Vol. 18, no. 1
January -- February, 2006
Beyond the Veil * Profound Moments
Seeking Caring, Compassionate Communication
"It's all YOUR fault!" How many times have you heard this? How often do you use the phrase yourself? And, what's the response? Of course, the very predictable, "No. It's YOUR fault." or, "YOU started it!"
"But if YOU hadn't..." The argument drags on with no resolution.
We find ourselves in many unhappy situations where we have conflicts with our best friends, or family-brothers, sisters, parents. Often, we seem at a loss and can't figure out how to resolve the conflict so that it does not become a bitter, life-long memory.
Have you ever noticed how the language we use plays a big role in creating and escalating conflicts? Our choice of words, tone of voice, body language, and self-righteousness, all help contribute to the problem.
In my youth, I felt a lot of anger toward others who could not see it "my way." But now I know that many times we can look at the same situation and see very different things. Why? Our cultural background, upbringing, training, and experiences help shape who we are and how we "see" things. And, our views and opinions also change depending on which side we are on, and where we are in our lives.
Have you heard words like "non-violent communication," "non-violent conflict resolution," "dialog," or "peer mediation?" These are ways to achieve a win-win situation for all parties involved in a conflict, small or large. They allow us to "see" the multiple ways we observe truth, identify what our real needs are, and find a common ground in many difficult situations. Wouldn't life be beautiful if we could be mindful of what our friends and family need and learn to be patient, respectful and understanding. We would surely be liked by others and they'd want to keep us around for a long time.
Mahatma Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, César Chávez, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Marshall Rosenburg and many others have taught through their lifeworks that Peace Is the Way. We can bring about lasting peace in our lives and our society by non-violent means. So, my New Year's resolution is to seek non-violent ways in all situations of conflicts.
To help create a peaceful life for all, a small group of us with diverse faiths-Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Baha'i and Native American -have volunteered at a local juvenile correctional facility for the last few years. We visit the teenagers for an hour or so, and engage them in a dialog on topics such as ethics, spirituality, prayer, diversity, choices, etc.
We go there with an open mind. A dialog is not a debate, argument, lecture or gossip. It is listening deeply and searching for truth with a hope to understand each other better. So, we tell them not to think of our Sunday visits as "church" but as "search" time. Whatever the reason they have been confined to this facility, we wish to sow hope in their future.
Learning to communicate clearly, concisely and politely is very important in our personal lives as well as in the society at large. So, in 2006, we're offering workshops in area schools to introduce the concepts and practice of dialog to students. They will learn the skills of dialog with friends and others. I am sure that these skills will help us nourish better relationships in life.
Another important way we communicate is through our writing that is clear, concise and engaging for the readers. In our pages, we try to bring you many "works of art." In this issue, you will also find several pieces that offer ways to improve your writing and artistic skills. Let us try to live by the Truth we know, fearlessly and courageously, in the footsteps of the many great human beings. As we nurture our selfless, loving nature, peace will reign.
Arun Narayan Toke'
The Way of Peace
You Are Something When You're Special
My hero is Stevie, a kid with down syndrome, that I met one year at the Winter Special Olympics in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He is the floor hockey goalie on a team of eighteen kids, all with special needs.
Stevie caught my attention because he is so kind and patient. The first time I saw him he was worried about my grandmother having a seat, so he ran to find her one. He wasn't worried about why he is different from other people, but more worried about others. I think it is so great to see him in a sport like floor hockey. You see a lot of professional athletes and how hard they have to work to achieve their goals. They might have to work for years to get their techniques down, but Stevie has a technique all his own.
Some professional hockey players try really hard to get the puck out of the goalie's area, but Stevie just lays on it. I think it is so neat how he does this. Athletes like Stevie have to work twice as hard as a professional athlete. Stevie does other events in Special Olympics, like golf, bowling, softball, and weight training, but floor hockey is his favorite sport.
Stevie is my hero because even with all of his challenges, he still manages to accomplish anything he sets his mind to and he always has a good outlook on life. I really think all kids with special needs are heroes because they work hard to succeed. They don't give up easily or make excuses. They just do their best and keep trying until they make it. Imagine what the world would be like if we all did that! Thanks, Stevie.
-- Nicole Allerton, 13
Just the Littlest Things
It was about halfway through the school year. Everyone had their cliques and friends, but I knew one girl who didn't. I guess you could call her a geek, because all she did was read, study, and do homework. I don't think she even played a sport. She was one of those quiet people who no one really paid attention to, and those who did only made fun of her. I had heard all kinds of rumors that she had problems, but I didn't really believe them. I felt bad for her.
My friends and I were nice to her. We let her sit at our lunch table and we said hi to her often, but she wasn't our best friend, like someone you would call on the phone every night. Through-out the year, she started talking to us more and more. We continued being kind to her, and we began wondering why anyone would make up rumors about her. She was normal as far as I was concerned. She was just really quiet.
The year flew by so fast, and before we knew it we were signing yearbooks and wishing people great summers. That summer I got a letter. When I opened it, I realized it was from her. It read, "I just wanted to thank you so much for being so extremely kind and friendly to me this year. Before you became my friend, I had no one to talk to or sit with at lunch. I was so lonely that I was going to kill myself. I didn't think I was good enough and didn't think anyone wanted me around, but you and your friends changed that. You made me feel wanted and included me. It meant so much to me. I am going to be moving and switching schools next year. I'll never forget you and what you did."
By the time I finished the letter, I was in shock. I could not believe what I had just read. I learned that the simplest things and the smallest acts of kindness can mean the world to someone else.
-- Michelle Kappeler, 14, grade 8
What the World is Really Like:
You can travel the world on vacations to every country in the world and never experience another culture. The only way you can truly experience another culture is to walk around like the commoner and get to know the natives. Culture is not about the tourist sites of how the elite 2% live, it's about the natives. A country may be defined in books by the landscapes or museums, but a country is defined in real life by the way the average citizen lives.
Having a cross-cultural experience requires that you get a glimpse of everyday life for the citizens, the workers of the country. I went to Monterrey, Mexico on a mission trip to help out people living in poverty there. We brought bags of food around to houses of impoverished people living up a mountain. We talked to them and they let us enter their houses quite often. One lady was in tears because we took the time to come and help her and her husband. At another house, we visited a little boy who was crippled. He sat in a metal tub of water to stay cool while his parents were at work. His face lit up the dark room when we walked in.
Finding out how people live and what their homes look like, not only on the outside, but on the inside as well leads, leads to experiencing their way of life. At first, I was shocked to see the dimly-lit insides of the shacks. Many houses had no cement floors, only dirt. One did not eve have a roof, yet a mother with a small child was living there. Seeing how the people live and hurt and rejoice takes effort. It may be easier to sit by a hotel pool than it is to hike up a mountain to help the locals. It was hot and the hike partway up the mountain was hard, but it allowed me to experience a fraction of what it is like to have to walk down it every day to go to work or school.
Seeing the hearts of the people and what they appreciate and have fun doing really opens ones' eyes to the culture. When I talked to some young girls, they wanted to show that they liked me a lot. They ran home and brought me little gifts of jewelry, in return for the necklaces I had given them. They had so little, yet were eager to give it away. I was barely more than a stranger to those girls, yet they appreciated my company.
In Mexico, most people depend on relationships more than people do in the United States because they have less material possessions to depend on. Playing tag is a favorite game for kids I babysit at home in the United States. I found that the Mexican children enjoy it too, even though they are many miles from my home. In Mexico, I played tag in dusty streets and a run-down carnival. At home I play tag in grassy yards and nice big playgrounds. In order to really see what comprises another culture, one must spend time with the natives, not only stay in a fancy hotel and visit all the museums and malls.
Getting beyond being only a tourist takes work, but only after you try to get to know the locals can you truly encounter another culture. Seeing the "real" Mexico opened my eyes to how unique their culture is. People have so little, yet are so happy and willing to give what little they have away. Up the side of one of Monterrey's beautiful mountains, I say the heart of the country in the eyes of the shantytown dwellers.
-- Emily Bair, 16, is now a junior.
My grandmother, Graciela, was born March 25, 1949 in a small town in Mexico. She had her first child when she was about sixteen. She had seventeen children in all; thirteen are still living. Graciela did not have an easy life, but she never complained. She worked really hard and expected her children to work hard as well. Her strong work ethic was a model for my father and his siblings. All her children have been successful in many different ways.
Graciela loved to cook. She would gather her six daughters in her small kitchen and teach them family recipes. Chicken soup was one of her favorites, but she became famous for her chongos. These were sweet Mexican balls that delighted all the children. Graciela only made them on special occasions like Christmas. Graciela and her husband struggled to provide for their family. She taught my aunties how to cook, but she told her sons they had to work. When the boys got old enough, they were needed to help with the household chores and produce some income.
When my father was only twelve years old, he would rise early in the morning to feed the animals on the farm. All the boys had to go and get wood, and once a scorpion bit my father. My dad came running home shouting in a lot of pain, "A scorpion just bit me!"
My grandmother made something quick that would cure the bite. If her children were injured my grandma said that they must be able to work the next day. My grandma is a tough woman!
The children in rural Mexico often didn't go to school at all, or they went only for a few years. I heard my grandma say once, "I would rather have my children work than go to school." I was a little shocked to hear her say that. Now, education in my family is a very important goal. However, my grandma never attended school. All she knew was the value of hard work. I am so indebted to my grandmother and my father for their determination to have a better life.
My grandma lives with us now. She is fifty-seven and she hasn't slowed down much. She's tall, a little fat, and she has dark skin. She is famous for her loud voice that you can hear from really far away. She is always cooking for my dad, and her special chongos are still the favorite holiday treat. I think that my dad loves the fact that she lives with us. My grandma is proud of what my dad has achieved. She always talks about how her sons and daughters have a lot more now than what they used to have and she is trying to get me to do more around the house.
My grandma taught all my aunties, uncles and my dad that you have to work hard to get what you want. I really appreciate what my grandma has done for our family and I really want to thank her for what I have. Perhaps the way to do this is to work hard myself.
-- Adriana Valdivias
Castilleja School, California
An African American Girl
I've been called an African American girl and I wonder why. Is it because of my rich, chocolate-colored, oval shaped face that looks just like my mother's? I wonder.
Is it because of the jet black, wavy hair that I got from my father? Maybe it's the symbolic head wrap and dashiki dress I wear to school sometimes, passed on to me from ancestors. I wonder.
Could it be my taste for collard greens, crackling bread, and sweet potato pie cooked by my grandmother? It just might be my love for folklore, and the rhythm of my feet when I dance to the beat of the drums. I wonder.
In June I recognize Juneteenth with reflection. Is that why? During the month of December, I celebrate Kwaanza with my family and in February, I am reminded of all the famous African American people. Is that why? I wonder.
Would my being called an African American girl have to do with my native land, Africa, or my home, America? It's both. Now I know.
I am an African American girl.
-- Nerissa Cannon
Educator & Author
A Profound Moment in My Life
Ein bedeutender Moment in meinem Leben (GERMAN)
Die folgende Geschichte ist vielleicht schwer zu erzählen. Ich bin schließlich nur eine normale Jugendliche, angeblich ohne Überzeugungen, ohne Glauben und ohne Interesse an der Kirche. Ich lebe in Deutschland und bin eines der wenigen Mädchen meines Alters, die noch regelmäßig jede Woche zur Messe gehen. Und trotzdem, ich muss zugeben, dass ich, während ich da bin, oft einfach an andere Dinge denke, wobei ich eigentlich dem Pastor oder seiner Predigt zuhören sollte. Ich kann mir nicht helfen - und ehrlich gesagt, manchmal will ich das auch gar nicht.
Dieses Jahr werde ich gefirmt. Als Vorbereitung auf die Firmung schreiben wir eine Art Firmzeitung, in welcher Interviews mit verschiedenen Menschen, die für oder in Verbindung mit der Kirche arbeiten, enthalten sind. Also sind zwei meiner Freundinnen und ich mit unseren Fahrrädern den Berg zu den Einsiedlerinnen unserer Stadt hochgefahren um mit der Älteren von beiden zu sprechen.
Und dieses Interview beeindruckte mich sehr. Hier war eine Frau, die als junge Erwachsene im Showbiz tätig gewesen war, dann aber alles für ihren Glauben an Gott und Jesus aufgegeben hat. Sie widmete ihr Leben Christus und hat keinerlei Bedauern dies getan zu haben. Es waren nicht nur die Dinge, die uns diese Frau über unseren Glauben gesagt hat, es war vielmehr die Art, wie sie gesprochen hat, nicht zu uns, sondern mit uns, die Art, in der sie uns an die Idee herangeführt hat, nicht nur Christ zu sein, weil wir getauft wurden, sondern weil wir es wollten. Sie wollte uns nicht zu irgendetwas zwingen; sie gab uns nur die wunderbare Wahl dazu, mehr für unseren Glauben zu tun, und ermutigte uns dazu, vor allem den Evangelien richtig zu-zuhören und uns nicht wegen unseres Glaubens zu schämen.
Diese Frau brachte mich dazu, mehr über mein Dasein als Christin nachzudenken. Das Interview liegt drei Monate zurück und ich beabsichtige immer noch, die Evangelien zu lesen. Ich versuche in der Kirche mehr zuzuhören. Ich lese mehr über meine Religion.
Ich glaube nicht, dass die Unterhaltung mit der Einsiedlerin mich zu einem besseren Christ gemacht hat. Ich merke eigentlich keine Veränderungen in meinem alltäglichen Leben. Aber es hat mich schon irgendwie berührt und diese Frau hat mich wirklich beeindruckt. Ich würde gerne meinen Dank dafür aussprechen, dass es Menschen wie sie gibt.
It might be hard to explain the following story. After all, I am but a normal teenager, with supposedly no beliefs and no convictions, no faith and no interest in the church. I live in Germany and am one of the few girls my age to attend mass every week. And still, while there, I must admit, I often just think about other things while I'm supposed to be listening to the sermon or paying attention to the priest. I can't help myself-and frankly, sometimes I don't want to.
This year I'm being confirmed and in preparation for it we are writing a type of magazine containing interviews with different people working for or in connection with the church. So two of my friends and I rode our bikes up the hill to the local hermits and talked with the elder of the two.
This interview had an impact on me. Here was a woman whose young adult life had been spent as a star in showbiz, but then she gave it all up for her belief in God and Jesus. She offered her life to Christ and has no regrets at all. It was not only the things this woman told us about her belief, it was rather the way she spoke, not at us, but with us, the way she guided us to the idea of being Christians not just because we were baptized, but because we wanted to be. She didn't want to force us into anything; she was only giving us the wonderful option of doing more for our belief, encouraging us to really listen to the gospels and not being ashamed of our faith.
This woman made me think some more about my being a Christian. The interview was three months ago and still I intendto read the gospels. I try to listen more in church. I read more about my religion.
The conversation didn't make me a better Christian, I think. I don't really notice any changes in my day to day life. But it did touch me somehow, and that woman really impressed me. I would like to speak my gratitude and thanks for people like her.
-- Katie Grosser, 15
Katie wrote both the German and English versions.
Skipping Stones Magazine