After everything that has happened in the last week, so many of us are asking, “Why are we here?,” “What connects us?,” “How can we learn to live together in peace?”
These bigger questions about life have been asked and explored throughout the centuries by great philosophical, religious and scientific minds. Human understanding of astronomy and cosmology is ever evolving. And history is full of expanding ideas and discoveries regarding the nature of existence, our relationship with each other and our relationship with what Buckminster Fuller called, “Spaceship Earth.”
Astronauts looking down on earth from their lofty vantage points, seeing our “One Home” suspended in the infinitude of space have given many of us the impression that a much Higher Power must be at work. Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell had this to say about his experience, “You see it (earth)…and it gives a total sense of (our) unity and oneness.”
This “big picture” view shows that we are all moving together on one planet, in one orbit and in one universe. Thinking about this brought to mind what Paul says in the Bible: “in him, (God) we live and move and have our being,” and what Jesus told his followers, “all ye are brethren.”
But with daily news about war and other social, political and racial tensions, we can forget how connected we all really are. World peace can seem forever elusive. And yet small victories occur everyday between people in conflict. When we talk to each other face-to-face and in a kind and respectful way, even the most hardened views can dissolve.
I witnessed such an event one hot summer day when my husband and I went to the beach.
I had never really thought about it before but the beach is a real melting pot. It’s one of the many places where people from all walks of life, races and cultures gather to enjoy themselves.
It was pretty crowded that day but I remember feeling such joy at the happy voices of people participating in games and all kinds of different activities. Everyone looked like they were having so much fun.
After we got settled my husband headed to the water for a swim and I sat down with a book.
Within a span of a few minutes, I heard a man speaking very loudly and saying hateful things about black people. I turned to look where the voice was coming from and saw this man sitting amongst his own group of friends.
As I said, the beach was very crowded that day and everyone within earshot had quit what they were doing and were staring at this group of men. The man seemed oblivious and continued with the diatribe. I noticed how distorted and red his face was as he spoke. My heart actually went out to him – it couldn’t have felt good to harbor such hateful views – as well as to everyone around us. But I also wanted the disparaging remarks to stop.
Shortly, the noise did stop. I looked up and saw another man had joined the group. He was kneeling down right by the other man who had been talking so loudly. This younger man, whose haircut led me to think he was likely a soldier, was speaking very gently.
Just then, the first man said with such sorrow and anguish in his voice, “I am so sorry, man, I am so sorry.” He repeated this over and over.
As this was going on, I started looking around and right behind me I saw two Anglo women, one older, one younger. The younger one was holding an infant. They both were looking in the direction of the group and seemed very concerned. Then I noticed that the baby was African American. I asked the older woman if that was her son who had gone over to speak to the man and she said, “yes.” She explained that he had just returned home from being deployed and that the baby was newly adopted.
As we were speaking, I saw her son stand up, shake the other man’s hand and return to where his family was sitting. The whole scene had shifted and the first man looked peaceful, and appeared to be engaged in deep thought.
I’ve often wondered what this courageous young man said. I imagine he asked the man to look over at the little baby that his wife was holding. I am sure that said it all. But whatever it was, this man had a moment of seeing the “bigger picture” and stopped the bad-mouthing.
I was so impressed and grateful to this young soldier because of how he stood up to hatred. It didn’t come through argument or violence, but through a gentle willingness to have a loving conversation with a fellow human being. It reminded me of what religious leader, Mary Baker Eddy said in one of her articles, “When the heart speaks, however simple the words, its language is always acceptable to those who have hearts.”
I’ll never know what the lasting impact was on the man who seemed to be so filled with hatred. But what I do know is that peace prevailed at the beach that day. And world peace can happen one conversation at a time.
Malissa is a wife, mom, stepmom and grandmother. Originally from the Chicago, Illinois area, she has lived in Iowa, Colorado, Hawaii and Upstate New York. She now resides in the beautiful city of Savannah, Georgia.
Her background is in Health and Fitness, spanning a 30year period. She taught group exercise classes and spent most of her career as an Assistant Director for a YMCA.
Helping others find their way to a more healthful, harmonious and spiritual path as a Christian Science practitioner is now her life’s work. She is a health writer and focuses on the connection between our thinking, our health and spirituality.
Spending time with her family, being out in nature, hiking, swimming and walking the dog are some of her favorite things to do.