Thursday, April 18, 2013

You Do Have To Pick A Side

 I woke up on Tuesday morning here in China to hear of yet another tragedy close to my home back in the States, and also one close to my heart. The Boston Marathon had been the target of a vicious bombing. My heart began to race, my stomach turned, I knew people who were participating in the race as well as volunteering. I was able to find out quickly that all of my friends were uninjured, at least physically and I was very thankful for that. I am still so saddened for those who were killed and injured both physically, emotionally, spiritually. May healing come quickly to all.

It was in the media fairly quickly that a suspect, a Saudi, was in custody. It would appear to be another act of terrorism committed by an Islamic extremist. This was quickly proven to be false, this man was a victim, not a perpetrator. President Obama in a press conference said that it is not known who is responsible, but that they will be caught. No one knows who is responsible.

Yet I have also heard that in the media and in conversation there is a renewed surge of anti-Islamic sentiment happening. One contributor to Fox news, Erik Rush went so far as to say "Yes they are evil. Let's kill them all."  Yes, he is just one guy, but he is a representative of the contingency of people who have decided that Islamic people as a whole are extremists, violent, terrorists. These people have chosen fear, that fear becomes hate, that hate begets violence, terrorism. Erik Rush and those like him fail to recognize that they are becoming exactly what they claim to despise.

You do have to choose sides in this life. Will you choose fear, or will you choose love? Will you live with courage and compassion or in the cowardice of cruelty? That is right, compassion takes courage, forgiveness takes strength, tolerance is a show of true integrity and fortitude. Anger is easy, activism requires resilience and commitment.

We will not fight terrorism in this world by becoming terrorists ourselves in our hearts and eventually our actions. Forgive everyone, but also stand up for love, stand up for peace. We have great examples to follow, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, to name a few. Perhaps no one of us will become a leader of that magnitude, but the energy of each heart that chooses love, the small acts of kindness, the prayers that we utter in solitude, these all impact our surroundings, our world.

You do have to pick a side. Please choose love.

I have more to say about this. Please read my upcoming posts about my recent visit to a mosque, and the practice of metta.

         The prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Suddenly Celebrity


This past week our kids were on spring break, which landed on Easter on the first weekend, and Tomb Sweeping, the Chinese holiday on the second weekend.
So on the Saturday of the Tomb Sweeping holiday we took a drive to Suzhou which is about an hour and a half drive from where we live.

We went to visit two temples, a Taoist temple and a Buddhist monastery and temple. Both were beautiful and expansive. They both featured multiple buildings with ornate decorations and statues of deities, many of them unfamiliar to me.

The places were crowded and incense was smoldering in large pits, multitudes of red candles were alight in small pagodas and ash danced in the wind. Many people were going from temple chamber to temple chamber bowing and praying at each deity. Others, like us were eagerly snapping photos and taking in the sight of it all.

I noticed as soon as we got there that we were getting more stares and attention than in Shanghai.
I had read, and also heard to expect, to be treated as a sort of novelty and that there is a certain celebrity in being a Westerner, particularly for the children. Even in Shanghai the kids get looks, smiles, interest, especially Harper she is still quite small, she is bubbly and has a huge smile, dimples, big beautiful eyes and curly hair. The curly hair makes her particularly attractive apparently, we have often noticed women reaching out in passing to touch her hair.

So there we were, in a part of the Buddhist temple filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of golden Buddhas. It was spectacular. I was busy looking and taking a few photos when I noticed a gathering group of women smiling and pointing and talking to each other about Mason, Avery and Harper ( my kids). I smiled at one of them and she started speaking to me very enthusiastically in Chinese and moving closer in to Avery. Before we knew what was happening it was like paparazzi, and our kids were on the red carpet. The women were taking turns having pictures taken with the kids, they touched their faces, and even hugged and cuddled Harper. One woman in clear gestures, and in fun, made out like Harper would now be going with her.

You might be wondering if I took offense or stepped in to intervene for my children. I did not because my kids were just fine, they were smiling and quite happy with the attention. Had they looked the least bit worried or scared I would have stepped in, but the scene was one of delight on all accounts.

When we were done in that temple room we headed outside, the crowd followed and a second photo shoot continued there. That is when I took the picture above. Look how everyone is smiling, everyone in that picture is happy. I love the togetherness in that, even with strangers who we could not even speak to.

These people loved the beauty of my children. My children were clearly a highlight of their holiday, and they became a highlight of ours. Honestly it just warmed my heart and made me proud to be a mother. I witnessed the possibility of the kinship of humanity. All those Buddhas were smiling too.