“Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it
and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most.
It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen
to his own goodness and act on it.”
“If you are coming to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you are
coming because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
--Australian aboriginal woman
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and
love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they
seem invincible but in the end, they always fall—think of it, always!”
Around three decades ago I traveled from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. to join
a protest against the war in Vietnam. My housing had been pre-arranged; the group
I was traveling with would be staying with a family of Quakers. The weather that
weekend in November tested our resolve: bone-chilling temperatures and a strong
wind out of the north. Nonetheless, we marched, we sang, half a million strong
we came together confidently in common cause. Late on the final day of the weekend,
my brother-in-law, Johnny, and I found ourselves in a group of agitators at the
Justice Department. I was caught up in the excitement of the moment—until the
D.C. police started discharging tear gas canisters into the crowd. We beat a hasty
retreat, and as I sat excitedly recounting the tale of the confrontation, I noticed
a troubled glance from the elderly man whose hospitality we were enjoying, not
disapproving, but gravely concerned. Years later I would remember that expression
as I read the words of Marianne Williamson: “I am of a generation, which thought
that we could bring peace to the world, and we didn't think it mattered if we
ourselves were angry. What we learned is that an angry generation cannot bring
My last column on
patriotism generated a number of responses: more than 60 via e-mail, probably
around ten in person, all but a couple supportive. A number of these readers said
that, while they were heartened by my words, they still wondered how to move into
action. So today I share my thoughts on that.
First of all, pay attention to what’s going on in your community and in the
world. Don’t try to hide from or close yourself off to the horrors that are taking
place. When you see the starving children with bloated bellies feel the hurt,
feel the anguish, feel the anger. And use your feelings as a wake up call to action.
To discern what to do, quiet the chatter in your mind through meditation, prayer,
contemplation or a hike in the woods. Then listen. Each of us has a gift to offer
the world, and we become aware of how we might offer that gift when we get in
touch with our inner voice. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to write a letter to
your local newspaper, but your mind’s internal editor constantly heads you off
at the pass. Ignore your editor and write it anyway.
To make a difference in the world, become, as Gandhi says, the change you want
to see. If you want a peaceful world, explore inwardly and find that peaceful
part of yourself. Then rather than taking your anger and resentment out on your
co-worker for something he did or didn’t do, find a way to forgive . . . him and
Since we are all in this together, there really is no “enemy.” We all want
to love and be loved. Any action that is not loving, any action that is fear-based—abusive
language, intolerant behavior, a violent act—is a cry for love, whether it’s coming
from George W. Bush or Saddam Hussein.
Service to others can present the next step on our spiritual or psychological
path. If, for example, you offer a basket of food to a destitute family in a condescending
manner, your gift might feed the flesh, but not the spirit—theirs or yours. And,
if you become conscious of this, you get an opportunity to understand the importance
of humility and how your well-being is inextricably intertwined with those whom
you might serve.
We do make a difference—individually and as a group. In fact, every loving
thought, every prayer, every compassionate action has a significant affect on
the world we live in and the fabric of our existence. We might be moved to handle
our own demons—the judgments, anger and negative beliefs that do not serve us.
We might be moved to listen to and hold a friend who is hurting. We might be moved
to serve a meal at the local homeless shelter or build a house with Habitat for
Humanity. We might be moved to put our freedom on the line by protesting at the
School of the Americas. Ultimately we might be moved to gather in thousands, millions
to say, “No more!”
Being human, we sometimes lose our way, forgetting who we are and what we are
called to do. At such times we might doubt our purpose and even become hopeless.
When I am in such a place, I frequently turn to a marvelous touchstone, a quote
by Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your
deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Find this place for yourself and your next step will become clear.
Readers can contact Bruce Mulkey via e-mail at email@example.com.
The Renaissance Alliance, www.renaissancealliance.org
(Check out their Resources section)
Common Dreams, www.commondreams.org
Healing the Soul of America, Marianne Williamson, www.marianne.com
How Can I Help?, Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, www.ramdasstapes.org
YES! Magazine, at newsstands or at www.futurenet.org
The Life Training Program, www.lifetraining.org