About That Box Of Photos Under My Bed

I bet you have one. Maybe it’s not under your bed but perhaps in a closet….a box with dust on top. Filled with faded and curling reminders of moments in your life that were captured through a lens. If you’re like me, there are snapshots that make you laugh until you cry while others leave you pondering, “What the heck is this? I don’t remember this at all!”

I actually have a couple of boxes. The larger box is under my bed and I look through it more often than the other. This box contains a mishmash of memories of childhood friends, college friends. My children. There are photographs of India, Japan and Europe. There are family pictures and pet pictures. There is one of me at 6, floating in a pond in Puerto Rico getting my toes nibbled by little fish…you can see on my face that it tickles. It’s mostly a heart warming box of memories.

The other box is buried deep in the back of the closet. Some of these photographs  are of Belgium. I was there in 1974 to participate in the Second World Conference on Religion and Peace.

“The Second World Conference on Religion and Peace (2nd world assembly) was held at Louvain, Belgium, from August 28 – September 3, 1974. Attended by participants from 50 countries, the general theme of this assembly was “Religion and the Quality of Life.” It was more of a working conference than the 1st assembly, with more time spent in four simultaneous commissions (disarmament and security, economic development and human liberation, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and environment and survival), and in working parties and panel discussions. The Louvain Declaration, adopted overwhelmingly, was widely distributed after the assembly.” ( link Swarthmore Library )

At this conference I met many people I came to love dearly. People of all ages, from countries all over the world and of many religions. This was a breath-taking mosaic of people coming together to build bridges, to foster and work towards understanding and compassion. Young and old, white and Black. Muslim, Christian, Jain, Jewish, Buddhist…and from religions I had never heard of.

There are 4 pictures from that box that I put in the other box. Of people I came to love during that week. Of myself discovering the miracle of a chocolate filled croissant.

louvain

( Belgium, 1974. Yes, there are chocolate croissants in that basket.)

I moved these photographs from one box to the other because in the hidden box are strikingly grey, cold, sterile, pain filled photographs of a Nazi concentration camp.

Breendonk.
You can take a virtual tour here  Virtual Tour of Breendonk

In 1974 I was a 16-year-old white, Christian girl. I had no insecurities in life. I was loved. I had plenty of food, trendy clothing and a comfortable, safe and secure home with a TV, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, flush toilet and running water. There were lights in every room. In the winter the heat came on. I was healthy. I had a bike, a cat, a dog. I went to school. We had a sail boat, a motor boat and two cars. Family vacations happened several times a year. I was planning to go to college in a few years. I was traveling in Europe. My future would be similar.

Then I met Breendonk.

And a man named Philip Noel-Baker, the 1959 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He was 89 in 1974.

fort-breendonk-7

The Names Room

I have tried before, and it is really not possible for me to clearly express the feelings and emotions I had walking through the halls, into the cells, standing before the execution site of Breendonk. And this wasn’t even the “worst” of the “Camps”.

It was however a testament to the greatest expression of man’s inhumanity towards his fellow-man. The perfect witness to hatred, power, violence, intolerance, fear, greed and ego.

Looking at the photographs I have of Breendonk causes a visceral reaction in my body.

After our tour of Breendonk we were gathered by our bus, collecting ourselves, our emotions and our things. Someone asked where Philip Noel-Baker was. Another person and I offered to go find him. It meant going back into Breendonk.

We found him in The Names Room. Standing before the urns holding the remains of the prisoners executed at Breendonk. Alone and sobbing.

“I do not understand.” That was all he said.

This was one of those life altering experiences some people talk about. An experience so powerful it is etched deeply and permanently into your heart. Never to be forgotten even if the concrete memory of it is delegated to a box tucked into the back corners of a closet.

Friday, two days ago,  was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In 1939 the United States closed it’s doors and refused thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing the nightmare that was the Nazi regime. Shunned, abandoned, deemed unacceptable, they were forced to return to the remaining countries that had accepted them before, and would accept them back. Unsure of and fearful for their future. Hundreds of these rejected souls were subsequently murdered by the Nazi’s. In total, the Holocaust witnessed 6 million human beings exterminated by the Nazis. 1.5 million of those were children.

The Holocaust.

“destruction or slaughter on a mass scale”

The International Day of Remembrance was created to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. It represented the call to stand in unity with the promise of Never Again. This day of honoring and remembering was Friday.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 

On Friday President Trump closed the doors to the United States again and has forbidden the entry of thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives. They are fleeing war, torture, genocide, famine. Running from a high probability of death. Things most of you reading this can not with any sense of reality comprehend.

It has happened again. On the day dedicated to remembering and never forgetting.

We have forgotten.

donate

Speak out. Do not be silent.

As of this writing the Federal Court temporarily stayed/froze President Trump’s executive order.

 

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The Inauguration of My Heart

Love is the most durable power in the world.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Together We Rise.

we-rise

I rise.

I held my own personal inauguration the night of the January 20th.

First I joined a group of about 20 gentle souls for a candle light ceremony of chanting, singing and sitting in quiet meditation.

Later that night I took action, contemplating the events of the evening, and the events of the day.  I placed my hand on my chest and

inaugurated my heart

I made a promise with myself to remember the power of love, because right now I have a lot of anger, hurt, fear, uncertainty that has wrapped up my heart and muffled it.

“Inauguration: a ceremony to mark the beginning of something”

I am unwrapping my heart with determination, giving it space and breathing room. Remembering the power, the goodness, the healing, the possibilities that can come from love.

Right now I harbor all kinds of thoughts and feelings I never thought I would…or could. So, as I Rise with millions of people around the world, I will begin to remember the great power of love. I will focus on the power of love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr

I commit to kindness. To compassion. To the uplifting of others.

To TRUTH.

To Love.

“Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others,
and the delight in the recognition.”
~Alexander Smith

I’ve got my work set out for me. I will rise up and succeed. I do it for myself and the people I love. I will do it for people I do not know. I will do it for people I honestly do not feel love for…… and, I will do it for you. And you. And you.

I am a bit in awe of how much I have learned the past couple of years as we prepared to elect a new President. I have learned so much as my daughter pursues a PhD in education with a focus on gender studies and sex education. I learn so much from my son who researches Parkinson’s. I learn so much from my Muslim friends. My Jewish friends. My atheist friends. My gay friends. The small children I work with every day. I learn from others.

Last night I learned from a comedian about what racism feels like to grow up with, to come into adulthood with, to marry and begin a family with. Hasan Minhaj was brilliant. I do not know what blatant racism feels like. I have to listen to and learn from others. Last night I learned a lot about the racism Muslims in this country are subjected to.

SO. I inaugurated my heart. To mark the beginning of my commitment to listening. To learning. To seeking out truthful, factual information about things I do not know about…..things I may never personally experience. Things I may not want to learn about…or care whether I learn about. To seek out ways to better love people.

I do believe we can discover new parts of ourselves in others. And sometimes we may be surprised by what we learn. In a good way…or in a not so good way. But, sometimes we are delighted at the recognition of what we see….the common threads of our humanity.

This is my fierce and joyous work for the new year.

Together we rise.

This Week  just a few this week….I may add more later. We’ll see. I think we all need to just process.

 

Words We Need

There are a lot of words being spoken and written these days. At times it is difficult to turn some of that noise off.

In between those words, there are whole languages that are disappearing. There are 7,000 languages spoken around the world. Languages with words that convey hopes and dreams, love and beauty, fear and anger to one another. Language. The power of words.

I encourage you to read this beautiful article :The Last Word: Protecting Our Vanishing Languages

“Imagine knowing that within a few decades,
every beautiful turn of a phrase,
every poem that stirs your heart will be
unintelligible noise
to everyone on Earth.”
~ from the article

Here are some inspiring words from some shrinking, forgotten, slowly dying languages that might be of benefit to us, especially those so very concerned about our country and world right now.

What word speaks to you?

Hózhó from the Navajo language. “Striving for balance in life, towards oneself, others and the earth.”

Wantok from the Tok Pisin language, Papua New Guinea. ” The community where I find belonging: we speak the same language and are responsible for each other.”

Woohitike from the Lakota, North and South Dakota, US. “The brave and courageous spirit that lies in every person.”

Piliriqatigiinniq Inuktitut, Canada. “Togetherness, community spirit. Working together for the common good.”

 Fago Ifaluk, Ifaluk Island, Pacific Ocean. “A combination of sorrow and the optimism to be found in human compassion”

honoring-you-namasteWhat are the words we need to think about using now? Today. To heal. To support and uplift. To express compassion. To encourage empathy. To commit to respect, inclusion, acceptance. To temper greed and power. To foster possibility and hope. To strive for knowledge, demand information and fact. To allow for any one of us to be Christian or Muslim, gay or straight, Black or white. To remember….we are all human beings on one fragile earth.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
~
Mahatma Gandhi

Discover more inspiring words here : Inspiring Words

Check out recent readings: This Week