Can we cultivate peace? Thoughts on Conflict.

 The suffering of people on both sides of the conflict in Gaza is an immense human tragedy.

The suffering in any war is an immense human tragedy made all the more immense by the futility of trying to solve conflicts through violence.

War is not a solution.

Even the "victors" are damaged by it for generations to come.

Humanity has the capacity to live in peace.

We must find the will to do so.

I am reblogging this because I so agree with these words:

"You cannot get to peace through war. You get to peace by choosing peace.

By being brave enough to counter critics who urge you to fight and kill.

By having the courage to trust, when people tell you to fear. You get to peace through the heart, love is the gateway to peace."

HALO Trust brings hope and healing

I just happened upon some haunting  photographs about the aftermath of war. The pictures are the work of Fiona Willoughby and they document the important work of HALO Trust, a NGO that dedicates itself to getting rid of landmines around the globe. Even though this exhibit is focused on landmines and those whose lives have been affected by them, it is both hopeful and inspirational. It shows not only the heroic work of those who risk their own safety to get rid of landmines, but also those who have been injured by landmines, or forced from their homes due to the risk of  landmines and unexploded ordances.

The new exhibition Getting Landmines Out of the Ground, For Good is being hosted by the World Affairs Council of Northern California. You can stop by their office at 312 Sutter Street in San Francisco to see the exhibit for free any time during their office hours. I just walked in off the street this morning.

If you want to hear the photographer and her husband, Guy Willoughby (founder of HALO Trust) speak, you can attend the reception from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, tomorrow night (April 3) Tickets are $15 for the general public and $5 for students.  You can get tickets online at

In case, like me, you have never heard of the HALO Trust, here are some pretty impressive stats about the work they have done in the 25 years since their founding:

  • Over 1.4 million landmines destroyed
  • Over 11 million items of larger calibre ordnance destroyed
  • Over 208,000 cluster munitions destroyed
  • Over 53 million bullets destroyed
  • Over 3,400 heavy weapon systems immobilized
  • Over 165,000 assault rifles destroyed
  • Over 10,423 minefields cleared
  • 33,460 hectares (82,682 acres) made safe from landmines
  • 144,616 hectares (357,353 acres) made safe from unexploded and abandoned ordnance
  • 14,491 kilometres (9,004 miles) of roads cleared

Finding out about this organization makes me reaffirm my belief that even in the worst of situations there is always hope. As I looked at the very moving photographs I was reminded of two quotes from Anne Frank's diary:

“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”  (This brought tears to my eyes the very first time I read it, back in 6th grade, and it has every time I have thought about it since then. To have such faith in the goodness of humanity in her circumstances is so incredible to me.)

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  (These words have often reminded me that we can always try to make things better, whether in big ways or small, it is never the wrong time to help make the world a better place.)

I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon this exhibition and to be reminded that there are many people who dedicate their lives to healing both the people and the land in countries devastated by war.



Dangling their feet off the edge of the world.


“They came to sit & dangle their feet off the edge of the world & after awhile they forgot everything but the good & true things they would do someday. ”

 Brian Andreas,  StoryPeople

I have this picture and quote by Brian Andreas on the table that is reserved for newborn pictures of my grandchildren. I think it has the perfect sentiment. I love each one of these precious humans so very much! Each so unique and with so much potential to do good in the world.

Let's do all we can to ensure a bright future for them and for all of the children in the world. Their future is in our hands, all of our hands, just as the future of the generations to come after them in is their hands.

The connection between generations is more than just a continuation of families. It is a sacred trust that is passed from one generation to the next and the next, even to those generations far removed from our own.

It is a trust that we serve and honor by doing our best to live now, while we are on this earth, in a way that ensures future generations will have access to the resources we have now. It is a way of living that ensures the wonder and beauty of the natural world will still exist for them.

It is a way of living that says, "I did my best to be a good steward of the environment because I want the very best for you, my grandchild, and you, my great grandchild, and you my, great great grandchild, and all those children who are born into a future far removed from my own lifetime."

It is a way of living, that says, "I have lived fully with love, a love that extends not just to those who live now; not just to those who will be descended from me, but to all those who dwell on this planet now and in the future."

It is our sacred trust and it is reaffirmed for us every time we look into the eyes of a newborn child.

It is a trust born of life itself.

I Call Myself Earth Girl, my first novel, is available in bookstores, online retailers, as an ebook in all formats.

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A New Year's Dream

girldreaming of tree I had a dream of a hill with many trees - trees of every shape and size, with leaves of every color, and some with no leaves at all.

A voice in the dream told me that each of the trees had been planted by a different person and that each person watered and cared for their own tree. Each person, in fact, truly loved their own special tree. The trees were so well cared for that they grew to be large and magnificent to behold.

But in order for any tree to remain healthy, all of the trees had to be healthy. Eventually, there were times when someone was unable to care for his or her tree and it failed to thrive. As one tree became weak, other trees would also succumb.

The people who lovingly planted their trees were desperate to save them. They concentrated more and more on the health of their very special trees, hoping to save them from the fate of the weak and dying trees.

No matter how hard they tried to preserve the health of their own tree, they met with failure. More and more trees were dying.

Until .....

..... until, someone walked away from her own tree and started caring for all the trees on the hill. Gradually, as she lovingly watered each tree, even the trees that were furthest away grew healthy again.

From that day on, all of the tree planters, worked together to care for all of the trees. The trees grew to enormous size. People who could see this hill from a distance were amazed by the vibrant colors. Some even thought they saw the whole hill glowing.

Gradually, the hill of trees became known for its healing properties. People made pilgrimages to this amazing forest to be bask in its essence. They were filled with peace of mind and heart just by being there. No special prayer or ritual was necessary to make the healing occur.


When I woke up from this dream, it made so much sense to me. It was so simple, but to me it is about so many things. Not just our connection to nature and our connection to each other;  not just how the welfare of society as a whole is close related to the welfare of each individual, but also, about the peace that emanates from a place where loving care is giving freely.

Dreams are usually hard to put into words that make sense when we are awake. But this dream was so clear to me. It was a great way to start the new year.

Living with compassion

Today I signed the Charter for Compassion pledge. I have joined with over 100,000 people around the world. It makes so much sense to me. The more compassion in our daily lives, the more compassion in the world. compassion sky

At this time of year, when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace and the beginning of a New Year, it seems fitting to make compassion a priority. Learning about the Charter for Compassion and signing the pledge can be the basis for a truly meaningful New Year's resolution.

Of course, I have never really kept my other resolutions - exercise every day, lose weight, get organized, learn to paint, learn a new language, become a better cook, moisturize before going to bed... the list of ways to improve myself goes on and on, and has proven to be almost completely meaningless. Will I be any better at keeping this resolution?

I hope so, because this one is actually important. So to start, I should begin by understanding what compassion actually is.

The word itself means "co-suffering, or to suffer with." The common understanding of compassion is that it is an awareness of the suffering of another along with a desire to alleviate that suffering.

We have all felt this many times in our lives, particularly when we see the suffering of someone we know and love, or when we see the suffering of people to whom we can relate. But, the Charter encourages us to act compassionately to everyone with no exceptions:

"Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect."


homeless whites small


 This is not a simple task. Certainly, it is harder than exercising everyday or applying moisturizer before bed. It requires me to realize that I am not the most important being in my life...that everyone matters as much as I do. These words are easy to write, easy to think about, and yet, very difficult to live.

One of the characters in I Call Myself Earth Girl experiences a gradual shift in her worldview after years of trying to answer questions posed by her daughter about war, poverty, and why some people suffer so much more than others. When she realizes that she does not have much longer to live, she decides to leave a statement about her new understanding and how she wishes she had lived her life:

We share this planet with each other.  None of us own it.

Yet, all of us are responsible for its survival.

We are all connected by our humanity.

I know that every other human being is no less valuable than I.

I believe that love can overcome hate, just as light overcomes darkness.

I believe in peace. I will work for peace.

I will try to:

  • Consider the impact of my actions on my fellow human beings and on the earth.
  • Engage in no activity that deliberately harms another human being.
  • Learn the impact of my choices on people in other parts of the world.
  • Seek nonviolent solutions to the problems we face.
  • Always recognize and protect the beauty of the earth
  • Live with joy in my heart.

The character recognizes that writing a statement about how to live while on her deathbed is much easier than living that way for a lifetime. To have a philosophical ideal about how to live and to put that ideal into actual practice are two very different things.

One is about thinking. compassion is a verbsmall   The other is about doing.

foodpantry  compassionate soldiernurse_1521452a       homeless compassion

I actually wrote this  statement years before I wrote the book. It is how I want to live. But, I  have failed at one or more aspects over and over again ever since I wrote it. I hope that signing the pledge and aligning myself with others who have signed the pledge will help me live up to it. It is truly the most important resolution I have ever made. I hope and pray it is also the most successful.

Please wish me success in this quest to bring true compassion for all into my life.

If you would like to join me and those 100,000 like-minded people, please sign the pledge and please share this blog so that others will sign too!

You can read all about the Charter and also sign the pledge at

Here are some other resources:

Raising Compassionate, Courageous Children in a Violent World by Janice Cohn, Longstreet Press

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, Karen Armstrong, Anchor Press

Popular books on compassion listed on

We Stood Together

Fifty years ago today, I set out just after dark with my mother and two friends to pay our respects to our slain president as he lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. It was a last minute decision. I had begged my mother to take us. She thought it might be dangerous, but in the end, she knew that we would be witnesses to history. We put on our winter coats and climbed into our Rambler American. As we listened to coverage on the radio during the drive from Wheaton, Maryland into Washington, D.C., we wept. I don't remember how my mother found a place to park, but she did. As we walked towards the crowd, I couldn't believe what I was seeing  - a huge mass of people of all ages. The line was so long that we couldn't see the front, and after we joined them, it was only minutes before we couldn't see the end. I still remember thinking how "wide" the line was - maybe as many as 5 to 10 people abreast. I expected it to be single file, just like all the lines I waited in to receive Communion at church, or to buy something in a store. We stood four abreast - my mother, worried at first about our safety, but now knowing she had made it possible for us to be part of something we would never forget - myself, and my two close friends.

I remember being cold and wondering if we would ever actually get to the Capitol building. At first, we were caught up in our own little drama of waiting, shivering, hoping they didn't turn us away because it was too late. But then something shifted for me. I began to notice what was going on around us. The crowd continued to grow and as it grew, I began to feel an intense solidarity with the people around me.

Local residents were arriving with blankets, hats, gloves to keep us warm. Others were bringing coffee and hot chocolate. People were singing. Strains of "We Shall Overcome" and "Bill Bailey, Won't You Come Home" kept starting up in different parts of the line. Near us people had linked arms and were swaying together. Someone was singing "Amazing Grace" in a soft, clear voice.

line to rotunda

We stood in line until dawn, entering the Capitol Rotunda as the sun was rising. After the hours of waiting, our moment in the rotunda went by so quickly. As we walked by the flag-draped casket, I tried to connect what I was seeing with the president I had loved and admired. I couldn't do it. He had been vital, optimistic, inspiring. Now I was looking at a coffin and I just couldn't believe that he was in it. I was so completely sad.

The assassination itself took away my innocence. Indeed, it took away the innocence of many in my generation, irretrievably lost to something that we had never imagined could happen. My view of the world was forever altered by a gunshot in Dallas on that Friday afternoon. Writing this now makes me realize how naive and protected my life, our lives, had been. I had been able to get to the age of 15, safe and secure, mostly carefree and happy. I knew there were problems in the country and the world, but I saw them as something I would help to solve, not something that would ever cause me personal, gut-wrenching grief.

I was 12 years old when John F Kennedy became president. Even though I was a pre-teen, I was captivated by him...his message, his youth, his vitality. For the first time, I began to think of how to contribute to society. He tapped into my idealism and made me feel that I could really make a difference in the world. I campaigned door-to-door for him (something I have done for my candidate in almost every presidential election since that one so many years ago.)

I watched his inauguration with friends. None of their parents had voted for Kennedy, but mine had, and I was so proud as he took his oath of office. I was young enough and innocent enough to believe that he could lead Americans into an almost perfect era of social justice and peace in the world. I believed in the New Frontier and I believed in the USA. I knew we had our problems. There was no way to grow up close to Washington and not realize that black people had been treated unfairly in this country for as long as they had been here. Just as there was no way to live near DC and be unaware of poverty. But I believed that Kennedy wanted to solve these problems and that he could

I was too young to understand all the complexities of domestic policy and foreign affairs. There was so much I did not know. What I did know was that there were still injustices in our society and that there was a president who wanted to fix these things. Not just here, but abroad. Not only that - he actually wanted young people to help him, and I wanted with all my heart to be one of those young people.

He was so influential in shaping my values that all these years later, knowing all that I know now, I still have those values. I still want the same things for our country and I still want to be part of the solution. My scope of concern is wider now and the specific details are different - more mature, more aware of complexity, and yet, still framed by the idealism that he touched and nurtured. An idealism that couldn't be extinguished with a gun.

But my innocence was a different matter. It was gone. Never to return. It didn't have a chance. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, Vietnam, the Democratic National Convention, Kent State ... and so much more. It changed the way I looked at the past as well as the present. When innocence is lost it re-shapes the way you see the world.

Yet, that night at the Capitol gave me something I never had before. I felt that I was part of something so much bigger than myself. I was part of a crowd that shared the same sorrow - that had shared the same hope for a better world - and I knew that some of us would want to keep working together for that better world. Seeing all those people come to stand all night in the freezing cold in order to pay their respects taught me something. We were there, not just to our honor our slain president, but also to comfort each other. We stood together because we needed each other even more than we needed to walk past his casket. All these years later, we are re-living those days because we still need each other.

That was always part of JFK's message - the New Frontier was about forging ahead together.  These are the last lines of the speech that he was to give the night he died:

"Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a Party is not to Party alone, but to the nation, and indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of politic power, but the preservation of peace and freedom.

So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation's future is at stake.

Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause - united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future - and determined that land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance."

In the many years that followed, we may have picked the part of his message that resonates for us  each of us personally - I ended up being a pacifist, an advocate for social justice and environmentalist - but his message of working together is still one of his most important legacies. I hope this 50th anniversary helps us remember that.    (somehow we all knew it was his favorite song)

Blogging and world peace

ID-10065199 I  just had a thought while I was reading some of the blogs I follow


The blogging community is made up of strangers from different countries and from different communities within our own countries. We are different ages, genders, sexual orientations. We have different types of educations. We are probably from different social classes. Most likely, we have different views about politics, religion, music, entertainment, and family life. Most of us will never meet in "real" life. We know each other only from our blogs.

Yet, we share our thoughts, feelings and ideas with each other openly. Some of us even feel like friends.

By and large, we treat each other's blogs with respect, sometimes even with reverence. We disagree with posts occasionally, but we don't seek to dominate, invade, or destroy each other's blogs. Most successful bloggers share advice with those of us who don't have many followers. We want to see all bloggers flourish.

forpeace6 (1)

All of this makes me think that blogging may help us avoid war and conflict. If we can learn to bring the same collaborative approach to our geo-political interactions that we bring to our blogging, there may be hope for a peaceful future.

I know this sounds naive, ridiculously simple, even pollyanna-ish. I know it doesn't address any of the complex problems that we face. Still, I feel that because bloggers have created communities without geographical boundaries, a seed of peace has been planted. I believe it can be nurtured. I hope that it will.

If you want to know more about Bloggers For Peace, please check out

seeds of peace

Army of One

I have always believed the Power of One really means the Power of EACH One. We all have a role in moving the global consciousness to compassion, understanding, collaboration and love.

And Yet...

Saturday, September 21st was the International Day of Peace. I celebrated it with a group of like-minded folks who gathered at The First Parish Church in Concord, Massachusetts.

It was a lovely event and it felt good to be there. It felt good to know that across the U.S. and around the world, other like-minded people were getting together to celebrate a day dedicated to peace. And yet...

And yet, throughout the U.S. and across the globe, violence continues, and I have to ask myself, after all these years, is the Day of Peace making a difference? I want to believe it is. As a matter of fact, I do believe it is a making a difference, but not enough of a difference.

Yes, there are celebrations of Peace Day around the world, and these celebrations are increasing in number. This is, of course, a good thing. I know it matters and I know that the more of us who have peace in our hearts, the more peaceful the world becomes. And yet...

And yet, after more than 30 years of Peace Day, the geo-political climate is not one of peace. Or is it?  Various studies and statistics tell us that the world is more peaceful than it has ever been. (I include links to these studies at the end of this blog post.) This is encouraging news and it makes me feel that working for peace and celebrating peace is working to a certain degree. It gives those of us who believe world peace is actually possible encouragement to keep believing and to keep working for peace. Most importantly, it shows that the paradigm is shifting away from violence and oppression as the way to resolve conflict. And yet...

And yet, this shift is slow and tentative and easily disrupted. The sad and alarming fact is that the world is less peaceful now than it was five years ago.  110 countries are more violent now than they were in 2008. This fact should really concern all of us because it shows that a trend towards peace and non-violence is easily disrupted. The causes are varied and often reflect the desire of people to have better lives - lives that are characterized by

more freedom,

racial/ethnic, religious and gender equality

secure access to the basic necessities of life, including enough food, a source of income, medical care, and education.

No one can fault people for these desires. And yet...

And yet, it is imperative that we learn how to achieve these goals without violence. This should truly be a primary goal of every country, every government and every person in the 21st century. Recently the world has seen diplomacy prevent the U.S. from dropping missiles in Syria. To those of us who believe in negotiation this is a gratifying testimony to the power of non-violent conflict resolution. And yet...

And yet, the road before us is long and hard. To truly change the paradigm away from war and violence we must work at every level and in every way. We must work on the individual level and the local level. We must work to influence governments to seek peaceful solutions. We must use politics and churches, schools, universities, non-governmental organizations, media, music and literature to change the global consciousness away from war, revenge and retribution. In order to do this, we must also make it our work to ensure that people everywhere have access to the basic necessities of life. This is a tall order. And yet...

And yet, what if we diverted all of the money, brain power and resources that we use to create weapons and military power to finding ways to ensure that all people have basic human rights? How different would our world be by the end of the 21st century? I would like to find out. So, as we learn that the world is becoming more violent again, we must not let go of our belief in peaceful solutions. We must work with more love in our hearts; with more determination to wage peace instead of war; we must not only want peace, we must learn to be peace.  And we must never, ever let ourselves lose hope.


The next morning my mother told us that we must pray for our father and all the good men that had been taken by the enemy. We must pray for our men to be safe and to defeat the enemy. We must pray for God to wreak vengeance on our enemy.

“What does vengeance mean?” my brother asked when were finished praying. My mother, who I had always known as gentle and kind, replied, "Vengeance means doing worse to them than they do to us. If they kill our men, we must kill their men and their children. We must leave them with nothing. Not even hope.”

My brother looked confused. “If God wreaks vengeance on them for killing our men, will our men come back to life?”

“No, they will still be dead, but their deaths won’t be in vain. God will take more lives from them, than He takes from us and that will mean we have won the war.” When I heard these words, I knew that my mother had already lost hope. She would never ask God to kill anyone if she wasn’t overcome with grief and fear.

My brother sat silent for a few seconds, and then he said, “I guess I don’t understand war. What good does it do to kill everyone?” (from I Call Myself Earth Girl, chapter 2.)

The bittersweet gift of 9/11

All of the 9/11 remembrances and tributes on FB today and have been so heartfelt and beautiful, somber and sad, yet filled with gratitude for the emergency responders. Just like everyone else, my memories of that day are crystal clear, and just as some have written, I, too, feel sad about how America has changed since 9/11.But I am going to share a different kind of memory from that time. I remember being gathered together with my family in the living room that evening after everyone had returned home from work and school. I remember feeling overwhelmingly grateful that we were all safe.I could literally feel with my body, as well as my heart and soul, the love we have for each other and how precious each of us was (is) to each other.

My heart was breaking for everyone who lost a parent, a child, a spouse, a lover, a friend. I could not sleep for days thinking of the enormity of the loss to so many people who never had a chance to say "Good-bye. I love you," one last time. It seems so selfish, but I don't think I have ever felt luckier or more blessed in my life, just knowing that each of us was safe.

Our family changed that day. We made more time for each other in the months that followed. More family dinners, more phone calls, more sense of needing and wanting to be together. Time passes and the intensity of fear, relief, needing each other's company wanes. We begin to take each other for granted again. I don't mean this in a "oh they don't care about me" way. I mean that in normal day-to day life we don't always recognize how precious our family circle is. We don't focus, really focus, on how much we love each other.

So, today, while I remember the immense tragedy of 9/11 and while I honor those lives lost, I will also be thankful for the awareness that day of loss brought to our family. We are profoundly lucky to have each other.

A shopping cart full of good news!

Thanks go out to Roberta Hyde for sending me another good news story! This one appeared in Tampa Tribune

Published: August 14, 2013

BRANDON – On Aug. 4, in the middle of Staples at Regency Square, Rodney Burton heard God speak to him. “He said, ‘There’s someone here you need to do something for,’” said Burton. “I felt like He was talking about a teacher.” Burton lives in Valrico and attends The Crossing Church. “It’s a respect thing. They give so much, every day,” he said. “They should be the highest-paid people out there. They inspire kids, transform parents and change lives for good, never knowing the impact one conversation might have. Why not give back to the people who give so much?” He looked around and thought, there’s got to be a teacher in here, but how do I find one? When Burton and his wife, Audra, got in line at the register, “this lady in front of me had so much stuff in her basket; I thought she’s got to be a teacher.” The woman was Brandon-resident Sharon Leto, a science teacher for Hillsborough High School’s International Baccalaureate program. “The most wonderful thing happened,” she said. “While I waited in line, the man behind me asked if I was a school teacher. When I said yes, he said, ‘Today is your lucky day! I’m going to pay for everything in your cart.’ “My cart was full, but he didn’t seem to care,” said Leto. “He said, ‘We don’t do enough for our teachers,’ and he just wanted to pay it forward. …I was speechless and moved to tears, right there in the checkout line.” Burton, a personal trainer and award-winning bodybuilder, said it seemed like the right thing to do. He owns Results Health and Nutrition, 626 Oakfield Drive, where he tries to give hope to people who’ve lost hope “and transform people who never feel like they’re good enough,” he said. “Life gets easier and a whole lot simpler when you feel good about yourself.” Burton’s action amazed Leto, who has taught 26 years in Hillsborough County. She admitted she grumbles from time to time about funding cuts and morale-busting mandates.

Having been a teacher for years and working in the field of education after leaving the classroom, I feel a huge sense of gratitude to Rodney Burton. His respect for all that teachers do and his desire to show that respect by paying for the cart load of supplies warms my heart.  Maybe because of this act of kindness more people will come to realize how much of their own money teachers put into supplies for their classroom and for their students.

Kudos to Sharon Leto for filling up the cart in the first place. She had no way of knowing that someone else would pay for it. She was probably just doing what she always does -thinking about what her students will need to learn and succeed.

Click on the link below to see a picture of Leto and Burton.

Some good news for the day!

From Beth Ramos  Local residents making sure children do not go hungry. Of course, it seems that in a country as rich in food and resources as the U.S, child hunger should not even be a problem. But it is. These people are doing something about that. Kudos to them and thanks to Beth for sharing!

Okay, then, I'll do it myself if I have to!

Soooo, dear readers, I made a request at the end of my blog on August 1.( I asked everyone to post a reply that contained some good news, or to tweet some, or to email some, or to post some on Facebook.  Sad to say, only two people replied with good news.  Now, for all I know everyone else has been tweeting and emailing good news like crazy.

I hope so, because even though I am very much a realist, I think learning about good things helps us to feel empowered to do more good to and for each other. I believe that good news lets us know that we can find solutions to complex problems, overcome adversity of all sorts, and be kinder to everyone we meet. We can live with less fear and more love.

Since that blog post did not get much of a response, I am going to post some more good news myself:

In the Really Massive Good News" category:   Mercy Ships!!  Really, if you don't know about these, check them out! They will give you renewed faith in humanity     Their website says: "A dream that began 35 years ago in a young man’s heart has become reality—a big, white, state-of-the-art hospital ship that delivers hope and healing to people around the globe living in dire circumstances."  

Not only are doctors and nurses giving free, state-of-the-art medical care to the poorest of the poor, but also, they have to pay their own way to do it. I have to admit, that level of generosity astounds me. Again, from their website: 

Volunteers with Mercy Ships are responsible for paying all costs associated with their service, including crew fees, travel expenses, passports, immunizations, insurance and personal expenses.  Because of this commitment, Mercy Ships is able to use direct contributions from its supporters to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.

Crew members typically pay for their service by raising support from family, friends and churches or by saving money for their time onboard. A financial-health service for crew members – Financial Accountability, Coaching and Encouragement (FinACE) – helps volunteers develop a budget, determine the best ways to fund their service, and provide support raising tools, including a personal support raising web page.

Think about it! It humbles me to know that there are such generous, compassionate, loving people traveling around the goal to ease the pain and suffering of people they don't know. You may have seen the story of the Africa Mercy Ship on 60 Minutes recently. If not, it is definitely worth finding and watching.

And wait, just one more thing, a little note from CBS: Since "Africa Mercy" first aired, a $20 million donation toward a new ship was made by philanthropists Sue and Bill Gross.

 In the Hope for the Future category:  I attended a workshop sponsored by 350 Massachusetts  (of fame) and A Better Future Project. Everyone who attended was there because of their concern about the environment. This was a group of people who not only care, but also, who actually want to do something about it. There were about 20 people in attendance. Some people traveled a couple of hours to get to the meeting!

One of the things that I really loved about it, but more importantly, that gave me the most hope was the make-up of the group. Male and female, older and younger, native-born Americans and non-native born, including a man in a wheelchair who came with his aide. I will continue to be part of this group and I expect everyone who attended will do the same. 

And another in this category:  City Growers used  to fund a campaign for urban farms. Their goal was $15,000 and people pledged donations of $29,305! This is how the money will be used -  City Growers is producing green jobs by creating nutrient-dense food farms on vacant lots throughout Boston's urban neighborhoods.  You can check this program out at

I'm sure you have some good news. Please share it here or tweet to @CallMeEarth Girl.  Let's spread good news, create optimism and do some good!

A Year of Good News

I listen to the news. A lot. I do it by choice, even though it often stresses me out. To me, it seems that the news reporting concentrates on what is wrong. Maybe the fact that I perceive it that way says more about me than it does about the news reports. But I don't think so. We hear about the countries that are in conflict with each other. We hear about the countries that have inner conflict. We hear about the inability of our own government to solve problems. We hear about how polarized liberals and conservatives are. We hear about people all over the world who want to harm us in some way. We hear about the various parts of the world that we think we need to harm before they get the chance to harm us. We hear about crimes of all sorts. We hear about the increasing rate of infections that are contracted during hospitalizations. We hear about the dangers of serious disease from ticks, mosquitoes and amoeba lurking in lakes and ponds. We hear about weather disasters.  We hear about the failure of our schools. We hear about the crumbling of our infrastructure. I could go on, but you get the point.

Am I saying that we don't need to know these things? Not exactly.  I am saying that we need balance. We need to hear at least as much good news as bad news. We need to understand that the good news is not the exception.

Am I over-simplifying? Yes, of course. For the sake of brevity, I have eliminated any sort of complexity.  But if you google the term "ratio of bad news to good" you will find that most analysts agree that the overwhelming majority of the news reported by mainstream media is negative.

Sure, there are feature stories about someone who has overcome a tribulation of some sort. They are interesting to us because we perceive them to be an exception. But mostly we hear about people and situations that make us fearful or angry. And, predictably, we make choices based on this fear and anger.

But what if we are making those choices based on a false premise? What if most countries are not in conflict? What if most people have not been victims of crimes? What if, in fact, there is more good news than bad?

What if the stories we read in newspapers and heard on the radio and TV were stories about the thousands upon thousands of times a day when something good happens somewhere in the world?

Right about now, you might be thinking, "But that is not news, that is just regular life."  Exactly my point. The good things that always happen are not considered to be newsworthy.

I would like to try a worldwide experiment in which mostly good news would be reported for a whole year. I wonder how different our perception of the world would be. How different would our perception of each other be? How different would our perception of ourselves be?

Would we find that there is less to fear and more to celebrate, less to be angry about and more to be grateful for? Would we be less stressful? Would we feel that we are more able to solve the problems that do exist? Would we think that far-out, wildly unrealistic ideas like world peace and ending hunger were possible?

I don't know the answer to this. But I would like to find out.

Let's start our own experiment. Please post one piece of good news as a comment after reading this.

Then, for the rest of the year, blog, tweet, tumble, instant message, text, or email some good news every day. Sure, all the bad news will still be out there, but we can flood cyberspace with lots of good news too!

Here's one to get us started. I left my change purse containing $75 in cash on the counter in a convenience store one afternoon not too long ago. The purse had no identification in it.  I didn't realize I had left it until about 10 p.m.  I was pretty sure that I would never see it again. But I went back to the store to see if it was there. The young man behind the counter said, "We were hoping the owner would realize she left it here." He handed it back to me. I thanked him and drove home. All of the money was still in the purse. I have to admit, I was surprised. It would have been so easy for the clerk or another customer to take the purse and the money. But, most people are honest. Good news!

One last idea, you might even be able to BE the Good News in someone else's report.

Engaging Peace!

As someone who believes in the possibility of a more peaceful world, Kathie Malley-Morrison of  Engaging Peace knocked my socks off  when she appeared as the featured guest on Oneness and Wellness, a local access cable show out of Dedham, MA. ID-10065199

(You  can view the segment by going to the show's website:  Click on the "shows" link and  look for Engaging Peace through Book and Blog.)

Malley-Morrison has communicated with people all over the world hoping to learn their views on war and the possibility of creating a world culture that uses nonviolent means to solve conflict.   I was so impressed with the work of Malley-Morrison that I went immediately to her website ( after viewing the show, foregoing my usual practice of putting it on a list of sites to check out sometime in the future.

Her mission is to educate about alternatives to warfare, and to foster engagement and activism for the cause of world peace. Her blog, as well as the award-winning monthly newsletter, Choosing Peace for Good, offer articles that bring academic peace studies and stories of activism to the general public.

For me, this website is like a treasure chest of resources! It includes not only research and articles, but also books and films about war and peace. Even if you never read one book or article on the site, just watching the movies would give you an education on the place of war in our culture, in our national psyche, even in our hopes and fears.  Some of the films, most notably for me Beyond Belief (the story of 9/11 widows who go to Afghanistan to help poverty-stricken women and form a tremendous bond with them),  show the possibilities for peace through individual person to person interaction.

I urge you to check out this site if you are interested in any of their goals:

1. Promote optimism concerning the possibility of peace

2. Explore how people in power and the mainstream media persuade citizens that various forms of government-sponsored aggression, such as war and torture, are justifiable

3. Present examples of serious conflicts that have been resolved without warfare

4. Demonstrate that a major pathway to peace is through responsible activism

5. Translate into user-friendly language the best of relevant scientific and academic work contributing to the understanding of war and peace. In particular, we will periodically mention some of the major results from our own international research team.

6. Help readers find useful tools and important resources to support their own efforts to seek and promote peace.

7. Encourage readers to share their opinions and contribute their own stories and examples of “engaging peace.”

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

As a matter of fact, I urge you to go to this site even if you are not particularly interested in the topics listed above, because I am pretty sure you will find something on this site that peaks your interest if you happen to care about the future, the present, the environment, veterans, children, or families.

If for no other reason, I would go there just to see the ticker at the bottom right of the home page that keeps updating the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My enthusiasm for the work of Kathie Malley-Morrison and the Engaging Peace website stems from my beliefs  ~

I believe the world can and will move to a culture of peace in which war will be the rare exception.

I believe when people understand the environmental impact of war, the urgency of peace-making will become more evident.

I believe we owe our veterans a better life than the one so many of them face when they return home from military service.

I believe non-violent conflict resolution is a possibility at every level from individual conflict to national conflicts. We will never rid the world of conflict, but we can rid the world of war.

I believe each individual can and should make a difference.

I believe that none of this is simple or easy.

I believe in you and me and our power to make a difference.

image courtesy of artur84

I Knew the Boston Marathon

The standard advice to writers is to write about what you know. I know the Boston Marathon.

Maybe I should say I knew it. Although, my memories from 46 years of the Marathon remain the same, the emotional impact of these memories is forever changed.

The marathon has been something amazing and special to me since the first time I saw it in 1967. I was a freshman at Boston College, up from my home state of Maryland. I had never even heard of it. But I loved watching it and I loved its history, going all the way back to 1897.

For so many New Englanders, the Boston Marathon was more than sport. It was a rite of spring; a cherished family day; a chance to stand with people you did not know and cheer on other people you did not know; to offer paper cups of water and sliced oranges as the runners passed by. It was a feel-good day.

Rain or shine, too cold or too hot, the runners came and so did the spectators. Every year I watched with tears as front runners sprinted by and those at the back of the pack struggled by. The crowds always cheered for both - awe in their voices for those in the lead and sincere words of encouragement for those in the back.

I always felt like the Boston Marathon was an example of people at their best. Their real best - not just their peak of physical performance - their best because it was, in many ways, about collaboration as much as competition; about striving as much as succeeding; about cheering on with appreciation as much as being cheered for; about celebrating the last as well as the first.

It was about the spectators as much as the runners.  Running Boston just wouldn't be the same without the crowds and traditions. It was truly the most interactive of sporting events and many families built traditions around this special iconic Boston event.

It was about people coming together from all over the world to participate, and in a funny way, it was about people from the suburbs coming together with Bostonians to celebrate our "Bostonness."

Bostonians, for the most part, love Boston - its history, its crazy traffic patterns, its accent, its sports teams and its marathon.  To us, "the Marathon."  When we heard someone talk about "running Boston" it held a special meaning for us.

So how has it changed? What does it mean now?

It means even more than it did before.  Until 2:51 on Monday afternoon, it represented a happy celebration of spring and sport, a chance for people to be at their best. Now it will always represent people at their worst, as well.

But here is what we can't forget. Whether there was one bomber or a dozen or even a hundred, there were more heroes than bombers. People rushed in to help. Others showed up at area hospitals to donate blood. Others opened their homes to those who couldn't get back into their hotels. People across the country are collecting money to help victims in whatever way possible.

None of this diminishes the horror of what happened. None of it makes up for the senseless loss of lives and limbs. None of it can restore the innocence so many children lost on this day.

No, the harm -and it is immense - can not be extinguished.

But the spirit of the Boston Marathon can not be extinguished either.

If the bombers thought that fear would prevail,  they were wrong.

If they thought that hatred will overtake us, they were wrong.

If they thought that we will be convinced that the evil in the world is stronger than the good, they were wrong.

We can show them that they are wrong, and we must.

So from now on, be a little more loving to everyone, a little less fearful about everything, and embrace all that is good in the world. Hold tight to the good.  Never let it go.

Finally, come to Boston for next year's Marathon.                                                                   Run it.                                                                                                                                                Walk it.                                                                                                                                               Watch it.                                                                                                                                         Just come.

We need you here.




  Sometime life challenges us by forcing us to accept things that just don’t make sense to us.  I experienced this in a very profound way watching close friends struggle  against terminal cancer  at the same time that my mother – much older than all of them – was suffering from living too long.

Within a few years, four close friends were diagnosed with cancer. Each of them chose the most aggressive treatment options because they desperately wanted to live. They chose chemotherapy that caused relentless nausea, weakness, skin infections, and often kept them away from the people with whom they most wanted to spend time – their children, grandchildren and friends.  They were in their late 50s, 60s and early 70s. Not young, but by today’s standards, definitely not old. During this period my mother was in her mid-90s and having a hard time.

My mother’s depression was probably rooted in my father’s death after a long decline from Alzheimer’s disease. But for some reason, she could not admit this, not even to herself. Instead, she convinced herself and all of her friends in her retirement community that she was dying. She wouldn’t get out of bed and had doctors convinced that she was suffering from some sort of physical condition. When test after test revealed that she was actually quite healthy, she refused to believe it.

When I would cheerfully tell her how great it was that the tests found nothing wrong, she would reply that the doctors were wrong. One day she told me she knew they were wrong and that she was going to die soon because she wanted to die. She told me she was tired of  living; that she had lived long enough and that all she wanted to do was die and go to heaven.

When I forced to get out of bed, to eat and to shower, she said she couldn’t understand how I could be so cruel to her.  Why didn’t  I just let her stay in bed and die, she asked.

At the time, the question made me very sad, but more than that, very angry. I had friends who wanted desperately to live, who still had reasons to live; who were not, in any way, ready to die. And they were all dying. Yet my mother, at 94, was eager to die. She was finished with life and ready to let go.

I spent a lot of hours during those years wishing I could trade my mother’s life for the life of one of my friends. That is embarrassing to admit, but true. As each one of them died, I noted with some bitterness that my mother was still alive and she didn’t want to be.

Mom is now 97 and hanging on pretty well. She has lived with me and my husband for the last three years. Being with family ( and a good dose of anti-depressants) has changed her outlook. She no longer says she wants to die, but she has expressed complete peace of mind about it. Whenever it happens, it will be okay with her. If she lives to be 100, that is okay too.

Bearing witness to the death of those who struggle and suffer to stay alive has taught me about the strength of the life force within us. Bearing witness to my mother’s desire to die and her eventual acceptance that she is very much alive has taught me about the effect of grief and loneliness on that same life force.

But most of all, it has taught me about the space between life and death. We all will dwell in that space some day.

It is a space that can be filled with the love of life and the desire to live it fully, even as the body is letting go of physical life.

It is a space where a battle can be waged by a healthy body determined to continue even when the desire for life is gone.

If one is lucky, it is a space that can be one of acceptance and serenity, knowing that the love that ties us to our life never dies. The love lives on beyond the space that we call life and the one that we call death.

It is a space that beckons all of us to look through its window with compassion and understanding for those confined in it, no matter what the circumstances.

It is where my mother lives, more of a home to her  now than our house is.  She lives in the space between and she lives there well.

Do you know anyone living in the space between?  How has it affected you?

Exploring the Capacity of the Human Heart

Welcome to the first edition of my blog. I will be exploring with all of you the incredible capacity of the human heart to hold within it love and hate, hope and fear, pain and joy, forgiveness and revenge....and much more. I hope that I will hear from all of you with your insights about what the heart can hold.

This blog will feature a variety of posts, including poetry, video, art and a readers' forum.

To get us started, here is a poem I wrote:

What I Would Have Said 

What would I have said to my children when they were born if I knew then what I know now?

When my first son was born, I sat awake in my hospital bed and wrote a long letter about all my hopes and dreams for him. 

 I wrote about how much we anticipated his arrival, about how much we loved him before he was even born.

And how we would always love him, no matter what. 

I wrote essentially the same letter to each of my new born sons. 

Many years have come and gone. 

My sons are men now and I have grandchildren.

My life is full. My heart is full. The words of love I wrote are still completely true. 

But if I knew then, what I know now, the letter would be different. 

Not knowing then, that my marriage would end in divorce, I neglected to tell them that all love is matter what....having loved someone matters.

No matter how it ends, or changes, love is never wasted. 

Never fear a broken heart because the only way you can get one is by having loved deeply, and deep love enriches the soul.

Never think that once your heart is broken, you can’t ever love again.

Each time we love, we increase our capacity to love.  

The human heart is designed to love and it has the capacity to grow and expand until it is so big that it loves the whole world. 

Most of us run out of time before our hearts get big enough to hold love for the whole entire world, but many of us come pretty close.

Yes, there was a lot I did not know when I wrote those love letters to my children.

Not just about love, but about the incredible mystery of life. 

So many things I didn’t tell them, because I didn’t know then what I know now.

I would tell them that they are the stuff of stars....

That the very atoms that pulse and vibrate inside us come from the stars! 

We are in the universe and the universe is in us; in all of us, no matter when or where we lived.

I would tell them that they are connected to every being who has ever lived or ever will live.

That long after they have died, the atoms that were part of them will be somewhere in the universe, part of some other life...recycled in the air, the soil, a beautiful flower, a tree, or even another person. 

And because of this, we will never be separate from the rest of the world; from the earth that we live on, from the people we call enemies and those we call friends. 

I would tell them, because I do know it now... 

that everything they do really does make a difference.



Our actions have an impact far beyond our ability to know.

The choices we make about what we eat and how we live affect people everywhere....not just metaphorically or spiritually, but really. 

We share the earth with billions of people and there will be billions more after we die. 

What we use and what we conserve affect them all.

Wars we wage and wars we avert affect them all.

Discoveries we make and how we use them affect them all. 

They are us and we are them, only luckier.

I would tell them that we were chosen to be that accumulation of atoms that won the birth lottery; that we were born to a life of relative plenty.

That we have responsibility because of this.

And I would tell them this too.

None of us will ever make the whole difference; none of us can truly change the world,

Because each and every one of us is needed.

I would tell them “the power of one” really means the power of EACH one combined with the power of many other ones. 

And, although, they share the atoms from the same stars as the rest of us,

Each of us is a totally unique, unduplicatable individual person.

Within each unique individual lies the future of the world.

We are all chosen to use what is in us-

 that stuff that makes me, me and you, you -

 No one else has that to offer to the world.

 So, shine like the stars that are within you! 

Love so much that your heart expands until it can hold the whole world in its care. 

And know that as my heart grows, my love for you grows, every day.

Looking forward to our exploration of the varieties of human experience and how the heart grows to hold and honor all that we experience. I plan to write once a week, but in the beginning, I may write a little more often. So please check in now and then!

In the meantime, what do you think about the heart's ability to grow big enough to hold love for the whole world? Do you have any examples to share? Please leave a comment if you do!