I change myself, I change the world. ~ Gloria Anzaldua
Yesterday morning I had a late breakfast with friends on the porch of the Chautauqua Dining Hall in Boulder.
We had wonderful conversation, good food, a gorgeous view, and a soft breeze coming through the slats of the bamboo shade that kept the hot sun at bay. I was enjoying one of those moments - the moments that are simple yet deeply satisfying, those moments that it would be so easy to take for granted as part of living in this beautiful area and having the great good fortune of deep friendships and the time to enjoy them. So I was in gratitude mode as I walked down the stairs after breakfast and made my way around the building to the space where I had parked - in the shade by the way and not too far away. The sky had gone deep gray and thunder was rumbling. I moved slowly along the flagstone path, breathing in the scent of fresh-turned earth and flowering things.
Two young men were pulling weeds from a flower bed that held lichen-covered stones, herbs, columbine, and zinnia. One of the boys was plugged into ear buds, so I spoke to the one who was squatted by a large rock and was deep into a dirt meditation, just to say how much I loved the flower beds and to say I appreciated his efforts in keeping them beautiful. That's all. I spoke out loud what I was thinking, and at first he looked like he wondered why this old lady was talking to him, and then he smiled and I wandered away to my car.
My friends and I had been talking about how to be in the world and stay "above the line"* when something like the Aurora shootings happen. Two of the three of us lived here when the Columbine shootings took place, and the other friend heard about it from ex-pat home in Japan. It's too easy to jump on any one of the many bandwagons that form a parade after any large-scale tragedy. I do it all the time, especially about gun control - or abortion rights - or gay rights - or let's not get started about how much we spend on the military and how little on education. When my heart stops racing with fear and fury, I typically drop into depression that comes from feeling powerless and at the mercy of random violence.
I don't want to live my life looking over my shoulder, hunkered against whatever might befall me. And I get to choose how I live my life, in spite of random tragedy - or here's another way to look at it - because of random tragedy. My youngest daughter has teenage children. They live in Aurora. They lived in Littleton when the Columbine shootings happened. She worries about her kids a lot - what mother doesn't? - but she gets it that she has a choice: 1) to her long list of worries about her kids, she can add that the kids might be shot to death in a movie theater or 2) she can make sure she loves them every day and they know it.
All of life is about letting go. All of life is about loving and being grateful and allowing ourselves to feel our deepest feelings and make choices to live above the line where random violence can't rule us. From there we have the power to change the world, and maybe a random word of gratitude to a stranger has as much power as any other method of bringing about change. We don't know, so why not?
Although the connections are not always obvious, personal change is inseparable from social and political change. ~ Harriet Lerner
* Julie Colwell, one of my lunch companions, wrote a book called The Relationship Ride that, among other things, talks about the power of choosing to live in appreciation.