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.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

San Francisco turns green for St. Patrick's day while we stand for peace

All around us, messes like this; look closely
to see the Irish flag flying over City Hall doors
© L Kathryn Grace - All rights reserved
The plaza is crammed with trucks and cars when we arrive for our stand this morning. A green, white and orange Irish flag flutters languidly over City Hall's main doors.

Weary, drugged and sick homeless, who normally would be huddled in soggy sleeping bags after a rainy night, are mostly gone, displaced by red, white, blue--and a few green--canopies under which sleepy-eyed hawkers busily lay out their wares and goodies.

White sweet potato pie, crab garlic fries, and Verizon phones, vie for our attention. I'm heartened to see the greenest, most Irish looking booth on the plaza is owned by Zip Cars--selling a greener lifestyle on the greenest day of the year.

No busloads of tourists offload this morning, no gaggles of gawkers taking pictures of each other in front of San Francisco's storied dome.

We smile, though, when a happy family of five pauses to take pictures of one another posing artfully next to an adjacent tree. Their laughter lightens our hearts, makes us smile. Sharon says out loud, "All it takes is one happy person to change the mood." I think, yes, I want to remember that next time I'm in a difficult situation.

Green-Haired Tuba Player passes
by as we leave the plaza
© L Kathryn Grace
All rights reserved
Sharon and I chatter frequently this morning, our silence continuously broken, like our concentration, by the bustle, odd characters and blaring country music from the loudspeakers on the bright red booth next to us. Continuously we return to our meditation, soon breaking into conversation yet again.

This festive, temporary tent city surrounding us represents tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products made overseas by sweatshop workers, and a considerable quantity of greasy, GMO-laced food.

Thousands of people will wander through today, many celebrating our mutual Irish heritage. Others here to sample the food and wares, listen to the speeches and live music, and ogle the costumes and characters.

In one of my silent interludes, I pray for peace in the plaza, that all who come here will be blessed and energized by the camaraderie.

In another, I imagine what it would be like to come here by the thousands once a year, not to celebrate our heritage, but to celebrate peace. What booths would we erect? What wares would we hawk? Where would they have been made, and by whom? Would the foods we offered be healthy, locally grown with care for the soil, air and water on which we all depend, and just as delightful to our taste buds as the offerings here today?

How would we celebrate the peace we are making in our lives and our world? What speeches would our dignitaries make? What songs might we sing? Would we dance? Would we laugh? Would we meditate together, a throng of thousands, in silence for a time?

It takes just a little shift to move from a celebration plied with near-slave-made doo-dads and clothing, and food that, studies increasingly show, poisons our bodies, to an event filled with products manufactured by companies who care about the well-being of their employees, and filled with nourishing, whole food grown and harvested sustainably, prepared by people who love the art of cooking and feeding as much as they love profit.

Despite the clamor and bang around us, despite our inability to stay focused on our meditation practice this morning, I feel peace in my heart, gratitude for the individuals working so hard to make today's celebration safe, fun and happy for the people of our town.

May you feel so blessed wherever and with whomever you may be.


We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring in the plaza, in our hearts and a hot flash of rage

Spring tree leafing out at City Hall
March 10, 2012, Stand for Peace
© L Kathryn Grace, all rights reserved
With the greening of the tree across the street from our standing spot, my heart seems to be greening and waking up as well.

When I first began standing for peace several years ago, I thought I was standing for Peace on Earth.

I was. I am. I do. What becomes ever more clear, each time I stand, is that when I stand for peace, I change me. I am greening with hope and peace as surely as the tree greens with the new life of spring.

Saturday was a special day. Not only did Sharon and I stand for peace at City Hall.That night, we participated in the worldwide Moment of Peace, joining others in our time zone to stop what we were doing and sit in silence for one hour, or as near to one hour as our activities permitted.

The next morning, when a woman I love ignored my boundaries and invaded my space aggressively, I experienced a familiar irritation. At first, I attempted to include her in my activity. When she responded with even more aggression, pushing me aside as though I were invisible, I felt my Irish temper flare hotly.

Instead of reacting in that (self) righteous fire, I suddenly remembered the calm of our morning stand the day before, followed by our hour of peaceful contemplation that evening.

I stopped, took a couple of centering breaths. At first, I thought that would be enough, but my sense of displacement, and the anger I felt in response, increased as my friend continued her invasive behavior. At that point, I quietly left the room and found a spot where I could center and calm myself in private. For a few moments, I clung to the need to lash out in rage, even as I breathed through it and prayed for a calm, loving heart. Then the utter peace of the night before washed over me. Simultaneously, I felt my anger and that gentle peace and calm. Oxymoronic? I know. It happened just like that. I accepted my anger, my hurt feelings, embraced them.

In the past, I would have felt guilty for my potentially volatile reaction. This time, I loved my anger for its protective power. Loved that it showed how important the activity in which I had been engaged was to me. As soon as I acknowledged my feelings in this way, they dissipated.

Much sooner than I might have even a year ago, I opened my heart to trying to understand the other woman's need. She is a member of my circle, a family member I cherish. I do not know if I will ever fully understand her need to be invasive at times, and to ignore boundaries. She is not one with whom I could open a conversation about that. I suspect her behavior comes from a place of insecurity and perhaps from fear.

Had I not had the grounding of those two hours of silence in the name of peace the preceding day, I doubt I would have responded as quietly to this incident as I did. I am grateful for the inner peace that grows within me, for the peace that is, perhaps, beginning to leaf out all over my body. I pray it is so.

For more on the Moment of Peace, visit their Facebook page, where you will find comments, photographs and videos from people who participated all around the world.

We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My recurring iPhone factory nightmare

My iPhone 4S, iPad2 & WiFi keyboard
© L Kathryn Grace - All rights reserved
Ever since I read this Business Insider article in January, Your iPhone Was Built, In Part, By 13 Year-Olds Working 16 Hours A Day For 70 Cents An Hour, I have had a recurring nightmare.

It is dark when I rise from my narrow mattress. The lone bulb in our windowless room is still out, but the hallway light, always on, shines through the open doorway.

I am thirteen years old. My cot on the top bunk is so close to the ceiling that I cannot sit upright to grab my uniform from its hanger, a wire on a hook I thumb-screwed into the ceiling.

Carefully, so as not to waken the other girls sleeping on the top tier, I crawl across the foot of their bunks to the one butting against the doorway.

I shimmy silently down the post at the foot of the bunk, careful not to bump my head against the door jam. Our five bunk beds, each three tiers high, fill this little twelve foot by twelve foot room. There is no room for a door to open and close, so there is no door, only the doorway, through which each of us must crawl to get to our mattress, our only personal space in this massive tower, Building 54, we call home.

I run down the hall fast as I can to the restroom and shower quickly, scrubbing my skin hard. I hope that scrubbing will keep me from getting the nerve sickness others get from handling the chemicals we use to shine the tiny glass rectangles we polish all day long, every single day. I scrub my face and hands extra hard, trying to peel off any tiny bits of the chemicals.

I need this job. When my hands start shaking, the bosses will throw me out on the street. I will not have money to send home to my parents and grandparents for food and seed to plant the crops. I will not have a place to live. I will have to sell my body.

I finish my shower and dress in less than five minutes. Already, the showers are full of girls, rushing as I am. We are hungry. We must get to the cafeteria before it runs out of food and they lock the doors. 

Last night, I had to work later than usual. The cafeteria was closed when I got off work. My stomach aches with the hunger, but I am used to that. I want food because on the days I eat, I work faster. The bosses don't scream at me for making mistakes or going too slow on the days I get to eat before work.

Today I am lucky. I have to wait in line only thirty minutes before I reach the cafeteria door. I will eat this morning.

At 6:00 am, when the work bell rings, I am ready, at my station. I keep my head down, polishing the little glasses, one after another after another.

One of the bosses told me these glasses are the windows into iPhones. I don't know what an iPhone is. I have never seen one. The boss saw one once. He said it is magical. Bright lights in little squares. Touch one and you can talk to someone far away, as far away as America, where everyone has a magical iPhone. Touch another bright light and you can see a map that tells you where you are now and how to go somewhere else. I don't know how to imagine this map. Touch another light, and all the music that was ever played anywhere in the world pops up. You can choose what to listen to. I do not know how I would choose from all the music ever played anywhere in the world.

While I work, I try to concentrate on this glass that I am polishing right now. I try not to daydream about  music and maps and places to eat that have every food you can imagine. That is another thing the boss has seen on the magical iPhone.

The bell rings and we all stop and rush to the rest rooms. If I am quick enough, I will get there in time to go, but today others are ahead of me. I have learned to hold my water. I don't drink much anyway, just so I won't have to go if my shift is too long or the restroom lines too long. Lately, I feel a burning sensation every time I go, so I try to drink less so I have to go less.

I rush back to my station, standing straight as a stick and wait for the bell to ring, so I can start my work again. My hands are sore. My legs are swollen and ache. I will not complain. I do not want to be thrown into the street. I am grateful for this job. Grateful for the meager wages I send home to my family so they will have something to eat.

At 6:00 pm the bell rings. We all rush to the door. I am too slow to get out the door quickly. My feet do not want to carry me along the walkway. I hug the wall and walk slowly. Many of us hug the wall, as far as I can see in front, as far as I can see behind me.

I may not get to the cafeteria in time for supper, but I will try. I am small. I take a deep breath. Another, and push myself from the wall. I run between people, apologizing as I rush, too hungry to care much. Just in time! I reach the end of the cafeteria line two yards in front of the big yellow marker that means no more people will be fed tonight. I turn and look behind me. The hallway is packed as far as I can see. None of those people will eat tonight. I am a lucky one.

I get my tray and sit in a corner on the floor to eat. All of the tables are full. I toss the rice into my mouth as fast as I can swallow. In just a moment, the bell will ring. We have three more hours to work tonight.

Back on the line, my feet shoot pains up my legs. My arms feel like wooden dowels. My hands are thick and do not want to move any more. I polish and polish and polish, willing my hands to hold the little glass rectangles carefully, not to slip and drop them. The bosses walk behind us, screaming at us to hurry, hurry, hurry. Faster! Faster! Faster! They say we are lazy.

At 9 pm, the bell rings. No one rushes out the door this time. My feet feel like lead. I shuffle down the endless hallways, find a restroom with a line not so long and wait my turn. It hurts like knives to pee. I must drink less water tomorrow so I will not have to hold it so hard while I work.

At first, I think I will have to crawl under the bottom bunk and sleep on the floor. My hands will not grip the post to pull me up through the narrow doorway and onto the top bunk. Girls behind me are impatient. I try one more time. Success! I drag myself up the post, crawl across the other bunks to my mattress, carefully remove my uniform and hang it on the wire hanger from the ceiling hook.

I ache everywhere. I am cold. I am so tired. Glass rectangles spin past me again and again and again. I must sleep. Must sleep. Must. Sleep. Must.


This is the nightmare that haunts me since I read Henry Blodgett's article on January 15. I own an iPhone. My partner and I own two iPads. My dream computer is a Mac Pro, that pencil thin one that fits in a manila envelope.

I work every day on one of two Dell computers we own, which were also made in China, so I understand.

How do I make peace with this? In small ways for now. I signed and shared this SumOfUs petition to Apple telling them to Make the iPhone5 Ethically. Tomorrow, if I can find the people who are hand carrying it to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, I will travel there and help deliver it to the annual shareholder meeting.

I'll also continue to educate myself about the factories in China and elsewhere and report on what I've learned. My voice is a small one, but I will be silent about this no longer.

We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.