Finding Strength and Happiness in the Wake of Harvey (and Life’s Other Disasters)

It’s late summer here in Houston.

I am sitting on our back patio, in my flannel pjs, drinking a cup of hot tea, waiting for my computer to update.

The cat and I are listening to the summer days soundtrack- a mix of rhythmic cicadas and songbirds calling to one another, with a crow of an illegal rooster chiming in every once in awhile. Although I find it soothing, it’s pretty clear my cat finds this joyous song to be taunting.

Meanwhile, the dogs pay no attention to this summer ballad, and, instead, focus all their attention on hunting down one of the many dancing lizards that are peacocking for a mate.

In this moment I almost forget that Hurricane Harvey has just pummeled my city and wreaked havoc across the Gulf Coast.

My husband and I live on a bit of a hill, and were luckily spared much of Harvey’s wrath. Although there is much to be done, we choose to not get too overwhelmed this early on. We do the best we can to help our community, while also making time for ourselves to wring out a bit. We’re making the most of this extended summer, before school starts back up, because, in a way, this little bit of time is like the calm before the oncoming storm that awaits us this school year.  

It is my husband’s first year teaching, and I am inevitably reminded of my first year teaching, when Hurricane Ike devastated my hometown of Galveston.

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Peace Movement Monday

The best way to help Harvey victims (and those across the world affected by other disasters) is by donating money directly to local, well-established, researched organizations, that are doing good, ongoing work on the ground floor.

A ‘Spirited’ Stance on Peace & Love

mlk-the-time-is-always-right-to-do-what-is-right

The Dalai Lama said, “When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.”

If you know me at all, you know peace and love is my jam. But, if you’ve met me, you probably also know that I often do not err on the side of ‘behaving peaceful and loving’. Among other things, I have been called ‘spirited’, ‘high strung’, and ‘bitchy’.

This used to bother me quite a bit. Were my worked up thoughts, feelings, and tendencies my true nature, and could I ever be a peaceful and loving individual?

Several years ago, I began a soulful endeavor to find peace and love within myself, with those close to me, and with humanity.

During my journey, I have been blessed with the fellowship of like-minded people, also looking to spread peace, love, and perhaps happiness towards others.

However, throughout the years, I have found my journey has taken me on new paths.  

Although I try to approach all aspects of my life with peace and love, I no longer believe it is enough to send out peaceful and loving vibes, while simply sitting calmly, allowing for life to just happen.

Let me elaborate on this.

I had a paradigm shift a few weeks after our latest presidential election- upon approaching my 31st birthday.

After a year of deciding many times a day whether to take part in or avoid increasingly heated conversations- I decided I had to make a decision and stick to it. I had to decide exactly how I felt, assess why I felt that way, and decide how I was going to act and react.

It was at this point I concluded that I must stick to my values and principles- at all costs; and just because I happen to be passionate or ‘easily riled up’ about something I value, I am no less peaceful or loving. Likewise, I must keep reminding myself that those who are more calm and serene are not necessarily more peaceful and loving individuals.

It has been exceedingly frustrating, because, although all these characteristics are mutually exclusive, they are often seen as interchangeable.

Now, like all humans, I am nowhere near perfect, but I can still make an effort to be a better human being and live with the best intention.

I think that should be the key here- intention.

I think that most of us can agree that it is not peaceful nor loving to kick puppies, beat up old ladies, or set houses on fire. The intent there is clearly one of malice. I think we could also agree that if you were to come across someone behaving in this manner, you would probably be very vocal and action-oriented about stopping it. The intent there is clearly one to not just promote peace, but to stop actions of hate. It’s not a calm reaction, it’s visceral, and that’s okay.

There are some actions, however, that many overlook, because the intention does not seem malicious… or, even worse, the intent of the action is clearly malicious and harms others, but people do not want to speak or act out against it, for fear of appearing too impolite, high strung, or bitchy about it.

Many times we overlook malice because these actions are done by sweet, calm, kind people. People who go to church, love their families, and are good to their friends. But making decisions that knowingly fuck over others, this is never okay.

So how should we approach these actions?

Speak and act with the intent of love.

Seeing someone choose to act in hate, especially due to ignorance, is worthy of a meaningful dialogue. Dialogue is how many learn to empathize and see others as humans worthy of love. But, remember that sometimes the dialogue simply cannot be calm. Sometimes it’s not polite. Sometimes you have to be firm and you cannot stand idly by, for fear of how others will perceive you.

All religious texts are full of this dialogue, to help inspire us to become better people.

But even Jesus, one of the most understanding and compassionate characters in religious texts, lost his cool on occasion when he needed to be more passionate to prove a point. Whether it was with the assholes at the temple or his own followers, his passion showed us two things. One: that sometimes it requires being loud, angry, and passionate to get the the point across. Two: having the intention of hate, and being an asshole to others just ain’t cool, and should not be tolerated.

Whether it is the Bible, Quran, Talmud, or Torah- no matter the religion- the most important teaching, the common thread, is love. Not necessarily being calm, or polite- but showing love and peace, and not allowing hate.

No matter your age, religion, nationality… whatever background… it doesn’t matter, this message applies to all of you.

If you focus on anything else, you’re missing the point.

Although I hope we all grow more kind and patient, and continue to strive for conversation and dialogue, let’s be sure to get one thing straight: being peaceful and loving means you don’t allow others to totally shit all over everything just because they’re polite about it. We must stop confusing passion with hate, and calmness with peace.

“The time is always right, to do what’s right.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We must choose to act and speak out of love, not hate or fear.

Humans have such an amazing capacity for love and growth. Consider it and help make the world a better place.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”-Mother Teresa

Promoting Peace in Your Community by Giving Back

Volunteer for Community

Thinking about promoting peace in your community?

One of the best ways to promote both inner peace and peace within your community is to get involved with a local community organization.

While many of us would love to promote peace by volunteering our time, sometimes we do not know where to start.

I find it best to first figure out what I’m interested in (animals, homeless, education, environment…) and then how I’ll be able to contribute (financially, serving, or with a skill like tutoring, organizing, or creating a website…)

Then I go to trusted data banks of organizations. My top 3 are: The United Way, GuideStar, and Charity Navigator.

The United Way improves lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good. They only partner up with credible organizations and make it easy to find something that fits your skill set and interest.

http://www.unitedway.org/find-your-united-way/ 

http://www.unitedway.org/get-involved/volunteer

For those of us who don’t have the time to do all we’d like, most local charities and nonprofits have ways to easily contribute financially online, while many others also have posted wishlists.

Both Charity Navigator and GuideStar are excellent resources for determining how much of your contribution actually goes towards helping others, versus CEO paychecks.

http://www.charitynavigator.org/

http://www.guidestar.org/Home.aspx

Remember that whatever you choose to do will be helpful- so get out there and promote peace in your community! Carpe Diem!

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” -John Wesley