The other night I joined a “Lights for Liberty” gathering in the nearby town of Sammamish protesting the inhumane treatment of immigrants being held in cages at our southern border.
I cannot help but feel grief and distress at the trauma that is being visited upon people who are seeking a safe haven for their families and an opportunity to adequately provide a home for them. The amount of trauma being experienced by the children is destructive to the mind and emotions of a young child. Trauma and brain development research has shown that children are particularly vulnerable to trauma because of their rapidly developing brain. Traumatic experiences can have a significant impact on a child’s emotional development, future behavior and mental and physical health. There is no doubt the children on our borders are being permanently damaged by their treatment at the hands of our government. I can’t help feeling heartbreak about this impossible situation.
While the right to gather in protest is an invaluable tool of a democracy, I rarely join demonstrations because I don’t always trust the wisdom of a crowd. As a child of the ‘60’s, too often I have seen violence erupting from a crowd being manipulated by angry speakers and leaders. Don’t get me wrong; I believe anger is an appropriate response to inhumane actions, but I don’t feel it usually helps move things along, so I choose other venues for expressing my concern.
But this night I felt a need to bear witness to the situation at the borders, to be seen and counted. We are a country with massive resources and I am among those who feel we can do better to offer compassion and care to others less fortunate! So I stood with my neighbors in a small crowd in Sammamish, Washington to add my voice.
I was ready for angry speeches. I was ready for shouting if that was called for. And that was certainly what was happening in other cities around the country – shaking fists, loud demands for better treatment of the people coming to our country for help, lots of posters. What I found in this small gathering was a lot of love. This group was feeling pain, sorrow and love for the families trapped between a fence and a law. Everyone felt grief and responsibility and helplessness. What can we offer?
There were a few speakers defining the issues involved, and the intent of the gathering. And there were volunteers who read quotes from children caught in the system, heartbreaking statements no one wants to hear but yet must pay attention to. And there was a candle light vigil.
What surprised me was that I was participating in an act of subtle activism with a group that probably had never heard of the term before. This group connected with each other, shared resources with each other, and felt love for the victims we gathered for. The love, the caring, was tangible.
Then a local interfaith minister, Alyson Young, introduced us to a vigil process which included a forgiveness practice called Ho'oponopono. I found this simple prayer deceptively powerful:
Please forgive me
I love you.
In speaking this prayer, I recognized that I am not separate from this situation we gathered to protest. I am complicit simply by living in privilege while others suffer. I live in a rich country fighting to protect its privilege and wealth. I am not doing this directly nor intentionally, but I am safe while others are not – I ride on the suffering of others.
This is not about feeling guilty for my privilege – guilt is not helpful. I am grateful for the blessings of my life. But accepting some responsibility allows me to open my heart to the dance of our world that is both beautiful and tragic and allows me to see where I can help.
I’m sorry for the fact that while my comfort is built on human ingenuity and invention which is miraculous, it is also built on the pollution of my land, air and water. I am sorry that people live in places which cannot sustain them, that suffer war and drought and flood and despair, and need help that I am not there to offer them.
Please forgive me.
Please forgive me for my unconsciousness of those who suffer. Please forgive me for any hurt I have caused rising from indifference, selfishness, misdirected thoughts or words. Please forgive me for my faults and for the cruelty and suffering in the world caused by humanity, of which I am a part. I stand and acknowledge and own my participation, silent and intentional, and ask for forgiveness. I am human and not separate from nor better than any other. Please forgive any negative or destructive thoughts I have had that add to the collective field of fear and anger held within humanity.
Thank you for this opportunity to see and let go of anything that obstructs the clear flow of presence and intent of my soul on earth. Thank you for giving forgiveness and freeing me from constrictions that erupt from separation and self-protection, from fear and defensiveness. Thank you for sharing with me this world we love and the capacity to be in communion with spirit and with each other.
I love you.
In our unity in God and Gaia, I love you. In our shared responsibility for each other, I love you. From all the depths of my being that I am capable at this time of reaching, I love you.
As we stood on the grass in Sammamish, we could not, as a group, be there at the cages on our borders, open them up and take these children and parents into our arms, offering comfort and safety. All we could offer was an inner sense of calm, love, support and hope that may reach and help sustain them in their holding cells. Anyone who has been sustained by an inner presence during times of trauma knows this. We are not alone in our suffering, and neither are these souls on our border. We can stand with them, offering subtle fields of presence they might on some level find comforting and strengthening. God works in mysterious ways.
At the Lights for Liberty vigil, I was gifted by a group of strangers with a reminder that I am not the only one who knows this. Lorian is not the only group who knows this. Whether or not they were aware of it, sustenance and hope were offered to the field of suffering that surrounds these friends on our border and I continue to hold them all in my love, my gratitude, and asking their forgiveness for my part in their struggle for survival.