Monday, August 10, 2009

What I Pray

How easy is it, when someone wrongs you, to get irritated back? Mightily irritated, in fact. And if they do enough wrong, furiously angry. Killing mad.

It is so easy, and understandable, for us as Americans to be angry at the people who are part of the Taliban. Maybe even to hate the Taliban. They have killed people we love. They have killed innocent civilians all over the world. They have disrupted the world in many ways, made it more fearful, less free.

I think to myself about them what do you feel like when you have blown an American soldier or an Afghan bride to pieces? Do you have a sick feeling in your stomach, seeing that? Or do you rejoice?

No matter what anyone says,
I am going to choose to believe that something in them, something deep in them that they might never admit to another person, feels badly about it.

No matter how different we are, I am going to choose to believe that, being human, somewhere deep within we connect, even during war, in a way that is deeper than the divides of country or religion or hate.

So it may or may not surprise you that when I pray, I pray for the Taliban boys' peace as much as I pray for our own boys and their peace and safety.


Because their peace means our peace.

Our military people follow strict rules. In the middle of war, they are trained to follow the rules of engagement, to respect peace, and if possible, to respond without violence.

Our military do not initiate conflict. The rules of engagement are that we respond to conflict appropriately.

Our soldiers are trained to respond, and they will respond. I am not in any way advocating that they not respond. It is their duty and their job to do so, and I respect them for doing their job well.

But they will not and do not start conflict. That requires so much strength under pressure that I admire them tremendously for it.

It can be very, very difficult sometimes to walk that line. And mistakes can be made.
But it means that we will hold the line at peace if you will. We will not start it.

So if I want our boys to be safe,
I pray that the other side will not start it.

I pray, and I think of a young man in hot and dry Afghanistan. Maybe he is being taught how to wire a cell phone into a what’s-the-word, the thing that detonates a bomb remotely.

Maybe he grew up with hatred of Westerners. Maybe he was taught it from his infancy from his father, his mother, his uncle.

Maybe he didn’t, but maybe he just never fit in. Didn’t have good looks or good skin or as much money or a mother who loved him or any self-confidence because he was never good enough in his father’s eyes.

Hate societies have a way of welcoming those who feel as if the world rejected them.

Whatever the case, whether hatred of democracy and western ways and free thought were bred into him, or whether he got sucked into something that horrifies his parents…

…hate is taught.

But I believe that deep, deep inside a person,
They know right from wrong.
People know true good from real evil.
They choose.

Maybe he is afraid to disobey the orders of his Taliban leaders or his Taliban buddies or his cousin in the Taliban or his father. They are telling him to start something. Maybe he is afraid of what will happen to him. It wouldn’t be pleasant.

When I was a little, little girl, I lived in a very racist area. But before I knew the word for racism, I knew it was wrong.

We can be taught hate. But deep within us, we can choose not to hate.

We can take the tiniest little steps to something different.

And those tiny steps matter.
They are the drops that build a river of goodness.

So many times when fear comes to me, instead of letting it control me, I pray,
and I reach out to the young man of the Taliban.

Maybe not start anything today, I offer to him. Maybe when you see the helicopter fly over today, if you have a rocket on your shoulder…maybe today you will tell yourself that you are not ready…and you will let your finger relax on the trigger.

A tiny step.

A huge step.

I reach out in my heart to the young man with the cell phone is his hand. The distance is nothing in prayer.

Maybe not today, I offer, in peace and encouragement and kindess. Maybe today you will feel goodness in your heart. Maybe because if it you will not be able to finish working on that phone today. Or maybe you will drop it so that it doesn’t work right.

Or maybe when the young men in American or British camouflage are standing near the buried bomb…
maybe you will pause just the tiniest bit.

And not do it. Not start it today. Maybe just not today.

Maybe not tomorrow either. Maybe today will give you a little strength for tomorrow, and I pray for that too.

May you know peace,
I pray. May you feel love. May goodness come to you and yours.

May the tiny little decision you make with your finger on the trigger or the phone
Mean a day that no one dies in Helmand Province
Not your people
Not our people
May nothing start, because of you
And your courage, your little step of peace.
And may something take flight in your heart in that moment, and soar
Towards goodness.

Believe what you want, about who God or Allah or the Universal Spirit is. Believe that some of us are going to hell and some are going to reward. Offer to anyone your way of believing.

But beyond that, please believe that
it is up to the One you believe in to sort out about
who is going to hell, and who is going to heaven,
and when

And let it go. Let the bomb go, let the trigger finger relax.
I send you love, as an emissary of peace.

I send love to them.
It is the best way I know to protect my son and his friends.

War is an event between countries. War is the nations of NATO against the Taliban. It is a big event. War has rules. War’s intention is to create peace, but it is impersonal and massive and it does not change quickly or easily.

Peace is an event between people. Peace is tiny. Peace is personal. Peace is flexible and fluid, and it happens one little decision at a time. And peace can turn on a dime. It can be created or destroyed in a moment.

The destruction of peace creates war, on a small or large scale.
The creation of peace creates peace.

Maybe the young man will feel something today from my prayers. Maybe he won’t. I’ll never know.

But what I will know deep in my heart is that I strove to create peace. I did the same good that I am asking the young man in the Taliban to do. I put aside my fear and my anger and my hate, and I offered...nothing.

I offer nothing; no advice, no criticism, no you're-wrong, no judgement. No 'start'.
And I ask for nothing: no detonation. No trigger pull. I pray for nothing to happen in that moment.

No start.

One little moment of nothing happening.
One little drop of peace.

Little by little they can wash away the war.

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