One of the many characteristic traits my mother passed down to me was a love of back-to-school supplies. So, I was actually a bit excited when my printer ran out of paper this morning, and I walked to Staples with a bit of pep in my step. I blithely wandered down the aisles, which were filled with a colorful assortment of pens, markers, and notebooks until Andra Day's song, "Rise Up," came on the speaker system. Almost immediately the outline of the neon binders became fuzzy and tears began streaming down my face. The recent events in Charlottesville combined with flippant warnings to North Korea that our administration is "locked and loaded" have made me sick with sadness and fear.
My attention was entirely focused inward until I heard someone sniffle near me. A woman to my right was fumbling in her pocketbook for a tissue and, as she plucked one out, our eyes met. I nodded to her in a way that expressed, "I know." I have no idea if what brought her to tears is what brought me to tears, but we shared a moment. She handed me a tissue and we began to laugh and cry together as "Rise Up" continued to play in the background. We shared a fleeting moment in which we held each other's suffering with care and kindness. Neither one of us was alone.
I recently shared with a group of friends an unforgettable 60 Minutes story in which thirteen paramedics from NYC went to Pakistan to help those who were injured in a horrific earthquake back in 2005. The doctors traveled into the mountains where terrorist organizations were known to exist and the Anti-American sentiment was fierce. What immediately struck this courageous group of doctors was how isolated and abandoned the people were. The villagers had gone weeks without medical attention, but word quickly spread that there were doctors in the area. People traveled great distances to seek medical attention and the doctors saved not only lives, but won the hearts and minds of these villagers. One doctor went on to say, "We can inoculate an entire valley against radical Islam [ and Anti-Americanism ] and it's so simple. I'm just a paramedic and it's just a bandage. It's not a $100 million dollar ad campaign from Madison Avenue. Could something work better to change someone's mind? I can't think of anything." Neither can I. We need that form of care and compassion to treat the suffering here at home. Here's the link to the 60 Minute segment (14 minutes) - https://vimeo.com/11575688
Often when you drill down to the core of suffering you find feelings of abandonment and a chronic sense of isolation. So, how do we respond to hate? We meet suffering with tender-hearted care and compassion. Take it from these high school students in Florida who started a club called We Dine Together so that no student feels shunned and abandoned during what is for many the most stressful part of the school day... lunchtime. Here's a link to that segment (3 minutes) - http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/at-one-high-school-no-one-eats-lunch-alone/
And so, I'd like to think that these recent events will cause us to rise up and help us tend to our own sufferings as well as the suffering of others. Later this week, I will post a couple mindfulness exercises that have helped support me in these challenging times.