A Warrior for Peace

Like the rest of the world, I couldn't even absorb what had happened in the Connecticut school shootings. I couldn't begin to process the enormity of an act of such violence against such innocence.  I couldn't conceive of so much hatred in one person. I almost couldn't bear to think of those poor parents, of lives interrupted and forever altered. I felt incapacitated. On Monday, when I went to pick my kids up from school, I watched the little first graders come gamboling out to line up for their buses and I just...I just started to cry.

At first, I thought that part of my reaction was a by-product of all of this work I'm doing on trying to remain un-numb and vulnerable in a world that seems increasingly dark and filled with random acts of hatred. Because what I learned about about numbing myself is that it numbs ALL of me. I can't selectively numb my emotions so that I don't feel the depth of despair when I hear stories of such vile hatred and inhumanity, and still feel the heights of joy when I look at my children. There is no way to ONLY address the painful emotions that make me feel naked and exposed or uncomfortable. When I numb THOSE emotions, I numb everything else, too, including the positive emotions. And the result of all that numbing is disconnection: from the world, from my fellow humans, from my authentic self.

So, I've been really working on that.  But when such a heinous murder of innocents presented itself, I can honestly say that it was one of the hardest things I've ever done to just stay present with that grief and despair.  To feel it and feel the pain of that community and those parents and not reach for some numbing mechanism.

I think another part of my reaction was just how small I felt in this vast sea of darkness. I just felt so powerless against a rising tide of intolerance and vitriol. I had to give myself a break from social media because the deluge of hyperbole and bitterness and polarization made me physically ill.  I have had enough of hate. I have had enough of politicizing a tragedy to further a political stance. Enough of the stridency. 


You know what, though? The truth is, we ARE small. Individually, nothing we do is going to make much a difference against the hatred in the world.  It's kind of like being a vegan. I am under no illusion that my little one-person boycott of factory farms will change the course of the vast and corrupt food industry. But maybe if enough people choose to boycott the misery of the factory farms, at some point, there will be a natural progression to more humane and sustainable sources for our food.

I was thinking about this today and it occurred to me that somewhere in there is what I want to choose as my reaction to the Connecticut school murders. And the rise of torture and rape in war. And child abuse. And blatant racism. And intolerance, and greed, and freaking road rage. It's not enough to absorb the pain of the world.  It's not enough to cry with the bereaved parents. It's not enough to throw a few dollars to support the causes near and dear to my heart. 

It's not enough.

I'll tell you what I'm going to do. Are you ready?

I'm going to meet force with force.  

I'm going to sow kindness and peace and acceptance and love with a ferocity no madman can touch. I'll be a freaking peace warrior. I'll be a soldier of kindness. I'll be a beacon of acceptance in the face of increasing darkness. I will practice patience in a world of frenzied activity with the same power of an automatic assault rifle. Everywhere I see hunger, I'm going to feed someone. Everywhere I can, I'm going to bring healing to people in pain. Everywhere I see a need, I'm going to try to fill it.  I'm going to march out of my house every day dressed in ANTI-fatigues. Every time someone cuts me off in traffic, I'm going to consciously forgive that person and wish him or her well. I'm going to hold the door open for people, offer my umbrella, give a few dollars to the homeless guy on the street corner. I am spreading the mother-effing LOVE, people. I'm going to be a Love Ninja.

It's all I have in the face of the stark cruelty of this world. It's all any of us have.

I confess that I have this hope of being joined by you.  I think it will take all of us, each burning a tiny candle of determined, unselfish, committed love. I have this hope that if we can all burn as brightly as we possibly can, we will make a huge difference. That we can light up this world.  

I get to choose my response: I can succumb to fear and insulate myself and my little family from the pain of this world, or I can meet evil with the force of my heart, which is far, far greater than all of the malevolence.  

I'm choosing love, in the biggest way I know how.

Join me.


Unknown said…
I love this Barb. I am struggling a lot right now with feeling numb and actively numbing because my pain is so raw and fresh and I just don't want to face it. But maybe I can do the love ninja stuff and that will start me on the right road.
Kathy Ireland said…
This is fantastic. We can be a love army. You know, I have made these kinds of changes over the past few months. I thank the streetcar driver when I step out of the streetcar - every time. I give my seat to anyone who looks like they might need it more than me. I hold the door at Starbucks when I go in or out and if there's time left on my parking stub, I pass it on to the next person. And then. Things like last Friday happen (something of which I know almost nothing about because I haven't watched the news in a week) and I feel like throwing in the towel. But then I remember the feeling I get when I pass on my parking chit and the guy in the car looks at me in disbelief and says "Really?.. THANK YOU".
CindyPsych said…
Beautiful! I will happily join your ninja love army! I've always wanted to be a love ninja, I just didn't know it.
Mrs. G. said…
I love this and adore you aspirations and goals. I'm going to print this out and read it over and over until it really sinks in. I appreciate that you wear your heart on your sleeve. It touches more people that way.
michiganme said…
I agree Barb. When I process and distill everything that's happened this past week, in the end I know that i have to stand on the side of Love.
Sarah said…
Beautiful, Barb, and more power to you! Love ya immensely...


Please don't sacrifice your own oxygen mask for others. Don't beat yourself up about people you don't have the energy for...set goals that are achievable by a mortal and then be happy you met them. Please. You're good enough just existing, really. Doing what you do. You ignite the fire in the rest of us and we can be warriors for your peace.
Keri said…
Beautifully written, thank you.
Susan said…
Okay - you just wrote my New Year's Resolution. Believe me, when I make them, I keep them.

All in.
Lomagirl said…
It is the mother love- and I'll join you. Thanks for the reminder to love, love, love.
I know I try to smile at the young students walking around my campus, to make eye contact, so that they know that someone sees the person in them.
Diane B. said…
I'm a little late reading this, but I love it! Wish more people reacted this way!
LOVE NINJA. I like that.

I confess to a tendency toward "comfortably numb" as a way to avoid conflict. Honestly, I struggle with it. An actual example that I'm struggling with right now:
Does being a warrior for peace mean that I shouldn't post a link on my facebook page from an editorial in the paper about how recent mass killings all have an assault rifle in common? Because while I feel strongly about it, it would stir up all kinds of strife among my varied friends.
See, it's the part of me that I don't want to squash, the part that truly cares... and yet, it isn't very loving to purposefully cause ruckus.
I'm truly very interested in what you have to say about this.
Barb Matijevich said…
Honestly? I don't many people's minds are changed by things we post on Facebook. What I try to do is post things that don't carry overt judgment--kind of a , "These are the facts. YOU do the extrapolating." approach. Like I posted that on the same day the Newtown Massacre happened, a psychopath in China attacked an elementary school wielding a KNIFE and WOUNDED 22 people. No one died.

I don't know if that is cowardice. But I try not to add to the extreme vitriol because I don't feel like it does anything but add more negativity to a world that is desperate for something positive and uplifting.