Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Making peace--About that national telephone conference call on the Tucson shooting

Yes, we did it, my sweetie and I. Last night we attended the national conference call, hosted by The Peace Alliance. We sat down with an untold number of other Americans, to share our feelings about the seemingly out-of-control violence in our country and to discuss ways we can make peace in our lives and in our nation.

A teacher tells of nine year olds wreaking havoc in the school room

I was surprised by what one caller said. He's a middle school teacher of forty years, who told of ever escalating classroom violence. Several times a week, he is called on by the principal and other teachers to help restrain a child who is acting out with violence. They throw desks and chairs across their class room. They refuse to be calmed. To prevent them harming themselves and others, they must be physically restrained. After years of working with parents of unruly and violent children, he is convinced that, if we want peace in the world, we need to train parents how to be the parents, how to regain control in their households and how to teach their children social skills. Others echoed his viewpoint.

Listening, I couldn't help wondering if the violence our children see every day on television, masquerading as entertainment, contributes to their social dysfunction.

This morning, with these thoughts and voices echoing in my mind, I ran across the five minute video, below, from the Pachamama Alliance. According to the narrator, "The typical American child in his or her lifetime will witness 8,000 murders and a hundred thousand acts of violence on television, and by age eighteen will have spent more time in front of the television than in school."

Where are we? Theme: Spiritual Fulfillment from Pachamama Alliance on Vimeo.

A social justice worker calls on neighborhood churches to reach out block-by-block

The teacher and the story in the video above discuss the deep need for belonging. A social justice worker, citing the extreme violence in Oakland--the fourth most dangerous city in the United States-- suggested that our youth, lacking structure and family, find that sense of belonging in gangs. She called on churches everywhere to begin developing block-by-block programs to draw people from the streets and into activities and resources that support them. Most of all, she called on adults to listen to our children and respond to their needs.

Those are just two examples of the voices and passion we heard.

Vibrant technology brings us together

So often we decry the isolation and loss of community that our electronic devices foster. Hours spent flitting from one brief encounter of the e-kind to another substitute for the long, meaty conversations we shared face-to-face in the past, lingering over a sumptuous home-cooked meal, or delighting in brandies and exquisite desserts after sharing a live-and-in-person concert.

But this call, and others like it, give us an opportunity to reach each other in ways scarcely possible in the past. Live and in person, we speak, listen, are heard. When fortunate to have a skilled facilitator, as we did last night in John B. Kinyon, a trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication, the listening is amplified with care and attention to the heart of the words of each speaker. So even when a speaker is difficult to hear--because of technical issues, not speaking into the microphone, or because our attention wanders, we hear John's tender reflection and understand the parts we may have missed.

Yesterday I wrote of seeking hope in this call. In the Pachamama Alliance video above, Thich Nhat Hanh says it is impossible to be ourselves, alone, that we must "inter-be" with everyone else. While I chose not to speak last night, what I heard encouraged me deeply. Today I feel the pulse of the living organism we are, collectively, that "inter-being." This call delivered.

Image above, courtesy The Peace Alliance (pdf file)
We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.


Wanda said...

Thank you for posting your experience of the call. I quit teaching 30 years ago. I am so glad I did. I loved the kids. I loved teaching. It wore me out. I absolutely agree that what kids see in the media is partly to blame for their acting out violently. So is the lack of connection in family and with parents.

But there is another issue that I think is equally to blame--nutrition...or lack thereof. We are learning so much about the brain. Our food supply is not good quality--GMO, conventional (as opposed to organic) farming, over used soil, processed foods that are then "fortified"with chemical knock offs of the nutritional substances that were processed out in the first place.

One of my specialty areas is helping people use nutrition to deal with brain issues. It is amazing how much difference they feel when they get good nutrition. So much of the information propagated by the medical field is just plain wrong when it comes to what our bodies need.

Garbage in--garbage out.

Kathryn Grace said...

Wanda, I'm with you on nutrition. Anecdotally, as a mom I was very attuned to the mood swings of my children. If a previously laughing, happy child suddenly became crabby, I immediately went through a mental checklist about her diet that day and how long ago it had been since she last ate. Usually I could see a correlation, offer the right combination of foods, and in no time at all she was back to her zippy, happy self.

The teacher who writes the Fed up with school lunch blog began writing for exactly the same reason. She saw worn out, cranky kids every day after lunch--children who had no attention span, and whose mental acuity seemed to drop dramatically. She decided to test her theory that the school-provided lunches were contributing to acting out, malaise, and other issues--on herself. She made a pledge to eat the same lunches the children ate every school day for a year. The decision wreaked havoc on her body, but she kept to it.

Researchers have long offered more empirical evidence of the teacher's findings. Getting healthy foods into our school breakfast and lunch programs is one of the most important long-term changes we can make as a society.

Sharon said...

There are so many layers of ill that contributed to the Arizona tragedy. I sometimes despair at knowing how to identify all, and then identify solutions for change, and then implement the solutions. Violence for entertainment, electronic social skills, nutrition, poor parenting, poor mental health services, bad air, spoiled media messages, corrupt politics, on and on, layer after layer. I sometimes despair at all that is wrong. When I read blogs like this I find encouragement, ideas, motivation, and reminders that there are layers and layers of goodness too that I ought not to forget.

Deb Shucka said...

I'm so glad you had that experience, and that you shared it with us. The conversations I'm hearing as a result of the Arizona shootings are encouraging. It's heartbreaking that it took a tragedy like that to get people to start considering the power of their words, but I'm so grateful to hear so much reflection about peace and solutions to problems that don't involve violence.

I would add to Wanda's concern about nutrition that sleep is another key ingredient to how kids are in schools, and how well adults function in life. said...

Those statistics are frightening for children AND adults. My kids only watch what is recorded for them on TIVO. Same with me. No commercials. No violent TV.

And school lunches? Don't get me started.

This post has me feeling more blessed than ever to be able to be home with my kiddos.

Kathryn Grace said...

Sharon, I think I understand what you're saying about layers of contribution to the Arizona tragedy. I wander what would happen if--instead of seeing the perpetrator as Other, acting alone, acting in psychotic rage, perhaps--we were to see the perpetrator as a creation of our collective decision-making--our decisions, for just one example, decades ago to permit our government to stop providing care to the mentally ill whose families could not afford to provide that care themselves; our decisions to continue that travesty of care-less-ness decade after decade.

Deb, you are so right about sleep. As a teenager working a night job to earn a few basic necessities to make my school experience more comfortable (things like deodorant and, in the Sixties, hairspray), I experienced sleep deprivation routinely. I prided myself on learning how to snooze in class without getting caught, and to keep one ear open for the most important information. I understand this as false pride now, but then I thought myself cleverly managing my situation.

Kathryn Grace said...

Full Soul Ahead, your kids are lucky. You and your hubby are helping to create a better social structure through your care and attention to what goes into their minds, as much as you give care and attention to what goes into their bodies. I hope you are enjoying your retirement from blogging! You are sorely missed.

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