Wednesday, June 15, 2011


When I was a young girl, there was a time when life was good. We had good food to eat and a strong family, or so I thought. But the world chose to introduce me to other things. To things I could not understand. To cruelty and in some ways the kind of neglect that are the most difficult to bear. I escaped from these things by reading books. I could leave my little world that I could not understand and I could go elsewhere.

I would like to tell you that there is justice. During the sixties and seventies, when I was very much involved in civil rights and the peace movement, I expected there would be justice. I lost a lot of sleep over it. And in many ways, the pursuit of it left me troubled. I looked for it in people, in leaders and in God. But in reality I saw so much hatred and injustice around me that I couldn’t make sense out of it. I noticed that injustice often seemed to walk hand in hand when people showed a lack of respect toward each other. It wasn’t until very much later that I realized my understanding of justice was what needed to change.

This is what I’ve learned. Justice walks within us. It begins when we accept full responsibility for every moment of every day. When we stand alone and accept the full weight of our motivations and actions.

During the years when I was traveling and meeting all kinds of people with all kinds of beliefs I realized that respect was not something to expect. It was something to give. It was truly not for me to judge whether someone was worthy of it. And that was all. Justice was found in the way I lived. I could not control anything or anyone else. And this was when I found true freedom. Freedom to love and to be respectful regardless of the personality of the other person. And freedom to stand with confidence, with compassion as my guide, in the midst of those who showed me none.

Life doesn’t always make sense. Grownups are never all grownup. Governments and groups will always get ridiculous at some point. Our problems won’t solve themselves. And if we wait for others to solve our problems for us we will be waiting a very long time with many things left unresolved. We are all learning and we all make mistakes. It is how much we learn from our mistakes and what we choose to do next that makes all of the difference. Love and compassion and hope, these guide my steps through an often confusing and unjust world.

It takes a certain kind of bravery to look at life squarely in its eyes and see it true, especially when the picture of reality we have created for ourselves is unflattering. Unfettering ourselves from rationalizations and blame and corruption we have created or accepted from others, starts with a determination to live beyond what our expectations of what we thought life was going to be like. And to choose instead to take a step out into an unknown way of living with the hope that the truth and love and compassion would ultimately set us free.

These are two great treasures that my grandparents gave to me. I have passed them onto my children too. The first was, “Your good name is worth more than gold.” So be honest in all things, especially with yourself.

And the next one which took me a life time to learn was this, “You may have to fight two or three times in your life. And every decision, great and small, that you make will give you the strength and the integrity to survive.” Every time you make a choice you add to your memories and your character. Not many people these days value integrity or virtue. There probably aren’t many people who would even know what these words mean. But they are good words to live by.

There have only been a few times in my life when I thought, I’m so tired of setting such a high standard for myself. No-one else does this. Why should I? It is so lonely. It looks like everyone is out having fun, why shouldn’t I have fun too? This frame of mind made me vulnerable to self-deception. And this frame of mind created fertile ground for other people to lie to me and for me to be so hungry for love or acceptance that I believed them, to my own detriment. And then I would find myself drowning in an unrecognizable sea of rationalizations and ignorance. Which invariably led me down a path of regret.

I don’t argue with myself over what is right or wrong anymore. I have learned that the truth is very simple. I have learned that mistakes are part of the human experience and that includes mine too. So I can look at them and learn from them and go on to take the next new step forward. I have learned that a life well lived is its own reward.

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