do you learn to help, instead of fight? How do you learn to share and inspire, instead of take and consume?
The holiday called Thanksgiving has its own troubling history. Early-European settlers came to America and slaughtered an estimated 80-90% of the indigenous population who lived here. But when the seasons turned brutal and the settlers were having trouble getting by, it was an indigenous population who lent hands as teachers and guides, supposedly sharing survival secrets and a table with the settlers. And what did those colonizers share with the natives? Guns and disease.
When I learned the sanitized version of this story in grade school, I wanted to believe that “pilgrims” broke bread with “Indians” in the name of peace. Later, when I learned about my own native heritage, and the reality of the massacres and genocide that occurred (and still occur all over the world, today) in the name of religion, I felt this despondency toward humankind. And sadly, my view of the world became increasingly more cynical as I got older and learned more about the ways of the world.
So, why all this long-winded rant? I know, a lot of build-up to the bottom line.
I’ve decided this year, I’m going to make another small change in what I choose to believe and what I choose to practice. Usually, I see Thanksgiving as a time to reflect on what I am thankful for, which is typically a self-serving meditation. However, this year I would like to instead thank the people in my life who have taught me something about being a better person. I would like to acknowledge those people, because they have influenced me in some shape or form, by doing something that mattered. And because I want to believe if we as a culture, a society, a world, spent more time acknowledging others and telling them they matter, and less time acquiring what we think we “deserve”, more of the “for the better good” attitude would be inspired all around.
So, here’s a challenge for you, my reader. Take the time this week to acknowledge others. Whether it is by sending out a bunch of ‘thank you’ cards and emails, or by simply telling someone ‘thank you’. Tell them specifically why you want to thank them, or just say, “Thank you, for being you.” Show these people they matter to you. And if you are really feeling good, tell a perfect stranger they matter.
Let’s see what happens!
|by jef aerosol, www.signforpeace.org|