War dominates the news today. Personally, I am grieving the end of my mother’s life and the loss of a relationship with one of my dearest relatives. My material circumstances are unstable. Even with these uncomfortable conditions in my personal life, the most powerful impact on my state of being comes from the horrific attacks on groups of people due to no particular action of their own. Guilt by association, and collateral damage, as it is sometimes called, are inadequate explanations for the circumstances that prevail. As I was feeling the indirect painful effect of earthquakes, floods, fires, and tornadoes, I was jarred by the inhumanity of un-”civil wars,” mass murders, intentional demolition of homes occupied by families, and cruel attacks on people identified as enemies.
What can we do to stop the madness, to promote justice, to cultivate peace? Our answers vary depending upon our positions, status and resources. So, I write from my own position as one 74-year-old African American woman with a Ph.D., related to people in a well-educated extended family, participating in several communities, and in the world of diverse populations. I believe that every person has basic needs that each of us should respect. Unfortunately, in our highly individualistic, capitalist society, people are often expected to show some evidence of “deserving” to receive even the basic necessities. No person should have to spend the limited time we have on this earth without shelter, food or clothing sufficient for material comfort in the various environmental conditions. Critical intangible necessities include relationships and a sense of meaning or purpose. In this moment, I know that everyone deserves the means to thrive, without being judged by others. So, what can I do?
In the tiny space that I occupy on this planet, I can and must do my best to show respect, compassion, and empathy for the people whom I encounter. While I have feelings about the historic and persisting harm done to people of African ancestry, in particular, I must not assume anything about individuals simply based upon their inclusion in a population group—especially people of European ancestry—who enslaved my ancestors. That’s what I must not do. But what proactive steps must I take? How shall I spend the time that remains of my life? What can I do that potentially has the greatest positive impact?
As I consider the possibilities, my decision rules derive from the following questions:
- Is this something nobody else can do?
- Will this be of value to future generations of our communities and members of my family, including generations not yet born?
- Can I imagine a way to preserve and make things that I leave available?
- What gives me joy? (I like to write, organize material things, and create visually appealing items. And yes, I know that visual appeal and aesthetic preferences vary. I can only reflect my own taste.)
- Does this fulfill my spiritual needs, as an individual and member of communities? As one who identifies as agnostic and humanist, I am motivated to participate with others, especially African Americans, in examining and sharing our spiritual journeys, and building community with people to take action that helps create a better world.
Life is challenging. Fortunately, I find inspiration and hope in the writing, music and stories of many people of various faiths and beliefs. In December, I’ll share examples of my sources of inspiration in the Founder’s Corner of our website—www.AAERO-MQMH.org.